Helping the Teacher to Understand Your Autistic Child

"Are there certain things that I should tell my son's new teacher before he starts the new school year in order to help her make any necessary adjustments or accommodations?"

You have had several years of experience figuring-out what works and what doesn’t work in managing your son. 
While his teacher understands the fundamentals of teaching, he/she may be lacking in crucial information about ASD [[High-Functioning Autism], and what works best in certain circumstances.

This means that you have information to share with the teacher, and the time to do that is before (or very near) the time your son enters the classroom.

Here are the basics to discuss with your son's teacher:
  • You’ll want to share information on your son’s diagnosis and his  normal level of functioning.
  • If your son has a normal or above normal IQ, tell the teacher that he has the cognitive ability to succeed under the right circumstances.
  • Talk about visual learning and the fact that children on the autism spectrum learn through pictures and are less likely to learn through auditory awareness or through letters and words.
  • You’ll also want to talk to the teacher about those things that set your son off, including any obsessions or compulsive behavior he exhibits. 
  • If your child still has temper tantrums, talk about how to manage them and how to avoid them, if possible. If he has meltdowns, be sure to talk about that too.
  • Ease the teacher’s possible discomfort about your son’s repetitive or strange actions by telling him/her that it has to do with how his brain processes information.
  • Explain that your son's inappropriate behavior often comes from misunderstanding, not insubordination. 
  • Tell the teacher about different skills your son finds challenging (e.g., making eye contact, accepting change, showing appropriate emotions, etc.).
  • Educate the nature of the disorder. It's neurological, not psychological or behavioral. It has an organic origin.

Also, if possible, copy and paste the link to this video and email it to the teacher: https://youtu.be/EGMcthxpsTw

In addition, tell the teacher that you can be available as a resource if needed. Try to have a phone number at which you can be reached for any impromptu issues that arise during the course of the day. 

Make a deal with the teacher that allows you to attend class on the first few days of school or when things get difficult. Not only will that help your son adjust to school, it will aid the teacher in the process of getting to know him.

Maintain that teacher-parent alliance throughout the school year in order to have the best chance of your son learning and thriving within the structure of the mainstream classroom. 
As one mother stated: "My daughter puts her head down on the desk when she has to much input. This gives her a moment to process all that she is hearing. Now that her teacher knows this, she is no longer getting in trouble for not paying attention. Sharing these cues with teachers will greatly help your child AND the teacher!"


Helping Children On The Autism Spectrum To Deal With Stress

"Is it common for a child with autism (high functioning) to quickly and easily get upset about little things throughout the day? The least little thing will set my son off."

Children with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) often suffer from different types of stress compared to other kids. Stressors can be as diverse as school issues to the texture of their clothing!

These young people often suffer from so many obsessive thoughts that they are stressed out by things such as noise, smell, certain textures, things out of place, and disorder in general.

These "special needs" kids are perceived to be quite intolerant of others as well as the environment. They often become very anxious in unstructured settings and in situations where people are moving at random.

They may not be able to tolerate people standing close to them. Whether it is sudden or it comes from general background activity, noise can cause acute stress, fear and even panic and, at the very least, the youngster may be distracted and unable to concentrate.

Each child on the autism spectrum will have his issues that stress him out. When they are younger, this kind of stress can lead to tantrums. Older kids can have anger outbursts or other evidence of distress when things aren’t going their way. They may swear or act-out in inappropriate ways to cope with their environment.

Sometimes a parent or sibling just needs to give in to the idiosyncrasies of the HFA child. They may need to keep the noise down or keep things in a specific order. Moms and dads may have to respect their youngster’s need for certain clothing textures or food preferences.

Lack of sleep can lead to stress in a child on the spectrum. Sleep disorders are very common. Medication or taking naps during the day may help ease the stress of sleep deprivation.

Some stress reduction techniques can be taught and are somewhat different from other stress reducing techniques. Your son may need to remove himself physically from the situation causing the anxiety. A quiet environment, free from distractions and where rules are followed rigidly can do much to help him concentrate.

Carrying a favored object can also give your son a sense of security. The nature of this object can seem quite bizarre to others (e.g., a "cat's eye" marble from the road), but without it, your son may be unable to settle or concentrate.

Some HFA kids derive comfort from repeating a set ritual of some kind that can be long and complex. It goes without saying that the ritual, however time-consuming, may have to be carried out in classroom situations, and the comfort object must be allowed to be present if the youngster is to be able to cope with the stressors.

