Autism and School Conferences: 5 Things for Teachers to Remember

Autism and School Conferences: 5 Things for Teachers to Remember

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We dread conference time. As parents of a child with Autism, going to conferences and IEP meetings is just not a happy experience for us. The school staff is generally great and a blessing to our son and his needs. But unlike so many families, we do not get to hear glowing remarks and we often leave feeling once again defeated.
As a teacher, I tried hard to send positive emails to the families of students with disabilities. This helped with a positive relationship and it also encouraged the parents as well as the students. Thus I have put together some simple things teachers can do to help these families during conference time.
1) Begin with sending an email out ahead of time to the parents with some positives, but also, if needed, some things that you will be going over during the conference so parents can begin preparing themselves.

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2) Keep in mind these parents have a lot on their plate already and are dealing with special circumstances with their child. There is no need to tell and explain all the negative things unless they are truly necessary. And if you question what is necessary to talk about, then speak with the special education teacher in your building or your principal.
3) Find and give any and all positive remarks. Even if it is small things like the student was able to sit through circle time without rolling around on the floor. These are big things for families. Keep a list if that helps to remind you of things. And use your paras to help with this too.
4) Assure the parents that you will continue to do all you can to work with their child. Assure them you are not giving up on their child. Though as teachers we may not say we are giving up, it can often feel this way to parents when they hear so many negative things. Keep smiling and show your love and care.

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5) Follow up afterwards a couple days later with an email or note home just to check in with parents. If appropriate, give your thoughts on how the conference went. But more importantly, make the parents feel appreciated.
Parents always want what is best for their child. They want to help their child succeed in school and be supportive of their child. However, if they walk away feeling defeated, this will often transfer onto the child. Keep a strong and positive communication with these families. They will greatly appreciate it!
Teachers are amazing and often do such wonderful work! They work endless hours and do their best to meet each child’s individual need. Their work is hard and often under-appreciated. But anyone who works day in and out to do whatever they can for students with special needs is golden and your work does not go unnoticed by those who care and need it. Bless all of you and thank you for your hard work and dedication!

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Jen Edwards, MA Counselor and Behavior Therapist
jen@BeautifulAutism.com
425-387-3872

Beautiful Autism

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Beautiful Autism

                Autism… the word alone can bring anxiety to any parent or family member.  It can also bring a whole new outlook on life that can be very rewarding!  Hence the title of this blog: Beautiful Autism.

Who I am

                My name is Jen Edwards; I am both a parent of a son with Autism as well as a professional therapist working with families and individuals coping with Autism.  Like many of you reading this, I struggle with the daily challenges that Autism brings into our home, such as difficult behavior, limited communication, adherence to schedules, etc. 

                My clients come in with similar struggles; they are often anxious, depressed, upset, and at a loss for direction.  They need help finding resources or sometimes just need someone to talk to about their feelings and frustrations.

My Story

                When my son was two years old, I was working towards my graduate degree in Marriage and Family Therapy.  I was doing a research paper on Autism and began to find a love for the families struggling with it on a daily basis.  One day I looked at my son and realized things were not quite right with him anymore.  His speech has regressed; he was now pronouncing words incorrectly that he had been saying correctly for six months.  He was more irritable and his behavior had gotten worse (which I had written off as the terrible-twos).  I began inquiring with his doctor and after his third birthday we took him to get assessed. 

                What a process the assessments were!  We had assessments done at the school district, at Seattle Children’s Hospital, and eventually at a Speech and Language Clinic.  The diagnosis took a long time to get… it was like we had to jump through certain steps before we could meet with a medical doctor who specialized in Autism.  That doctor did not fully believe our son had Autism, but agreed to keep the diagnosis anyway (what an experience that was). 

                We put our son in the preschool at the school district.  But then we got stuck… where do we go for therapy?  What direction is the best for him?  Who can help us?

                The truth is we had no idea what we were doing; we just did whatever sounded good at the time.  We changed our parenting techniques, our discipline, and our attitude.  But it was not easy; it was tough and emotionally exhausting.

                Our grief over the diagnosis came in stages.  My husband grieved initially, struggling with finding how to cope with the loss of his dreams for our son and accepting this “label” that was now attached to us.  I was so relieved to have the diagnosis that my grief did not really hit me until months later.  My husband and I find our grief to go up and down; often when I am the one grieving, he is there to comfort and support me, when he is grieving I am there to support him. 

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                This is just a snip of what we went through and encountered.  The whole picture of our experience could be a whole article itself!  And even today, two years later, we are still changing the way we cope, parent, and discipline.  It is a never-ending change that seems rather exhausting and often overwhelming!

What I do to Help People

                After the diagnosis, we had no idea what direction to go.  I can remember one day saying to my husband how I wished we had someone we could sit down with and help us find resources and help us through our transition and grief.  Have you found yourself here?  Look for direction and resources?

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                It is my pleasure to help people coping with Autism and find the resources they need!  I love my job; my clients come to me for help and I do what I can do give it.  I offer the following therapies for all ages:

  •  Family Counseling
  •  Individual Counseling
  • Couples/Marital Counseling

And I help people through their:

  • Depression
  •  Anxiety
  •  Autism
  • Relationship Problems
  • Special Needs
  • Transition
  • Grief
  • And so much more!

How to Contact

                My practice is at Voyages Counseling.  You can contact me by phone at 720-258-6392 or email at jen@voyagescounseling.com.  Our website is http://www.voyagescounseling.com/.  I serve the southern Denver metro area; my office is located in Lone Tree.

                Please feel free to check out my website and contact me if you are in need of my services. 

More to come…

                I am excited to fill this blog with articles as quickly as I can write them!  Look in the next few weeks for articles on Anxiety in Autism, Vaccinations and Autism, and Handling Transitions.  Email me or leave comments here to express your thoughts and ideas!  I would love to hear them!