Mondays Are Hard! Parenting A Speaking Autistic Child Blog Series

Nov 07, 2022

Mondays are hard!!

The alarm goes off on Monday and nobody wants to get up.  Parents can have an extremely hard time with their autistic child on Mondays.  One word – SCHOOL. Yes, the hard part of getting out and facing the long week ahead.  There is more to why Mondays are hard according to many autistic youths that I speak with…here are some of their thoughts.

Relaxation is Over….

The idea that Monday represents the end of the weekend of relaxation is felt by most of us Monday morning. I purposely schedule families later on Mondays so I can take my time getting my day started after a hopefully restful weekend.  But for many autistic children, Monday means that their mental, social and physical rest is over.  Students will tell me that their concerned-on Monday with the amount of energy school takes from them.  We like to call this idea “masking” or “holding it together” all day.

Think about it for a moment- school is about 30 hours a week.  Imagine that this is like an adult keeping it together at work for an entire week around coworkers who are annoying, loud, unpredictable, mean, and not always easy to “read”.  Students often tell me by the time they hit middle school, it is even worse. The overload of being around people all day is often too much to handle.  They will go home with headaches, feeling tired, and even have sickness due to amount of energy used to be social just to go to school.

The bed is warm…

Monday is hard because I have to leave my comfort of home. Many autistic youths have a hard time leaving home or being uncomfortable. The idea of getting out from the nice warm blankets and having to get dressed can a daunting task.  Sensory moments are at play all day long from many autistic youths.  “I don’t like the way it feels in the morning…cold” is often what I hear from students who are having a hard time getting out of the bed in the morning. I have worked with parents who have their children sleep in the clothes they are wearing for school to avoid the “cold” in the morning when it is time to get ready.

Even a bad weather day can mean the difference of liking the school day or refusing to go to school.  Many students tell me that the weather impacts their mood and how they perceive the day.  Students have commented that their school building temperature makes it hard for them to be in the school. I have one youth who can only wear shorts year-round due to his own internal temperature always being hot.  Knowing your child’s needs as it relates to sensory overload can be a huge help.  Sensory is not just sound- tastes, smells, touch, internal senses, sights.  We have a lot to ask our student about when it comes to getting through their day on sensory level.

Transitions are always hard…

Sunday is such a relaxing day in many homes. Children and adults enjoy the simplicity of the weekend and then Monday…Full of transitions, full of change, back to the long day.  The transition back to school takes a mental shift in knowing what the week will look like. Many students tell me that the overthinking begins on Sunday or anytime someone mentions the “s” word during the weekend.  They are thinking about the social moments, the academic work, the gym class they hate, all kinds of interesting thoughts begin to flood their minds.

Preparing for the school transition can be helpful for some children but not all.  Some children can put out things the night before, prepare for the school week on Sunday while others need Sunday to be their last day of rest before the week begins. You can help your child think of things to look forward to- like their favorite lunch at school, friends they get to see, their favorite class or subject to help reduce the thoughts.

Anxiety kicks in…

Anxiety underlies many students concerns with going to school on Monday.  Students who overthink and worry about the school day may complain of stomach aches, headaches, and other ailments in the morning or the night before. Many students will spend time in the bathroom trying to “get ready” for the day and trying to reduce their own anxiety.  Anxiety can be over academic concerns as well not just social.

Students who are struggling with a course or a teacher will have a hard time going to that class. Students will say “the teacher is mean” or “the teacher is hard to understand”.   Reading the social cues for their teachers is important but can be hard at the same time.  Academic anxiety can be helped by identifying with the student what is happening in each class and helping them to prepare (we will be covering studying and homework in another post!). 

A terrible use of my time…

Many autistic students think of school as a waste of their time. Not that they do not want to learn, many love to read and love learning but they feel that the conventional way to complete school is boring and “why does it have to take all day”.  I have worked with many high IQ students who can verbalize this concern and many who have advocated for harder classes to keep them from being bored or for a different learning environment like homeschooling where they can go at their own pace. Boredom in school often leads to trouble for an autistic student.  They have a hard time with redundancy like worksheets or “homework that has no value”.  Learning has to be hands on, visual, and engaging to keep them from getting bored.

Being forced to complete school is how many students feel about school. The idea that someone else can dictate to them that they need to do this and for so long is also an interesting thought at the heart of Monday for many autistic youth.  Not having control over their own time becomes a reason to not like school.  If they had a choice would they attend school, probably not is the answer I get most often when I ask that question. But again, they would learn and explore areas of interest to them, but not all the boring stuff we have to do in school.

Manic Mondays to Mindful Mondays

As a caretaker for an autistic child, you can make Mondays better.  If your child likes music, you can start the day with music and dance moves to get out of the bed. You can make their favorite breakfast on Monday (and probably every day).  Crank up the air condition or turn up the heat to make a sauna or snow day in the house to help your child feel (temperature) good in the house waking up. 

You can use fewer verbal directions and have Alexa send reminders to help get through the morning routine.  You can be present to help through any minor or major concern that arises that cause frustration. You can reassure your child that they have good things waiting for them like friends (name them specifically) and that they will have hours of time to relax at the end of their school day (ex You have four hours to play after homework today). 

You can have a mindset understanding that Mondays are hard but that together we can get through it.

Dr. Stacy

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