The school year is underway. If you have a child with autism, you might be wondering how he is doing in school. You want to keep up to make sure you address any problems right away. Children with autism have trouble with communication so you might not be getting the information you need from your child. The best thing to do is set up an appointment with your child’s teacher for an informal conference.
The purpose of this meeting is to get an update on your child’s progress and to head off any problems that might be developing in the classroom or during school activities. Even though this isn’t a formal meeting, you want to come prepared with questions. Use the following as a guideline to create questions, making sure tailor them to your child’s specific needs and situation:
- How is my child doing overall in school?
- Does he seem like he enjoys school?
- Are there any academic subjects causing difficulty? Which ones?
- What steps have you taken to address these issues?
- What additional steps can we take to help him improve in those areas?
- What can I do at home to help him?
- What subject does he do best in?
- What is my child’s learning style?
- How does your teaching incorporate different learning styles?
- May I tell you about our experience with how my child best learns?
- May I tell you about his interests outside of school so you better understand him?
- What skills (academic and otherwise) will my child be expected to master this year?
- What can I do at home to reinforce those skills?
- Is he working up to his ability?
- May I tell you what I see as my child’s strengths?
- How much time should my child spend on homework?
- Is he handing in homework?
- Do you grade homework assignments?
- Is homework given on a daily basis?
- What are the classroom rules?
- Are there policies I should know?
- Are there any behavioral problems in the classroom?
- What methods of discipline are used?
- What positive reinforcement programs are used?
- What has worked best for you?
- May I tell you what I have found works best at home?
- How can we work together so we are providing consistency in behavioral issues?
- How is my child doing socially? Does he interact with his classmates?
- Does he make eye contact with you?
- What methods do you use to make sure he makes eye contact during conversations with you?
- May I tell you what I find works at home?
- Has he made friends?
- Is there anyone in the class he spends time with socially? (Lunch, recess, etc.)
- Is it possible to contact that child’s parent to set up play dates outside of school?
Ending the Conversation
- What is the best way for us to communicate?
- Do you have any recommendations?
- What questions can I ask my child each day to encourage discussion about your class?
- Are there support services that might help that we are not currently using?
Notice there are a number of questions where you ask permission to tell the teacher your perspective on your child. Teachers want to know this information, they spend time all day with your child but understand that you know your child best and can offer insights to help them better teach your child. Don’t be afraid to voice your thoughts on both your child’s strengths and your concerns. If there is any special circumstances at home, such as a death in the family, divorce or a new baby, be sure to let the teacher know what is going on.
If you don’t understand something, need further clarification or believe the teacher is not addressing your concerns, ask questions, but do so in a respectful way. Speaking up is better than leaving the meeting feeling misunderstood or angry. Remember, you and your child’s teachers are partners in his education. Strong, respectful relationships between you and the teachers will only make your child’s school experience better.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.