Are you getting complaints from school regarding your Aspergers (high functioning autistic) child's behavior? Do the teachers seem to have a hard time finding ways to cope with him or her? If so, then copy and paste the following letter, then send it in an email to your child's teacher(s):
I am the parent of _____ (child’s name). As you know, he has Aspergers. Here are some things that will help you to help him in the classroom environment:
1. Please allow him to "move about" periodically …sitting still for long periods of time can be very difficult (even a 2 minute 'walk around' with a friend or aide can help a lot).
2. Allowing our youngster to write down questions or thoughts and providing a response in writing may be very helpful at times.
3. Although his vocabulary and use of language may seem high, Aspergers kids may not know the meaning of what they are saying even though the words sound correct.
4. At times, it looks as if my youngster is not listening to you when he really is. Don't assume that because he is not looking at you that he is not hearing you.
5. At times, it may take more than few seconds for my youngster to respond to questions. He needs to stop what he's thinking, put that somewhere, formulate an answer and then respond. Please wait patiently for the answer and encourage others to do the same. Otherwise, he will have to start over again.
6. At times, our youngster may experience "meltdowns" when nothing may help behavior. At times like this, please allow a "safe and quiet spot" where our youngster will be allowed to "cool off." Try to take note of what occurred before the meltdown (was it an unexpected change in routine, for example), and it's best to talk "after" the situation has calmed down.
7. At times, some of my youngster's behaviors may be aggravating and annoying to you and to members of his class. Please know that this is normal and expected. Try not to let the difficult days color the fact that YOU are a wonderful teacher with a challenging situation and that nothing works all of the time (and some things don't even work most of the time). You will also be treated to a new and very unique view of the world that will entertain and fascinate you at times.
8. Breaking directions down into simple steps is quite helpful.
9. Directions are more easily understood if they are repeated clearly, simply and in a variety of ways.
10. Please foster a classroom atmosphere that supports the acceptance of differences and diversity.
11. Generally speaking, an adult speaking in a calm voice will reap many benefits.
12. Giving one or two warnings before a change of activity or schedule may be helpful.
13. Hand signals may be helpful, especially to reinforce certain messages, such as "wait your turn", "stop talking" (out of turn), or "speak more slowly or softly".
14. He may get over-stimulated by loud noises, lights, strong tastes or textures, because of the heightened sensitivity to these things.
15. One of the biggest challenges for Aspergers kids is that they may want to make friends very badly, yet have no clue as to how to go about it.
16. Identifying 1 or 2 empathetic students who can serve as "buddies" will help the youngster feel as though the world is a friendlier place.
17. If necessary, allow our child to copy the notes of other students. Many Aspergers kids are also dysgraphic, and they are unable to listen to you talk, read the board, and take notes all at the same time.
18. It is important to remember that just because the youngster learns something in one situation, this doesn't automatically mean that they remember or are able to generalize the learning to new situations.
19. It may be helpful to develop schedules (picture or written) for him.
20. Let him know, if possible, when there will be a substitute teacher or a field trip occurring during regular school hours.
21. Please note his strengths often - and visually. This will give our youngster the courage to keep on plugging.
22. Our youngster has difficulty understanding a string of directions or too many words at one time.
23. Our youngster lacks the ability of remember a lot of information or how to retrieve that information for its use.
24. Our youngster may act in a very clumsy way.
25. Our child may react very strongly to certain tastes, textures, smells and sounds.
26. Our youngster may have a great deal of difficulty with transitions. Having a picture or word schedule may be helpful.
27. Our youngster may have vocal outbursts or shriek. Be prepared for them, especially when having a difficult time. Also, please let the other kids know that this is a way of dealing with stress or fear.
28. Our youngster may need help with problem-solving situations. Please be willing to take the time to help with this.
29. Our youngster may repeat the same thing over and over again, and you may find this increases as stress increases.
30. Our youngster reacts well to positive and patient styles of teaching.
31. Please feel free to share with us whatever you would like. We have heard it before. It will not shock us or make us think poorly of you.
32. Please let our youngster know of any anticipated changes as soon as you know them, especially with picture or word schedules.
33. Please post schedules and homework assignments on the board and make a copy for him. Also, please make sure that these assignments get put into his backpack, because he can't always be counted on to get everything home without some help.
34. Please try to give as much advance notice as possible if there is going to be a change or disruption in the schedule.
35. Sarcasm and some forums of humor are often not understood by my youngster. Even explanations of what is meant may not clarify, because the perspectives of Aspergers youngster can be unique and, at times, immovable.
36. He may actually hear and understand you better if not forced to look directly at your eyes.
37. Some Aspergers kids learn best with visual aides, such as picture schedules, written directions or drawings (other kids may do better with verbal instruction).
38. Speaking slower and in smaller phrases can help.
39. Students with Aspergers may be at greater risk for becoming "victims" of bullying behavior by other students. This is caused by a couple of factors: (1) there is a great likelihood that the response or "rise" that the "bully" gets from the Asperger youngster reinforces this kind of behavior, and (2) Asperger students want to be included and/or liked so badly that they are reluctant to "tell" on the bully, fearing rejection from the perpetrator or other students.
40. This disorder is characterized by a sort of "swiss cheese" type of development (i.e., some things are learned age-appropriately, while other things may lag behind or be absent).
41. Aspergers kids may have skills years ahead of normal development (e.g., a youngster may understand complex mathematics principles, yet not be able to remember to bring their homework home).
42. Unlike most of us, sometimes forcing eye contact BREAKS his concentration.
43. Unstructured times (e.g., lunch, break and PE) may prove to be the most difficult for him. Please try to help provide some guidance and extra adults help during these more difficult times.
44. Using picture cues or directions are very helpful in a multitude of situations since he is a visual learner.
45. When dividing up assignments, please ASSIGN teams rather than have the other kids "choose members", because this increases the chances that our youngster will be left out or teased.
46. When it reaches a point that things in the classroom are going well, it means that we've gotten it RIGHT. It doesn't mean that our youngster is "cured", "never had a problem" or that "it's time to remove support". Please increase demands gradually.
47. When someone tries to help by finishing his sentences or interrupting, he often has to go back and start over to get the train of thought back.
48. When you see anger or other outbursts, our youngster is not being deliberately difficult. Instead, this is in a "fight/fright/flight" reaction. Think of this as an “electrical circuit overload.”
49. Prevention methods can sometimes head-off impending meltdowns if you see the warning signs coming.
50. If there is a lot of chaos and noise, please try to help our child find a quiet spot to which he can go for some "relief".
Thanks in advance,
Mrs. _______ (parent’s name).