Making School a Success for Students with Autism: The Parent’s Role

There are some ways for parents to support the school team. Because parents know their child best, they need to be part of the process is selecting an appropriate program and placement. It is important to be realistic about the child’s needs and abilities. Inclusion may not be for everyone or it may be necessary to advocate for full-time aide support.

Ask what knowledge the school has of autism spectrum disorders. Does the classroom teacher know about autism? What about other pertinent staff members who will be interacting with the child? Be prepared to give some information about autism either through websites or books. Some great introductory reads for teachers are Simple Strategies That Work! Helpful Hints for All Educators of Students with Asperger Syndrome, High-Functioning Autism, and Related Disabilities, Autism in Your Classroom or Asperger Syndrome: Practical Strategies for the Classroom; A Teacher’s Guide.

Explore what accommodations the school can provide. If writing skills are poor, request a laptop. If the child is sensitive to noise or needs breaks from the classroom, ask about a quiet work area. See if there is a resource room if extra academic help is needed. Ask about recess and lunch time supervision.

Parents should think about preparing an “All About My Child” piece. Outline strengths, special interests, some non-academic goals, sensory issues, calming techniques, and special needs or concerns such as medications, special diet, or poor sleep habits. Having something down on paper provides a handy reference tool for anyone who will be working with the child and this can also be left in a file folder for a substitute teacher. Also tell the school if the child is aware of his/her diagnosis.

A successful school year depends on teamwork between parents and staff. Providing pertinent information about your child keeps the staff informed on how to best accommodate their needs. Stay involved and have a great school year!

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