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Behind the mask: Supporting autistic students in primary school

Written by: Alison Eason
7 min read
ALISON EASON, HEAD OF ADDITIONALLY RESOURCED PROVISION (ARP), CHALGROVE PRIMARY SCHOOL, UK The typical primary school classroom, which is designed to stimulate children’s senses, may be overwhelming for an autistic child, who processes senses in a different way from their peers. Even the day-to-day sensory information that we routinely process, such as cooking smells wafting in through the window or the sudden scrape of a chair being pulled away from a desk, can cause stress, anxiety and even physical pain (National Autistic Society, nd). Atypical sensory-based behaviours are a common feature of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) (Marco et al., 2011), yet some autistic children feel the need to hide the fact that they are uncomfortable in the classroom by camouflaging their autistic traits. While masking can help a child to feel safe from bullying, misunderstanding or being considered somehow different, this act of self-preservation takes a toll on self-esteem and self-identity, and

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