How to Help Your Autistic Child Relax After School

I started my career as a teacher in a school for children with severe, profound, multiple, and additional needs and then became the Head of Autism for a London Borough. Yet before my own son started school, I had images of picking him up from school, getting a huge cuddle, and spending the afternoon chatting about what he had learned that day. 

Utter nonsense! Our reality couldn’t be more different! On a good day, I may get a grunt when I pick him up. My sweet, happy, easy-going little boy turns into the Incredible Hulk after school, and I have a huge target on my back!  

But I know I am not the only one. 

Many parents struggle with helping their autistic children relax after school. Let’s explore some tips that may ease these challenges.

Download your FREE guide on 

Best Fidget Toys to


Stress and Anxiety

1. Prepare them a snack

I quickly learned to give my son a snack as soon as he exits school. The quicker I feed my son, the better. He will often have a sandwich, a piece of fruit, crackers, flapjack, or whatever it takes to prevent his blood sugar levels from hitting rock bottom.

2. Don’t force them to talk

I always ask my son how his day was, but unless he offers up more than a “fine,” I leave it at that.

I also don’t ‘chat’ about my day because, when I have had a long day at work, I don’t want to listen to someone else’s chatter. Sometimes, we all just need and want some quiet time to switch off and decompress from everything that has happened.

I have found it is the same with my son. I have noticed that as he relaxes from his day at school, he slowly offers up more and more nuggets of information. I relish every one of these.

3. Give them space and time

When we first get back from school, my son does exactly what he wants: coloring, TV, running around the garden, whatever will help him to start to unwind. I often find that after he’s had some time, he will want to do something together.

4. Give them control

From the moment our children wake up, they have been told what to do: “Brush your teeth,” “Eat your breakfast,” “Sit on the carpet,” “Eat this lunch.” So, give them some control back and allow them to be in charge of what activities they choose after school.

At home, we have a jar filled with lollipop sticks. On each one, I have included simple after-school activities that I know my son enjoys. Then, when he is ready, he can choose an activity for us to do together (or separately if he prefers).

A mom playing with her son outside

All of these activities are open-ended. They have no rules, and there is no right or wrong way to interact with them. Now is not the time for handwriting, phonics, or sums!

Here are some after-school activities for autistic children you can also try: 

  • Playdough: Playing with playdough is a wonderful way to release tension and calm stress. Add cinnamon, rosemary, or jasmine to your playdough to give the activity an extra calming element.
  • Waterplay: Waterplay is wonderfully open-ended. Fill a tray with water, add some jars and ladles, and pour water from one jar to the other. 
  • Reading: There is something soothing about someone reading to you. Let them choose the book, cuddle on the sofa together, and escape wherever the story is set.
  • Small world: Small-world play is a wonderful way for children to act out and process any difficult situations that may have happened. Put out some playdough and figures, and see where you both end up.
  • A walk: Getting some fresh air can help us all feel calmer and happier. If my son chooses to go for a walk after school, he will choose which direction we head in, and we will often return with our pockets full of various natural treasures.
  • Arts and crafts: Doodling, coloring, painting with watercolors, and cutting and sticking can all offer creative outlets to destress. Remember – the process is much more important than the end product!

5. Don’t take things personally 

Please remember not to take your child’s irritability personally. You will see the worst of your children because you are their safe space, and they know you will love them no matter what.

They show you how they feel through their behavior because they love you. Remember, you are the person that your children can show their vulnerability, frustration, and anger.

However, there will be times when my son is shouting and stomping his feet, and I will be hiding in the fridge, desperately shoving chocolate in my mouth. Parents are human; don’t beat yourself up if you, too, find yourself in the fridge occasionally!

The calm after school for children with autism

After a long day at school, it’s crucial for children with autism to have effective strategies to decompress and unwind. As a parent, you can support your child’s well-being by providing a calming environment, engaging in sensory-friendly activities, and encouraging relaxation techniques.

By prioritizing your child’s need for relaxing after school, you can help them navigate their day more easily and foster a sense of comfort and security at home.

This article was featured in Issue 150 – Homeschooling Your Child With Autism

Special Offer

Don’t miss out on the Autism Parenting Summit.
here to sign up now!


Q: What are the best after-school activities for autistic children?

A: Sensory-friendly activities like art therapy or nature walks can be beneficial for autistic children, providing opportunities for self-expression and connection with their surroundings. Structured routines, such as practicing hobbies or engaging in calming exercises, can also promote relaxation and support their overall well-being.

Q: What are daily activities for autism?

A: Daily activities for autism can vary widely depending on the individual’s needs and preferences, but they often include structured routines, sensory-friendly activities, and social interactions tailored to their comfort level and interests.

Q: How do you keep an autistic child engaged in the classroom?

A: In the classroom, keeping an autistic child engaged can involve providing structured activities that cater to their interests and sensory needs. Incorporating visual aids, sensory tools, and individualized tasks can help them stay engaged and focused.

Q: How do autistic students learn best?

A: Autistic students often learn best through personalized and structured approaches that cater to their individual strengths and needs, such as visual aids, clear instructions, and consistent routines.


Adams, D., Young, K. & Keen, D. Anxiety in Children with Autism at School: a Systematic Review. Rev J Autism Dev Disord 6, 274–288 (2019). 

Perihan, C., Bicer, A. & Bocanegra, J. Assessment and Treatment of Anxiety in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in School Settings: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. School Mental Health 14, 153–164 (2022). 

Adams, D., Simpson, K. and Keen, D. (2020), Exploring Anxiety at Home, School, and in the Community Through Self-Report From Children on the Autism Spectrum. Autism Research, 13: 603-614.

Vasa, R.A., Keefer, A., McDonald, R.G., Hunsche, M.C. and Kerns, C.M. (2020), A Scoping Review of Anxiety in Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism Research, 13: 2038-2057.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Hot Topics

Related Articles