When your son is upset, he is either wanting (a) immediate pleasure or (b) to avoid emotional pain. Upset feelings occur when the HFA youngster gets frustrated and has an unwillingness - or inability - to tolerate the necessary short-term discomfort that is sometimes required for long-term gain.

The opposite of this would be self-control, which is simply the ability to tolerate or cope with discomfort and hard work in the short-term in order to achieve one's long-term goals.  Thus, teaching self-control methods to your son would be the ideal "fix" for his chronically feeling upset.

==> Videos for Parents of Children and Teens with ASD


Should You Pull Your ASD Child Out of Public School - and Homeschool Instead?

"I've been thinking about home schooling my 6-year-old (high functioning autistic) son. Are there any critical issues I should examine before making this move? I'm undecided at this point and want to make the right decision."

When faced with questions about how to educate your child, the challenges become all that much more difficult if he has ASD or High-Functioning Autism (HFA). Home schooling is an option for many children, and it could be the best educational choice for a child on the autism spectrum.

The first decision to make is whether or not the family has the resources of time necessary to home school the "special needs" student. Special learning techniques may need to be learned, and parents who home school need lots of patience and a level head.

It may be interesting to try your child out at a private schooling situation before deciding on home schooling. Some HFA kids fit fairly well into the classroom, while others are quickly labeled “freaks” and are shunned by their classmates. Teachers of regular classrooms may not have the time or energy to deal with the intricacies of teaching an HFA student and, by observing what’s happening in the classroom, a parent may find that home schooling is one of the few viable options.

Some challenges of home schooling include dealing with a child that is a visual learner who might not learn as well by listening. Some HFA kids become so obsessed about having everything perfect that they will throw away papers that have mistakes on them. Some kids on the spectrum often have very narrow focuses of interest so that the parent-teacher needs to find ways to tie in other subjects or to teach other subjects in a way that is interesting to the child.

There are always critics who argue that home schooled children lack the necessary social skills that children who go to a regular school get on a daily basis. With HFA children, social skills must often be taught in a structured setting, and parents have the opportunity to do this and to explore putting their child on a sports team or other social organization (e.g., band or music programs), which will give them social skills without overwhelming them.

There are some important issues to consider before making the decision to home-school. If you're considering this option, ask yourself the following questions:
  1. Are you ready for the critics (home-schooling skeptics still exist)?
  2.  Can you afford it (the decision to home-school often results in limited income potential for the primary home-schooling parent)?
  3. Do you have the disciplinary techniques to home-school? 
  4. How does your spouse feel about home-schooling (if only one of the parents believes in home-schooling, it can be very difficult to home-school on a long-term basis without support from the child’s other parent)?
  5. How will you arrange to meet your child’s socialization needs? 
  6. Does your child have opportunities to learn with other kids in the neighborhood and church? 
  7. Are there opportunities in your area for scouting, sports, and get-togethers with other home-schoolers?
  8. What are the home-schooling laws in your state (some states require the home-schooling parent to have a level of education)? 
  9. Why do you want to home-school your child (you may find it helpful to write your reasons for home-schooling down, so that on the worst of days, you'll have something to look to for encouragement and motivation)?

Carefully thinking through the above questions will help you determine whether or not home-schooling is right for you.

Other factors to consider:
  • There is usually a state guideline for home-schooling. Some states require home-schoolers to take a standardized test.
  • There is little time for you to “distress” (e.g., there is no such thing as "I'll be there in a minute” as you try to talk on the phone). 
  • Some home-schooled children are not required to work on a time frame (not a good idea with HFA kids since they crave structure). 
  • Just because you take your son out of the current school system does not mean that he is going to immediately change some of his undesirable traits. 
  • If you decide that your main reason for home-schooling is because your son presents a discipline problem for the teacher, don’t necessarily think that his attitude will change when you teach him. 
  • Home-schooling is not free and the government does not provide home-school vouchers.

Some of the benefits of home-schooling include:
  • Your son's education can be tailored to his unique interests, pace, and learning style.
  • Family life revolves around its own needs and priorities rather than the demands of school. 
  • Family values and beliefs are central to social, emotional and academic development.
  • Home-schooled kids are largely free from peer-pressure.
  • Home-schooling provides a high teacher-student ratio for the child. 
  • Students are allowed to mature at their own pace.
  • Research shows that the two most important factors in the overall educational success are positive home influence and parental involvement – home-schooling provides both.

