The Traditional School Calendar Fails Autistic Students: A Need for Consistency

The traditional school calendar, with its long summer break, poses several challenges for autistic individuals. While the extended vacation period is often seen as a time for rest and recreation, it can disrupt the structured routines that are vital for the well-being of autistic students. The abrupt change from a highly organized school schedule to an unstructured summer can lead to increased anxiety, regression in learned skills, and difficulties in readjusting to school routines after the break.

Autistic individuals thrive on consistency and predictability. The months-long summer break disrupts the continuity of learning and support services on which many autistic students rely. During the academic year, these students benefit from regular schedules, specialized instruction, and therapeutic interventions tailored to their needs. The absence of these supports during the summer can result in significant setbacks. Skills that were painstakingly acquired can be lost, and progress made in social, academic, and behavioral areas can regress. This regression requires considerable effort to recover once school resumes, often setting autistic students back further compared to their neurotypical peers.

Moreover, the lack of structure during the summer can exacerbate behavioral issues. Many autistic students rely on the routine and predictability of the school day to manage their behavior and anxiety. The sudden lack of this structure can lead to increased stress and anxiety, manifesting in behavioral outbursts or withdrawal. Parents and caregivers, while doing their best, may struggle to replicate the structured environment and specialized support that schools provide, leading to a challenging and stressful summer for both the child and the family.

As a 12-month, 24/7 therapeutic residential school, Shrub Oak International School provides continuous support and education for autistic students. We recognize the unique needs of our students and address them by offering academic classes year-round, while still offering both students and staff an opportunity to rest and recharge during scheduled breaks throughout the year. This approach maintains the necessary continuity of education and therapeutic services and helps ensure that students do not lose the structure and support they need to thrive. By eliminating the disruptions of long breaks and maintaining a structured schedule, we aim to help students thrive academically, socially, and emotionally.

The traditional school calendar with its long summer break is not conducive to the needs of autistic individuals. The extended absence of structure and support can lead to skill regression, increased anxiety, and behavioral issues. Shrub Oak International School’s 12-month calendar, featuring a fun yet structured summer term, provides a solution that better serves autistic students by maintaining the continuity and stability they require to succeed. This approach exemplifies our commitment to creating an optimal learning environment tailored to the unique needs of autistic individuals.

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