Notes for the school nurse: Autism-related difficulties

Certainly! Here are some common challenges related to autism that a school nurse may need to be aware of and make note of:


  1. Sensory Sensitivities: Many children with autism have heightened sensory sensitivities, which can include aversions to certain sounds, textures, or bright lights. These sensitivities can lead to anxiety or meltdowns.


  1. Communication Difficulties: Autism often involves challenges in communication, both verbal and non-verbal. Some students may struggle with speech, while others may have difficulty understanding or using body language and facial expressions.


  1. Social Interaction: Children with autism may find it challenging to engage in social interactions. They might struggle with making friends, interpreting social cues, or understanding the nuances of social situations.


  1. Repetitive Behaviors: Some children with autism engage in repetitive behaviors, such as hand-flapping, rocking, or repeating the same words or phrases. These behaviors can be a way to self-soothe but can be distracting in a classroom setting.


  1. Difficulty with Transitions: Changes in routine or transitioning from one activity to another can be particularly difficult for students with autism. This may lead to anxiety and resistance to change.


  1. Sensory Overload: Overstimulation in a busy school environment can lead to sensory overload for students with autism, which may result in meltdowns or withdrawal.


  1. Specialized Dietary Needs: Some children with autism may have dietary restrictions or preferences, and school nurses should be aware of these to ensure their nutritional needs are met.


  1. Medical Comorbidities: Autism can be associated with various medical conditions, such as gastrointestinal issues or seizures. School nurses should be informed about any medical conditions the student may have and any necessary accommodations or interventions.


  1. Individualized Education Plans (IEPs): Many students with autism have IEPs that outline specific accommodations and support strategies. It’s important for the school nurse to be aware of these plans and any healthcare-related needs mentioned in them.


  1. Emotional Regulation: Children with autism may struggle with emotional regulation, and they may require additional support to manage and cope with their emotions.


  1. Bullying and Peer Relations: Some students with autism are at an increased risk of bullying or social isolation. School nurses should be vigilant in monitoring these issues and working with the school staff to create a supportive environment.


  1. Medication Management: If a student with autism is on medication, the school nurse should be aware of the prescribed medications, their dosage, and any potential side effects.


  1. Allergies and Food Sensitivities: Be aware of any allergies or food sensitivities the student may have, as well as any necessary accommodations in the school cafeteria.


  1. Elopement Risk: Some students with autism may have a tendency to wander or elope. It’s important to have safety measures in place to prevent elopement and ensure the student’s safety.


  1. Seizure Preparedness: If a student with autism has a history of seizures, the school nurse should be prepared to respond to seizure emergencies and administer any prescribed medications.


These are general notes for a school nurse to consider when working with students with autism. It’s essential to work closely with the student’s parents, teachers, and special education staff to provide the best possible care and support for each individual student with autism.