In general, a parent who teaches to the innate interests of their child will not only be successful, but will have succeeded in giving their child a better education than they would get in a noisy chaotic classroom. 

==> The Complete Guide to Teaching Students with High-Functioning Autism


It's Autism Spectrum Disorder! How do you share the news?

"My son was diagnosed with level 1 (high functioning) autism last week. I must say I am feeling a mixed bag of emotions here. How do I tell other family members and friends that my son has this - or is it better to not say anything?"

First of all, there's nothing to be ashamed of here. ASD Level 1, or High-Functioning Autism (HFA), is not a disease or the result of bad parenting, rather it is a neurological disorder. You can't catch a disorder, but you can catch a disease. A disorder is inherited, whereas a disease can be caught by anyone who is not immune to it. More specifically, a disorder is an "abnormality of function." A disease is a definite "pathological process."

HFA is certainly nothing to be afraid of.  Would you feel as alarmed if your son had been diagnosed with Dyslexia (another neurological disorder)? Probably not. When parents hear the word "autism," a lot of frightening images (misconceptions) may pop-up in their head based on the limited knowledge they have at the time.

Finding out that one’s child has been diagnosed with HFA or Asperger's can be distressing for some parents. Moms and dads may naturally feel guilty even though there isn’t anything yet known that could have prevented the disorder. Through all of this comes the need for telling others about the syndrome and how it affects the child.

If you are faced with having to tell those around you that your child has an autism spectrum disorder, the first thing you want to do is understand and read about the condition so that you can answer questions appropriately and truly be an advocate for your child. You will want to start with those closest to you, beginning with the siblings.

Telling your other children that their sibling has a "brain issue" that causes him to have problems talking with others, causes him to focus inordinately on certain subjects to the exclusion of others, and results in him performing ritual behaviors may be enough. The siblings have seen everything already and just need to know that there is a reason behind the behaviors. It can help siblings be less frustrated with their "special needs" brother or sister - and can also help them to become advocates for him or her. Having a name for what the siblings are seeing can help a great deal.

After the family becomes accustomed to the diagnosis, it’s time to speak with the extended family. Encourage them to read what they can on the disorder, and help them connect the symptoms they see with a brain disorder that can’t be helped. If they know that much of the behavior is beyond the control of your son, family members can come to love him at the level they’re at.

Certainly, teachers need to understand the diagnosis and how it is affecting your son. Plans need to be made to alter the educational style the teacher uses to help teach him in an effective manner. A frank discussion of the diagnosis should be followed with problem-solving methods that will help your son thrive as best he can in the educational world.

Beyond family, educators, and perhaps daycare workers, you don’t necessarily need to tell the rest of the world, especially if others don’t see much of a problem in your son's behavior. What you do eventually say can be as simple as “my son has a brain disorder” or as complex as explaining the disorder to its fullest to interested friends or acquaintances. Certainly, the conversation needs to take place every year as new teachers come into the picture. The good news is that, in today’s times, HFA is more well known and more easily understandable than it once was.


==> Videos for Parents of Children and Teens with ASD



•    Anonymous said... Definitely tell them. They will need your help to understand what is best for your son and you will need their support. Everyone in your son's life needs to be on board!
•    Anonymous said... Don't be afraid to tell. I was rejected and criticized by friends and family. But, it's my childs life that I need to worry about helping, not how people take my news. Best of luck. Be strong.
•    Anonymous said... Good luck ! In our case we have been treated poorly , talked about and misunderstood so often.

