Tag Archives: children with Autism

what to communicate with your child’s teacher: Autism in the classroom

communicate with your childs teacher
School is starting soon. I think I just heard YIPEEES!!! from several of you. 🙂 Autism parents might be a tad more excited than the average parent for their child to go back to school after summer break, as that routine and consistency can make a night and day difference for our children.

I don’t know about your child, but most children with Autism are constantly changing. Our son, Jeremiah, gains skills, loses skills, says a word and then we’ll never hear it again, he’s regularly in flux. It’s hard enough to keep up with him at home, but then add school, progress, and regressions and

it can resemble one big spider web.

There’s a solution that greatly helps us traverse that spider web with agility, and helps everyone dive into a new school year with an exceptional start. What can you do to keep positive momentum going at school?

COMMUNICATE 

You don’t have to share the nitty-gritty of your every day life, like the stories that make your friends cringe (well, then again your friends probably cringe at many of your stories because life with an autistic kid is, well, different)…so I take that back, just don’t share about your relationship with your in-laws. 😉

Most of you have an IEP for your child, but this gets into the every day, moment by moment life of your child. Many times the IEPs don’t get to that, they don’t deal with the day to day changes and individuality of our children.

Here are some ideas of what to mention to your Autistic child’s teacher, aides, paraprofessionals, and therapists before school starts and throughout the year:

  • Communicate what your child is doing at home. The good and not so good. Are they experimenting with new toys? Do they have new sensory needs? What have you noticed that’s different? Are there situations at home that are troublesome, maybe some issues you need help working through?

 

  • Communicate what’s working. Swimming? Trampoline? Rolling in blankets? Is there a special corner your child loves to be in? Could the school recreate this setting in the classroom to help your child calm? Are you using phrases at home that seem to help your child transition (e.g. “FIRST we’ll go to the bathroom, THEN we can color some more.”)?

 

  • Communicate how your child is interacting with others. Are they using new words, signs, or gestures? Are there new sounds or phrases that someone else might not understand? What is your child understanding? As our children develop they understand more of their world, but at the same time other concepts become more misconstrued, so explain what’s going on with your child in this area.

benefits of communicating with teachers

Sharing with the staff about your Autistic child will help in many areas. You will be able to get on the same page, working in the same way both at home and at school. The staff will know what you’re doing at home and be able to incorporate your ideas at school and vise versa, this will bring a cohesiveness to your child’s life, making it more predictable. The teachers can give you ideas on what to do with your child at home to help make life calmer and to help your child develop.

When I say, “teacher,” I’m referring to their teacher, aide, paraprofessional, and therapists. You can talk to each one individually, but that takes up an incredible amount of time, so choose the one who works with and understands your child the most. If you’re able to talk in person with a paraprofessional, you can email the rest of the team regarding what you spoke about.

Be sure to keep everyone in the loop.

You don’t have to monopolize the teacher’s time, this can happen so easily, it especially does for me because our son’s teacher has a teenager with Autism. We could talk for hours. Try to choose a time when the teacher is available and doesn’t seem rushed, and if it’s a pressing matter, she/he will probably have a few moments. If it’s not pressing, you can email or chat on the phone when it’s convenient for them.

Our family has really benefited from conversing with everyone who works with Jeremiah.

We’ve all been able to work together to problem solve and most of the team is willing to take ideas from the other and incorporate what works and what’s best for Jeremiah.

Have you been able to talk with your child’s teaching team? Did it make a difference? If you haven’t been in communication with the teachers before, do you think it would make a difference?

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what is Autism?

My son, Jeremiah, has Autism. For those of you who don’t know someone with the disorder, or who haven’t looked into what it is, there can be a very narrow perception of what the word “Autism” means. One example of this came when I was introduced to a woman who attends a small group we used to go to. When she asked why we’re no longer part of the group, I responded, “My son has Autism, and we can’t leave him with just anyone.” (Childcare was provided by the host home.) The woman nodded her head like she knew exactly what I meant and said, “Yeah, that routine is really important isn’t it?” (Although this response was narrow-minded, it’s better than the stares I have experienced when I’ve told others about my son’s diagnosis.)

I’m not implying what that woman said was inappropriate or unthoughtful, but I encourage people to become more aware of what Autism is like because it’s becoming more prevalent. If you don’t already, you will eventually have a family member or friend whose child is diagnosed, and the more you can support them, the better.

So you’re aware, every child on the Spectrum can present differently (i.e. one may talk, while another may not. One may have other diagnoses that coincide with Autism, such as Angelmans Syndrome or Fragile X Syndrome. One child may have significant sensory needs, while another may not). There can be similarities between children on the Spectrum, and they can also be very diverse.

When you see a child at an amusement park who can’t wait in line, who screams, flaps his hands, hits himself or others, he may have Autism. Why does a child do these things, and why can’t it just be blamed on bad parenting? Well, first all Autism parents rock, so it can’t be their fault (insert smiley face). Second, there are many reasons why a child with Autism is acting like the boy I mentioned. Here are some possibilities, a little glimpse into their world:

  • Sensory issues. Ahhh, a sizable component of an Autistic’s life is that sensory piece. Sensory stimulation can either become extremely overwhelming; they want to avoid noisy restaurants, bright lights, loud fourth of July bangs, and tickly grass beneath their feet. They can also be sensory seekers (needing sensory input). To calm themselves, they need spinning lights, a swinging motion, they watch how light looks differently when they wave their fingers in front of their face, they may jump or run a lot. They hit, not because they want to hurt someone, but because it feels good when they smack something hard. ~ With this sensory aspect of Autism alone, you can see why a person with the disorder may be uncomfortable and act differently in several scenarios.
  • Processing language and understanding something that’s not concrete is very difficult for a person who has Autism.  Comprehending the non-concrete thinking is nearly impossible for many on the Spectrum.
    So, when a child is told to “wait,” it can be extremely arduous for them to understand what it means. Waiting in line can prove to be a feat that is akin to a neuro-typical person waiting in heavy traffic while rude, obnoxious drivers honk, yell, and throw ugly fingers, or it may be worse for the Autistic to wait in line at the grocery store.

