Why I Hate End of Term as a Parent of an Autistic Child

Miriam Gwynne by Miriam Gwynne Additional Needs

Miriam Gwynne

Miriam Gwynne

Full time mum and carer for two truly wonderful autistic twins. I love reading, writing, walking, swimming and encouraging others. Don’t struggle a...

It isn't just because I have my own children to look after for seven weeks without any respite either. It isn’t the cost of things, or even the access difficulties associated with having autistic children.

It’s not the stares I dread, or the lack of sleep either.

No, the reason I hate the end of term is because there is way too much going on and far too many changes.

For children with autism, like mine, it all becomes far too much.

Let’s look at some of those changes.

First, you have Sports Day.

Well it isn’t really sports ‘day’ more like sports morning or afternoon and my kids hate it with a passion!

The noise, the confusion, the overload of different activities and instructions, the pressure to perform and the time restrictions are all overwhelming.

The entire idea of competing at something you hate to win a prize for a team that consists of children you don’t even know the names of is totally lost on my children.

They would much rather stay in school doing the usual maths or reading or sensory activities any day!

Sports day brings tears, sleepless nights, food aversion out of anxiety and so much stress I often remove my children from school until it is all over.

Can’t we just accept that for some children sports day is just way too much and they gain nothing from it?

Then, there are school trips!

My daughter has been waking through the night for almost two weeks worrying about her school trip.

She has intimate care needs and anxiety but as a selective mute child she is scared that she will be unable to communicate her needs.

Even with reassurance that I am going she is still full of worry.

What if someone is sick on the bus (she hates sickness), what if she hates it and wants home but can’t as she needs to wait on the bus leaving, what if she gets lost, what if, what if... I can’t make a social story as I don’t know everything that will happen nor am I able to control that day so her anxiety makes her sick.

It’s awful to watch but even worse for her.

Her world is out of control because the rules have all been changed for one day.

That day will have no structure, no playtime or lunchtime or other time markers that ground her and make her feel secure.

She doesn’t know what to say to others outside the confines of the school building so she will just stay silent all day.

I really am not sure what she will gain from the experience if her anxiety is so high she can’t even get off the bus!

Then there’s the End-of-School show!

Rehearsals instead of PE, practicing songs in class instead of writing, taking in different clothes to wear for the show and now finding out there is an evening performance she has to go back to school for too.

School is daytime not night-time.

A school show has upset her entire thinking and confused her to the point she has lost all her bearings.

How can you go to school at night?

Where are the beds?

How can you do playtime in the dark?

I think this may be pushing her too far so we may have to have more time off again!

Award ceremonies!

When your child tries so hard to please all year but academically will only be average it’s utterly heart-breaking for them to watch their peers pick up all the awards for things that come so naturally to them.

As a child with hugely restricted eating and very underweight she easily catches bugs and viruses so won’t ever get the attendance award either.

It’s soul destroying to put your child through that award ceremony every year when their self-esteem is so low you see silent tears run down their face every time their name is not called.

Is it worth it?

What do they gain from having their heart broken for another year?

Preparing for next year’s class

My child lives in the here and now.

She also takes everything literally.

If you don’t know who her teacher will be next year it is better not to even tell her that.

Otherwise she will envision a class of children with an invisible teacher and never want to go again!

Seven weeks is a long time to tell anyone anything in advance and while she has to understand she will return to a different class and teacher with so many unknowns please only tell her things that will be definite.

Don’t promise her something you can’t deliver or you will lose her trust forever.

My daughter likes school.

She enjoys the structure and the routine and the predictability of it all.

Unfortunately, at the end of summer term the structure and routine change so much she has no idea what will happen next or where she should be.

She gets confused and anxious and upset.

It’s hard to watch her go from loving school to hating it in the last few weeks and every year we go through this over and over.

She hates the end of summer term and that makes me hate it too. I must be the only parent I know who would be happier if homework continued right up to the final week and lessons carried on as normal.

I do my best to support both my autistic children at this time of year but it’s so exhausting and I hate seeing them upset.

There is much to be said for autumn term and routine!

Roll on August when they go back and summer term madness is a thing of the past!


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