•    Anonymous said... I found that telling them was the best thing to do. At first they were hesitant, but they took time to research and learn about it and the difference in how they related to my son was HUGE. I no longer was looked at as the pushover when I dealt with him differently and their way of dealing with him changed as well. There are some great books out there for kids and adults that can help as well. I love All Cats Have Aspergers and her new book Inside Aspergers Looking Out is a great way of showing "typical people" how life looks to an Aspie. Robison's book Look Me in The Eye is also great for adults. Good luck on you journey!
•    Anonymous said... I have 2 amazing children with AS. This is something you should not have to hide being there is nothing wrong with your child. The main reason you need to tell family members, teachers, sitters, pediatrician/family doctor is so they can do extensive research. My children with AS react differently to certain situations then my other 2 children. They need to know what makes your Aspie child uncomfortable to avoid causing him or her to have a mental or emotional breakdown. The school needs to know especially if your child struggles in any subject. One of my children with AS has an IEP and sees an OT at school. If you need any help or advice feel free to message me. This can all be overwhelming at first but you will soon realize it gets easier.
•    Anonymous said... I have always been very open and upfront about my sons diagnosis and very open with sharing his uniqueness. People are always going to form their own opinions and I am sure pass judgement no matter what you tell them, that's just human nature. I hope you can feel better about your sons diagnosis, just embrace it and try go with the flow
•    Anonymous said... I have found with ourselves and a lot of my friends it is the husbands side that have the difficulty understanding the diagnosis.
•    Anonymous said... I think of it as a T account. School must know the official evaluation as does associations like cub scouts for health record reasons. Friends, family acquaintances as the situation arises. It does not get announced like introducing someone for the first time, but as interacting appears to have a struggle on one side as information as needed. This way each has a chance to not prejudge but then see for themselves where some things are easier then others, some struggles and that it is not defiance. He is an amazing speller, reader, ... The hardest thing is recognizing not understanding a situation, being overstimulated/overwhelmed, and not that a purposeful defiance is being done. He likes peanut butter and jelly for lunches because he knows what to expect, not that he is a picky eater. At that point it makes it easier for each side to want to avoid pushing the buttons that make uncomfortableness not find an excuse or blame. Then each finds each others amazing talents.
•    Anonymous said... mine were all dx as adults,including hubby,most told me THEY CANT BE,or they said,BUT THEY HAVE JOBS,so i had thier official dx photo copied and sent all a copy,they rarely mention it,it makes me so cross,
•    Anonymous said... My in laws had a hard time adjusting with my son. He didn't have the best table manners, he's messy and didn't make eye contact. To them at first it was just poor parenting or bad mannered. But once they knew what it was they began to do there own research and talk to others and see him in a different light. I don't ever let him use it as an excuse. But since he can't hide his behaviors we can't hide the diagnosis.
•    Anonymous said... My in laws have pushed my kids aside, ridiculed them called them alsorts of names and I wish I had never told them. My family have accepted that they are different and have little routines and ways of doing things and as my parents past away when I was a very young age, my Aunty who is my mothers sister has step in as a grandmother to my kids and she is proud of their achievements and comes to grandparents thing, where my mother in law won't have anything to do with grandparent activities at school. What see doesn't realize is dealing with 2 little bright boys, they have worked out Nana doesn't come to things and so now they no longer ask. My youngest asked her to something last year and in front of her my eldest said why ask Nana, you should ask Gran as Nana won't come and she just laughed, then later ripped into me over my eldest comments. Some people honestly don't understand these kids and other just don't want to understand.
•    Anonymous said... My son is 5 years old and he knows he has Aspergers we tell him it is his superpower and he can do anything he puts hard work into. My in laws are cluless, my parents try to understand. But basically it comes down to yourself and the people who live in the house that matter because those are the only people that live your life with you. I know its hard, i cry when we have hard days and feel stressed and out of my mind on other days, but then i get that little time that comes once in a while where he shows some happiness maybe relaxation and we are able to laugh and have fun for the moment. Enjoy what he enjoys bring his world into yours for both you.
•    Anonymous said... My son is high functioning and I have always known there was just this little something different but didn't know exactly what. My family gets frustrated with him and then frustrated with me for letting him act that way (before the dx). As soon as I got the dx and literature, I handed it out. I said this is my son, either accept him as he is or stay out of his life bc condemning him and me for his behavior is not acceptable. Harsh maybe but effective. It seems harder for people to accept the dx because he looks and acts just like every other child except in those moments when AS is very clear. My son understands it now, his teachers know, I told the Scout leaders and anyone else that needs to know. He's crazy smart, wonderful heart and a good all around kid. No shame here.....I just want people to understand his quirky social behavior is just that.....quirky and accept it. Good luck!
•    Anonymous said... Yes - tell. It shouldn't be a secret or something to be ashamed of. I started by having relatives read "can I tell you about aspergers?"
•    Anonymous said... You also need to be prepared to cut people off that refuse to accept the diagnosis.
•    Anonymous said... You should tell them but make it is know that you have them treat him no different than any other kid bu also explain to them what HA is.

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