Besides all of these reasons listed in effort to explain the behavior of the boy at the amusement park, there are hundreds of other entities a person with Autism deals with. I will attempt to give an overview of some.

  • Autism is a neurological disorder.
  • Auditory processing can be laborious.
  • They can have difficulty processing auditory and visual stimulation concurrently.
  • Routine is paramount.
  • They can have a hard time relating to others.
  • They can have obsessive behaviors (closing every door that’s open, smelling everything they come in contact with).
  • They may exhibit repetitive behaviors.
  • They can be extremely organized.
  • Some have obsessions with facts.
  • Many experience intense anxiety.
  • They can be easily distracted, some have ADD or ADHD.
  • They may find social situations to be troublesome.

In a BBC video My Autism & Me, starring Rosie King, who has Autism, she explains her Autism. She says she, “…feels words, it’s like they’re slimy or sticky,” and she talks about being really sensitive. She says, “Three out of five people with Autism feel unhappy,” she added, “this is probably because they aren’t getting the help they need.”

Although Autism can be overwhelming at times, my son, Jeremiah is the light of our lives. He has taught us about the fragility, individuality, and uniqueness of the human race. He has made us see the world differently. He has shown us there is a bright, beautiful light to be found in the midst of difficult  circumstances.

This is a very short summary of what Autism looks like. My goal is to provide understanding for those who know someone on the Autism Spectrum, and to support parents of Autistic children. If you would like someone to know more about Autism, you can send them here. I hope this gives you a glimpse of what Autism is.

If you are interested in how to help and support someone with Autism, you can find more on my Contents page, under Autism and Special Needs.

*Remember that no two people with Autism are alike.


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Temple Grandin shares her perspective on Autism

In this video, Temple Grandin has some great tips for parents of Autistic children. She touches on so many issues in the Autism realm. Here are some points she expounds upon:

  • Slowly stretch your child: Give them opportunities to do activities that expand their current reality. Have them take turns with a sibling every day.
  • Later in the interview Temple talks about children that have visual and auditory sensitivities. (I believe that many children with Autism are sensitive to one, or both of these.) She talks about working up to things slowly. If they are annoyed by a loud noise, like a ring on your phone, let them be in charge of it (making it ring). If the grocery store drives your child nuts, let them decide how long they want to be in there, and leave when they give you an agreed upon signal. Then push it the next time. (You can agree that you will go one minute beyond what they did last time, and reward them for lasting longer in the store. Continue to push the time you stay and shop.) She does mention that some people with Autism will never be able to go into a grocery store, and I definitely think this is something we, as parents, need to consider.
  • Potty Training. Oh, I was happy to hear this one! I had no idea how we were going to potty train our three-and-a-half-year-old son who is nonverbal and does not have much comprehension of language. She began with auditory sensitivities. Some children with Autism don’t like certain noises, and running water or flushing toilets can be something that sends them reeling. (I can relate, have you heard some of the toilets flushing in a public restroom? It’s like a tornado! Can you imagine being your child?) So that may be something that scares them away from toilet training.
  • The second part of toilet training had to do with the child seeing what is happening. They need to SEE the whole task slowly so they can understand it. They need to SEE the waste go in the toilet.
  • She talks about getting our Autistic children out in the community, learning job skills, not sitting and watching video games. (Spinning car wheels doesn’t really help them either.) Don’t let your child be a recluse all the time. Temple’s mother let her spin a ball on her bed for one hour every day and that was her “video game.” (Let them take care of their sensory needs – watching a spinning ball – but don’t let them do it all day.) Get your teen out there learning life skills so they can function in society (although this begins at early childhood). What is your teen interested in? Computer game? They can work in a computer store. Museums? They can begin volunteering to give tours at museums at age twelve. Does your child like animals? They can walk dogs.
  • She mentions repetitive movements. If you want them to stop doing something because it is bothersome to others, give them something to replace it. A stress ball, doodling, or something that spins quietly. (Whatever need they are trying to meet, you will need to meet it in another way.)
  • In our little world, we do different things to stretch our son, and it has paid off tremendously. When I read a book to Jeremiah, I don’t stop reading when he decides he doesn’t want to move past the first page. I hold him on my lap until we’ve read two more, so it’s not his decision when he gets down. We also stretch him in hand-over-hand therapy. Our therapist instructed us on how to teach him to play, and this is with hand-over-hand movements. I put my hand over his, grab toys, place them in something while giving the verbal cue, “In.” This pairs the action with the word we are wanting him to say. Our son is non-verbal so this is a little different technique than some will use. We stretch him in this also, as he didn’t want to participate in the beginning. It was new and very frustrating for him. Now he handles it better and can actually follow some given directions that have been repeated over a long period of time.

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