When Teachers Complain About Your ASD Child's Academic Performance

"My daughter is 12 years old, high functioning autistic and now in middle school. Her teachers are constantly sending me notes saying she isn’t working up to her ability and they can’t get her to stay on task or ask for help. When she’s home, I can get her to do well with homework. I obviously can’t go to school with her everyday. What are some ways the teachers can get her to stay on task without making her stand out to the rest of the class? She is also legally blind and doesn’t want to appear different in any other way."

If your daughter’s teachers expect her to respond to the predominantly visual learning methods that are used in most schools, obviously, they will not work for her. If this situation exists, no wonder your daughter can’t stay on task or ask for help. In addition, the symptoms of High-Functioning Autism (HFA) affect her attention span and motivation.

First of all, your daughter should be evaluated by an educational child psychologist (either privately or through the school). A full diagnosis and specialized treatment is very important, including a complete assessment of her strengths and weaknesses (including her vision problem).

Often times, children with HFA are expected to be able to function successfully in mainstream education, but they struggle through no fault of their own. These "special needs" students are very smart, but their problems with social interaction and repetitive behaviors make mainstream education difficult. In addition, your daughter has a serious vision problem, an added cause of difficulties. Once evaluated, she can be appropriately placed in a mainstream educational program with instructional aide support or in special education.
Based on your description, it sounds as though the school’s program (whether it’s mainstream or special education) is not meeting her needs, and the teachers do not have the knowledge they need to help her. Special training and classes for them is vital, as they must address issues with HFA as well as her vision problem.

The school has a responsibility to re-evaluate your daughter if she is not progressing well. This is a legal, federally mandated responsibility. You should formally request the school to address your daughter’s difficulties and, with your input and that of her doctors, teachers, and psychologist, prepare a specific, educational plan to address all of her challenges. You may need an advocacy group’s help if the school is reluctant to do this.

Often times, a child with HFA and other diagnoses is more successful when placed in a special education classroom (or even a special school) with trained teachers and aides who provide a consistent, individualized educational program in a smaller group of students. Counseling and occupational therapy can be easily scheduled, monitored, and supported by special education teachers. The child may have the same teachers and aides for several years, increasing their understanding of her needs and maximizing her progress.

While your daughter may not want this type of placement at first (because she will appear to be “different”), once she experiences the improvement in her ability to participate in the curriculum, she will understand why a special placement may be the best option for her. Counseling may help her come to terms with the fact that she is different in some ways from other students, but that she is also very gifted, as well. 

 Here's what other parents have had to say about this issue:

•    Anonymous said... Her desire to appear like the other kids may be the motivator to do her best "like the other kids" to do her homework so the teacher wont single her out and get mad at her (blending) and so when the teacher calls on her she knows the answer and the teacher won't chastise her. Maybe. Does she wear any type of eyewear to help? I'm legally blind too but fortunate to be corrected with lenses - I was bribed with contacts back when I wasn't performing to my abilities and not getting my homework done

•    Anonymous said... i hear that! with my b we use positive reinforcements..home and at school.visuals, since the child is blind, obviously would have to cooperate this somehow, she has a few breaks throughout the day. small quick breaks earned has helped to keep her anxiety down, stress down and attention and academics up, she will pick a desirable thing, like computer, clay, paining whatever...then she starts her work, has a small chart/token collector on her desk, and as she completes her work she earns them. when she gets all, she gets to take a break and do what she worked for. somedays may need more breaks then others, but overall this has been a wonderful way and has worked for us at school for quite a few years now.

•    Anonymous said... IEP is the solution. Kids don't need to know and she will get all the accommodations she needs.

•    Anonymous said... My son is 15 and a sophmore in high school. He was diagnosed finally at the end of his 7th grade year with High functioning Aspergers. He is in AP courses an Athletic Student Trainer for the second year and wants to study sports medicine. He excels in his classes and things come naturally to him but can not for the life of him remember or care to do his homework. His average will drop to a 37% and the next week it will be a78% because he averages in his head how many homework assignments he can miss and still pass the class. How can I teach him how important this is for his future. He wants to enroll in a dual enrollment program next year to graduate with an associates degree but his Counselor says probably won't be able to due to he doesn't complete his assignments. ... what can do any suggestions. He has a504 plan already.

•    Anonymous said... story of my life! Does she have a 504 plan? Last year when my daughter now 11 entered Middle School we had a heck of a time. Then we received the official diagnosis and created a 504 plan with the school. It doesn't fix everything and there is still daily communication with almost every teacher, but it has helped a lot. Every afternoon she goes to skill block where an IA checks her agenda and makes sure she has all her assignments and brings home all her required homework. Then when my husband picks her up from school, he checks her agenda and makes sure the required homework books made it into her bag before they even leave the parking lot of the school. I also email regularly with her teachers to make sure she stays on task with her assignments. We work very closely with them to ensure each of us is doing everything we can to help her. For example math, at home she would do fine with math work. At school, she has a D in math and is bombing all her quizzes. We found that providing her graphing paper helps her stay organized as she is working through the math problems, and providing her a quiet place to take the quiz alleviates most of the distractions she experiences. She goes from getting a 40 to getting a 90 by those two simple changes.

•    Anonymous said... u need to call school get a IEP. My son is 12 has aspergers. He just started JR high. he was having similar problems. If the homework becomes too overwhelming u can get it reduced.

•    Anonymous said... 504 plan has to do with allergies, an IEP is for individualized education program....aka...special ed

•    Anonymous said... Getting an IEP is easier said than done. Think I'm gearing up for that fight soon... We are their best advocates. 

*    I am having the same concern except my son is a 15 yr old sophmore. He was diagnosed late in his 7th grade year with High functioning Aspergers. He is very gifted and school work comes naturally to him. He is a student Athletic Trainer for the second year and wants to continue his education in sports medicine. He is in AP courses but will miss homework assignments because he forgets to write it down or just simply does not want to do it. He is wanting to take dual enrollment classes next year, but his Counselor will not recommend him if he can't do the homework now. How can I get him ready?... concerned High schoolers Mommas

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