Ten Suggestions That Might Help Your Child’s Teacher
Teachers do an incredible job.
Standing in front of children every day, inspiring them on their journey to adulthood, requires deep reserves of commitment and dedication.
The reality, though, is that some teachers may not be familiar with autism and some of the strategies that can assist them in teaching children on the spectrum.
It’s why a parent chose to share the following thoughts with TheAutismSite.com
The parent’s hope is that a little guidance, explanation, and understanding can assist schools in teaching, caring for, and giving wings to a child.
10. “EVERYONE WITH AUTISM IS DIFFERENT, AND THAT INCLUDES MY CHILD.”
Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning there’s a wide variety of symptom expression and symptom severity. Even if you have had kids with autism in your classes before, recognise that mine might be totally different.
9. “DON’T MISTAKE MY EXPLANATION OF MY CHILD’S BEHAVIOR AS AN EXCUSE.”
Behavior is essentially communication, so whether my child does something you approve of or disapprove of, they’re probably trying to say something. Let me explain what certain behaviors might mean. That doesn’t mean I’m condoning or excusing my child’s negative behavior; I’m trying to help you understand my child better so you can target the underlying issue.
8. “GIVE MY CHILD DIRECT COMMANDS RATHER THAN VEILED HINTS.”
People with autism struggle to understand indirect language or commands. “You didn’t put away your books” is a statement that means nothing to my child; “Put away your books, please” communicates exactly what you want them to do.
In the same way, if you ask my child, “Would you like to read the next paragraph in the book?” don’t be surprised or upset if they interpret that question literally and say no! Always be direct.
7. “LOOK FOR SENSORY ISSUES BEHIND A BEHAVIOR YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND.”
Sensory issues are often a huge part of life with autism, so when my child starts to scream, act aggressively, or get distracted, look at what’s going on in the surroundings. Are the lights too bright? Is the room too noisy? Are they so overwhelmed by what’s going on that they feel threatened? Adjusting the environment could help correct certain behaviors, especially ones that may be harmful to my child or other students.
6. “PUNISHING MY CHILD WON’T HELP, BUT REWARDING THEM FOR POSITIVE BEHAVIOR WILL.”
My child might get anxious and freeze up if they’re afraid of being punished, but if given a reward for something they did well, they might be inspired to work hard and keep going!
5. “WARN MY CHILD PRIOR TO ROUTINE CHANGES AND TRANSITIONS.”
A change in normal routine may be no big deal to many children, but for kids on the spectrum it can be very anxiety-inducing. Therefore, letting my child know ahead of time that lunch is going to be later than usual or there’s going to be a school assembly gives them that heads-up that they need to mentally prepare.
Similarly, kids tend to struggle with processing transitions, so giving mine five and two-minute warnings before changing gears can do wonders. Bonus points if you can give them a visual indicator of some sort, like a clock, a timer, or a “warning” card!
4. “RECOGNISE THAT MEETINGS ARE HARD FOR ME.”
The whole point of (parent-school) meetings are for parents and educators to sit down and discuss problem areas, as well as what can be done to improve the child’s situation. That makes the atmosphere feel very negative for me. A little thing teachers can do to help alleviate some of that stress is talk about the positives—what my child has done well, how they have improved, and why they’re such an awesome person.
3. “GIVE MY CHILD TIME TO PROCESS.”
Particularly when it comes to verbal communication, children on the spectrum take time to process and can easily be overloaded by too much information at one time.
So don’t stack questions on top of each other; ask them one at a time. And if my child doesn’t respond to something you say immediately, that doesn’t necessarily mean they weren’t listening or didn’t hear you; they may need several seconds to process your questions and commands. But if you feel you need to repeat yourself, don’t rephrase; say what you did the first time.
2. “EXPLAIN MY CHILD’S BEHAVIOR TO THE OTHER STUDENTS…AND DEFEND THEM, IF NECESSARY.”
A sad reality is children often pick on people whose behavior they don’t understand. When my child is not in the room, provide the other students with an age-appropriate explanation of autism—tell them why my child might behave differently, need extra help, or say things that might seem strange to them.
But even an explanation like this may not completely protect my child from being bullied. Please stand up for my child if they report being picked on or if you see other students antagonising them.
1. “PLEASE TALK TO ME.”
Communication is essential. If you don’t understand something the child is doing, ask me. If the child has had a good day, let me know because that’s awesome and something to celebrate! If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate or be afraid to speak up. It will mean the world to me to know that you care about my child and want them to succeed.