If your child has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the school day can be frustrating. He may have some behavioral problems or might be frustrated with his inability to communicate with the teacher and other classmates. Because each child with ASD is different, and has different needs, there is no cookie-cutter plan you can put into place to help your child succeed in the classroom, but, by working with the teachers, there are ways you can help.
The following are some tips to make your child’s classroom experience more successful:
If you haven’t already done so, request an evaluation for your child. Your child may be eligible for an individualized education plan (IEP) or Section 504 which will put accommodations and modifications in place. Your school district will complete the evaluation, at no cost to you, and meet with you to discuss your child’s specific needs.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your child’s teachers. Sometimes, when you have a special need child, you worry about approaching a teacher, you might be worried about the teacher’s reaction – will she be accommodating or will she see you as an overprotective parent? Most teachers welcome input from parents and are looking for ways to help your child. Your child’s teacher can gain insights into your child with your help, for example, does your child listen best if the teacher specifically says his name and repeats instructions? Remember, you are your child’s best advocate.
Determine the best mode of communication between you and your child’s teacher. Email is often the easiest way to communicate but if that isn’t possible, work with the teacher to find out if daily or weekly phone calls or notes sent back and forth work best. Make sure both you and the teacher understand and agree with not only the mode of communication but how often, for example, do you want an email each day or once a week?
Provide a routine at home. Establish a routine at home regarding homework and studying. Use visual organizers, lists or whatever your child responds to. Have homework done at the same time each day and get in the habit of reviewing he homework assignments. You might have your child do his homework in a specific order, for example, math homework first, then science, then social studies and finally reading. Children with ASD often respond well to order and routine.
Keep teacher’s comments in perspective. As parents, it is easy to be offended when your child’s teacher comments on your child’s behavior. It is easy to immediately defend your child. But keep in mind your child is spending many hours each day with the teacher. While it is always good to ask questions and better understand what is going on, don’t immediately assume the teacher has it in for your child or simply doesn’t like him. Accept the teacher’s comments as true and work together to find a solution. Of course, if you truly believe your child is being singled out or mistreated in any way, talk with the teacher and the school administrator.
Understand your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Your school district should have completed an evaluation which should help determine your child’s strong and weak areas, however, you know your child best. Make a list of strengths that can be emphasized in the classroom but make sure you and your child’s teacher also understand weaknesses, areas that can be improved and also areas where your child may need extra help.
Volunteer at your child’s school. Getting to know the teachers, administrators and other school personnel can help them see your child in a different light. Joining the PTA, volunteering in the library or as a classroom assistant not only keeps you apprised of what is going on, it helps everyone get to know one another, making communication that much easier.
Share information about ASD. While you don’t want to inundate teachers with information, if you find the teacher isn’t specifically trained in teaching children with ASD, it is totally appropriate to share articles or recommend books to help the teacher gain a better understanding of ASD.
Remember your role is to advocate for your child, not agitate the teacher. Be prepared with goals, insights and suggestions for working with your child. But demanding usually makes the other person defensive. Work on developing a relationship of mutual respect. At the end of any meeting, thank the participants or send an email letting them know you appreciate their efforts to help your child.
Address sensory needs. If your child is too hot, too cold or can’t stand to have anything touching his skin, he isn’t going to learn. Talk to the teacher about your child’s hypersensitivities so you can work together to minimize an all out assault on his senses, which will, in turn, help him focus on his schoolwork.
Published On: October 11, 2012