We know that kids on the spectrum can take a long time to get ready in the morning, and seem to need almost complete parental support and supervision to get through each of their tasks. The lag in learning the life skills needed to keep up can be caused by many things, including fine motor challenges, sensory differences, problems with organization, slow processing speed, initiating tasks, working memory...and of course, anxiety.
Makes sense, right? Schools often cause or significantly contribute to anxiety in our children. It's not a great place for most autistic learners. Just anticipating school each day, where the speed and volume of the curriculum, along with the sensory and social demands, exceed their ability to cope makes the child anxious from the moment they open their eyes.
Anxiety can slow them down. They really don't like to be late...and from the child's perspective, the thought of having 25 sets of eyes on him/her as he/she enters the class late can be terrifying.
There's also anxiety associated with recess and lunch break. Our children take so long getting ready to go outside that they find themselves entering the social environment after peers are all engaged in play. They find it very difficult to successfully ask to join in play.
That makes sense, too. Since autism is a social communication disorder, it is no surprise that our children have awkward social approach on the playground--if they'll approach a peer at all. Too often, months or years of teasing or rejection can make the child afraid to try again.
Moral of the story: school is tough for many of our kids. If we can help them to be on time, not by begging them or rushing them, but by getting help to identify and address the developmental weaknesses that are slowing the child down, we might be able to make their day a little bit better as we work to strengthen areas of weakness.
No rush...but this is an important issue. If it's a big concern in your home, an occupational therapist can help, as could an assessment of the child's executive functioning skills. The results of both of those assessments could result in accommodations that could speed things up for your child, improve self-confidence and reduce anxiety.
You know what makes me anxious? Anxiety. My son’s anxiety, to be specific.
When panic and fear raise their ugly heads in his direction for no clear reason, it is painful to watch. My beautiful (adult) son can be stopped dead in his tracks. While I sometimes have magic words to restore his balance and inner calm, I am just as likely not to, and so he has to pull on inner resources taught from a very young age. Sometimes, but not always, these are helpful.
Individuals with autism may be predisposed to experiencing anxiety more often and more intensely than typical people. The pounding heart, dry mouth, and sense of dread are unwelcome companions to many people the spectrum.