How to Go Back to School if You're Autistic

Two Methods:Preparing for SchoolHandling Your First Day

Going back to school may cause a mix of feelings: excitement, nervousness, anticipation, or uncertainty. This is especially true when you're autistic (including Asperger Syndrome and PDD-NOS). It's normal to feel the way you do. Here is how to be prepared to face your first day.

Method 1
Preparing for School

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    Make a list of the supplies you'll need. Suggested school supply lists can be found online. Your school or local store may also hand them out or email them. Next, go through your school supplies at home, and see if you already have some items. You will need to go shopping for the remaining ones.
    • It can be helpful to store all your unused or reusable school supplies in a box.
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    Choose a quiet time for back-to-school shopping. Try the early morning or late evening, when the store might be less crowded. Weekdays, when most adults are at work, may also be quieter. This will help you avoid sensory overload in the store.
    • It can be tempting to pick out new types of everything: new stapler, new erasers, new rubber bands, new pencil grips. To save money, ask yourself if you are actually going to use this, and if you have enough at home.
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    Get your school schedule. You may have it already, or you might have to wait until shortly before school starts.
    • If you get your schedule before school starts, see if you can visit the school before classes begin. That way you can find each room you'll be going to. You probably won't be able to go in, but you can see where it is.
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    Consider what accommodations you might need. Think about what you got last year (if anything), and try researching possibilities online. If you can think of something that would lift a burden from your shoulders, bring it up.
    • There are lists of potential accommodations online for autism and other disabilities (anxiety, dyslexia, etc.).
    • If you have an IEP from previous years, ask to see a copy. What goals might you have for yourself? Are there any goals you want changed?
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    Decide how much information about your disability(ies) you want your teachers or professors to know. If you're receiving accommodations, then they will know that you are disabled. Due to negative stereotypes about autism, some autistic people prefer not to share the name of their disability. Others like to be more clear. Choose what you feel most comfortable with. Your options are...
    • Say that you are autistic.
    • Say that you have a developmental disability that causes some special needs and behavior differences (e.g. stimming in class)
    • Say that you have a disability
    • Say nothing
    • Remember, you can always choose to share more at a later point if it becomes necessary. However, if you will or might need accommodations, it's best to disclose that you are disabled early on, so the teacher is not surprised.
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    Decide how to tell your teacher(s) that you are disabled/autistic. Generating spontaneous speech can be difficult for some people, so you may find it easier to write an email or hand them a note. Talking after class is also a possibility, if you have enough passing time and feel comfortable doing so.
    • Deciding how you will handle this beforehand can make it easier when the time comes.
    • You may find it helpful to share with your teachers some articles about autism, such as what autism is or how to teach autistic students. Feel free to search wikiHow for articles that could help.
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    Watch your anxiety levels. Change can be stressful, especially for autistic people. This is also crucial if you have an anxiety disorder. If you notice yourself getting stressed, use coping mechanisms (like stimming) and tell someone how you feel.
    • If you envision a horrible scenario in your head, pause. Ask yourself: how likely is it that this will actually happen? Worst-case scenarios usually do not happen. Remind yourself this.

Method 2
Handling Your First Day

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    Wake up earlier than you think you need to, and follow your usual routine. The routine will help you settle in and feel less intimidated by the change in schedule. If you wake up early, you will have more time so you don't feel rushed.
    • If you finish your routine early, then you have free time! Do one of your absolute favorite things, such as your special interest, until it's time to go. Set an alarm or ask a family member to remind you when it's time to go.
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    Wear your favorite outfit. Wearing something you love can give you a confidence boost and help you feel ready to face the day.
    • Try wearing something that has stimming possibilities, like a soft fabric, a hoodie with strings, or a bracelet you can fiddle with.
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    Leave for school early. Being early will help you find your first class and get settled in. Bring along a favorite book to read once you have found your class.
    • Make sure that you have figured out where you need to go. It may be to your first class straightaway, or it may be going to Special Ed.
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    Don't pressure yourself. The first day is usually pretty casual. You don't have to push yourself, nor do you need to feel bad if everything goes perfectly. You have plenty of time to settle in, get to know people (if you want), and find a routine that works for you.


  • A large school, especially a university, may have disability- or autism-related social clubs. It may be helpful to you to hang out with other autistic or disabled people.
  • Some autistic people experience bullying. If you are concerned about this, talk to an adult in your house. Explain your worries and ask for help coming up with a plan for what to do if you get bullied.

Article Info

Categories: Back to School | Autism Spectrum