Autism And Your Child In School

A child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), like Asperger’s syndrome for example, will have difficulties thriving in the classroom. The child will also tend to have behavioral problems because he won’t be able to communicate well. Autism creates a troublesome situation not just for the child, but also for the teachers and the parents.

There are some private schools that claim they are ill-equipped to take on a child with autism so they don’t take children who have ASD. There are few schools that do but they are expensive and have a limited capacity.

There are ways to help a child with ASD learn and thrive in the classroom. Traditional schools can adapt to help the child do well and grow like children who do not have the same problems as a child with autism.

Each child is unique

Helping a child with autism get the most out of the classroom experience takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Every child with ASD is unique, with different symptoms and styles of learning, and needs individual attention.

Unlike other diseases, the symptoms of ASD are not constant and differ with every child. For an educational model to be effective in helping children with autism thrive and learn, it has to be very broad to cover the whole spectrum of symptoms of ASD while it also addresses each child’s individual needs.

Tips for parents

One parent shares her experience in helping her child with autism thrive in school. One of the best ways to do this is to help the child get ready by getting started early. There are preschools for children with autism that help them learn how to behave and interact with other children who do not have the disorder. These preschools also help the families deal with ASD. More often than not, when the child is ready to attend regular school, he can do well enough that other children and their parents won’t even know that he needs extra help.

Here are some more tips:

  • ADOS, or Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, is a standard evaluation that assesses the social and communication behavior of children with autism. A doctor or a trained professional conducts the evaluation to find out the child’s strengths and weaknesses and formulates the child’s individualized educational plan or IEP.
  • Your expectations from your child should be within reason. A child may need repeated practice just to learn a simple lesson, like the proper use of pronouns, for example. It would be unreasonable to expect your child to absorb his lessons at the same rate that the other children in his class do.
  • Get your child ready for school by visiting it a few days before school starts and showing him the new environment. Helping him get familiar with his new surroundings will also help him adjust more easily in the classroom once school starts.
  • It is important that the teachers and coaches know exactly how to treat your child by giving them simple instructions. During gym practice, for example, a coach can employ the simple technique of saying the child’s name and taking a minute to repeat his instructions to the child to make sure that he understands the task.
  • You should always be up-to-date on what’s happening at your child’s school by getting involved with school events and joining the PTA. This is also a great opportunity for your child’s teachers to get to know you.
  • It would be very helpful to share materials that focus on children with autism with your child’s teachers, therapists, and other faculty members and staff who interact with your child.

The IEP meeting at school

The IEP, or individualized educational plan, is mandatory for all public schools to guide the education of a child with ASD. To ensure your child’s educational success, the IEP outlines the therapies and educational programs that should be provided for the child. Examples of such therapies include speech therapy, occupational therapy, behavioral therapy, and physical therapy. Your child might also need to spend time with a special education teacher.

An IEP meeting is important so educators can decide about the services that the school will offer for a child with autism. Here’s a guide to have a successful IEP meeting:

  • Work with the educators in setting reasonable goals for your child. These goals should be supportable and age-appropriate.
  • Getting an expert or somebody who knows your child’s specific needs to join in on the discussion can be very helpful. They can provide invaluable input to improve the school’s efforts to design effective strategies.
  • Do not forget to show your appreciation for your child’s educators’ efforts at helping him learn and thrive in school. Even a simple handwritten note or an email makes a big difference.

Finding the perfect fit

If things are not working out for your child at his school, by all means you should transfer him to a different one. One of the foremost reasons for changing schools is when your child often gets punished for behavior that he has no control over. This may be normal occurrence especially because most general education teachers do not have the training to tell the difference between the bad behavior of a “typical” kid and the symptoms of a child with ASD.

A child with autism has the tendency to resort to “stimming,” referring to self-stimulating behaviors that a child engages in, like making repetitive motions, when he becomes anxious, bored, or when he gets lost in school. Sensory issues may also be present, like under-sensitivity or over-sensitivity to light or touch. Your child may also have the habit of chewing things to compensate for something that he can’t properly express. These behaviors may be easily misinterpreted by an untrained eye and the child gets punished for it.

Special schools

Sometimes, traditional schools just cannot provide the right environment for a child with autism. They do not have the resources to either train their educators or to keep up with the challenges and demands of educating a child with autism. If you can’t find the right environment for your child, you can provide it for him yourself.

Families who are in a similar situation can start their own school. The Lionheart School in Alpharetta, Georgia, founded by four families, is an example.

The biggest benefit of doing this is finally having a supportive and loving community for children with autism. Battling with the school system may not always solve the problem of providing education for these children in an environment that they can thrive in. At the same time, trying to find the right environment may cause you to lose precious time. Although there is no known cure for autism, it is believed that early and steady intervention is very important. The sooner these children can learn the social skills and strategies they need, the sooner they’ll be equipped to communicate. It also makes a big difference to nip their behavioral problems in the bud before they become major obstacles.

The education of children with autism should go beyond merely teaching them the basic textbook lessons but should also focus on teaching them to be thinkers and problem solvers and the proper ways to apply these strategies. Sometimes, children with autism who attend traditional schools suffer a lot of failures and disappointments which would eventually take their toll. Which is why starting them early in the correct environment is very crucial.

Another special school is Jacob’s Ladder, which is also called by its founder Amy O’Dell as a “neuro-developmental learning center.” It is a school for children with any type of developmental delay and follows a program wherein children are assessed in terms of their neuro-developmental aspects, physiological components, social/emotional/behavioral aspects, and academic aspects.

This special school provides a loving environment for children and has teachers who are creative, passionate, and tireless. The school also does evaluations and tailor-makes home-based learning plans that would suit the child’s specific needs.

A balanced family life

Creating a more balanced family life is just as important as providing your child with the education he needs. Getting early intervention and training makes a big difference in attaining this. It also makes it easier for parents to distinguish when an 8-year-old child is having a behavioral issue if it’s because of his autism or because he is just acting like a typical 8-year-old.

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