Whether your child is just starting school or beginning another school year, you and your child are no doubt hoping for a positive learning experience. When you have a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), you want to make sure the school environment is as accommodating as it can be.
The first step toward creating a supportive learning environment in the classroom, one in which your child thrives, is building a close partnership with the teacher. A partnership goes beyond a simple conversation at the start of the school year. It means working with your child’s teacher throughout the year.
Follow these tips to develop a collaborative relationship with your child’s teacher to give your child a positive and productive environment in which to learn.
1. Prepare Yourselves
Avail yourself and your child of resources available. Resources such as the Sanjay Shah Autism Rocks Support Centre, The National Autistic Society and Autism Speaks offer a wide variety of supportive services to children and parents. Services offered include learning and teaching tools to help your child transition to mainstream schools and give parents better skills to meet the challenges raising a child on the spectrum brings.
2. Be Honest
You know your child better than anyone. As a parent, however, your tendency may be to cover certain aspects of your child’s behaviour up.
When you meet with your child’s teacher for the first time, be honest. Openly admit what the problem is, describe typical acting out behaviour and share techniques you’ve found that work when dealing with episodes your child exhibits.
Inform the teacher about any issues that impact your child’s behaviour, such as intensive lighting, too much noise or too many distractions. The more information you can share, the better.
A well-informed teacher will be better prepared to deal with difficulties than a teacher who has no idea about your child or time to prepare and meet the coming challenges.
3. Have Formal and Informal Meetings
Of course you’l want to attend the formal parent/teacher meetings to discuss your child’s progress and any issues that arise. However, you should also have opportunities for informal communication with the teacher. You might be able to catch the teacher at the start or end of the school day.
Because teachers are so busy, you could ask your child’s teacher which form of communication they prefer for minor updates. Perhaps they prefer an email or text message exchange. Perhaps they prefer a voicemail and call back number. Use their preferred method when contacting them.
Prioritise issues as well. Is it absolutely necessary to report a minor issue? You could keep a diary and update the teacher weekly, or whenever works best for you.
Author Kathy Bolduc encourages parents to be themselves when meeting with teachers and not hold back on their emotions. Parenting a child on the spectrum is a challenge and opening up invites your child’s teacher to become part of the relationship.
4. Show Your Appreciation
Remind your child’s teachers just how much you appreciate their hard work. Send thank you cards or perhaps flowers from your garden. When special thanks are required, gift cards towards a meal out go a long way to show how grateful you are.
5. Involve Everyone
Teachers are an integral part of your child’s life at school, but everyone from the school bus driver to school administrators also plays a large role. Meet with as many as you can and pull together a dynamic team to support your child throughout the school year.
I hope these tips for parents of autistic children will help you, whether you are a parent, teacher or work in a school. I am sure if this applies to you that you are aware of the above anyway, but I hope by sharing, it may help someone. If you have any tips to add, please do pop them below.