Autism and Going Back to School: A Must Read for Teachers and Parents

Autism and Going Back to School: A Must Read for Teachers and Parents

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I taught school off and on over eleven years. I am also a parent of a child with Autism. So one could say I clearly understand both sides of the picture when it comes to the beginning of school. It can be complicated, overwhelming, stressful, and yet exciting. The emotions are much more intense for kids with Autism. But the stress of having to face the social norms and functioning once again with peers can be daunting. I would even go as far to say that most higher functioning children with Autism stress more about the socialization aspect of school then other areas, though they may not always realize it or be able to express it.

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Here are some simple tips and reminders to help families and teachers prepare the darlings for going back to school:

  • Remind them weeks and days ahead of time when the first day of school is.
  • Go visit the school and the new teacher and classroom before the first day of school.advocate2
  • Email the new teacher a few days before going back to school. Allow your child to ask some questions, share some concerns, etc.
  • Spend some time playing on the playground before going back to school. This will allow time for your child to relax a bit and readjust back into school.explaining5
  • When you visit the classroom, take pictures of your child sitting in the new desk, with the new teacher, etc. This way you can help prepare your child for going back to school by looking at the pictures and talking about them once you go back home.
  • Read books about going back to school. Write social stories about going back to school. Ask the teacher for a daily schedule ahead of time so you can begin to process it with your child.
  • Find some students in the class that you might recognize or know from previous years that you know has been helpful and positive for your child. Let the teacher know who they are. Also, do not hesitate to express concern over any student who you know can be a trigger for your child.
  • Parents, consider writing a letter to the teacher, explaining who your child is and the “dos and don’ts”.
  • Teachers, consider writing a letter to the student (and family) telling who you are, things you like to do, etc. Make the family feel welcome to your classroom.
  • One of my all-time favorite ideas is to have the teacher within the first few days of school talk to the class about Autism. I usually suggest doing this while your child is out of the room, maybe for speech or something. The teacher can explain briefly what Autism is, how it affects people, and what we can do to help people that have it. If you are comfortable with it, allow the teacher to even tell the students your child has Autism. When I have done this for my son, the school year has been MUCH better socially! The students accept him and understand why he acts the way he does. They go out of their way to help him and understand when they need to back off from him to give him space. It truly makes all the difference in a school year. If your child is old enough, consider having him/her talk to the class about it, or even yourself! If you are the teacher reading this, approach the parents and ask about it. I have done this before and usually get a positive response from parents. Again, I have seen students go from feeling irritated and annoyed with the student, to complete empathy and understanding towards the student.

TEACHERS: Remember these parents are exhausted and very busy! Just like you! So they may not respond quickly to emails or phone calls. Be patient with them and understanding of their situation. We want what is best for our child, but often we need to process it. I sometimes think families that have members with any disability is a culture all of its own. Often teachers struggle to make connections with these families; I think this is likely why. Sometimes just asking the family how you can continue to help and support them makes them feel more appreciated and loved. Continue doing the best you can, get support from teammates, and love on that student!

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Feel free to ask any questions you might have about going back to school. Tis the season! And Good Luck!

Jen Edwards, LMHCA

Counselor and Behavior Therapist

jen@BeautifulAutism.com

Positive Aspects of Autism

Positive Aspects of Autism

                I am always curious to see people’s reaction when I mention my son has Autism.  I get a mixture of remorse and uncertainty.  When I drop off my son somewhere new, such as a church we are visiting, I see the fear in the faces of the workers, the uncertainty of what they are to do and how they are to handle the situation.  I walk away feeling a bit uneasy but also giggling inside thinking about how people are so afraid of Autism.

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                Why does Autism have such a negative reaction?  People do not understand Autism.  It is uncertain to them and uncomfortable.  They never know what to expect with it, seeing as there is the spectrum of degrees.  I can understand their fear and hesitance; I was them at one point!  However, Autism can be a beautiful thing!

Beautiful Autism

                My blog is titled Beautiful Autism.  I love this name- it inspires hope and gratitude for those coping with Autism.  Certainly Autism has its many challenges, as does any individual with or without a disability, but obviously these challenges are more severe.  However there are many wonderful blessings that come with Autism… you just have to look for them!

                Many individuals with Autism have brilliant minds.  Ask me how their minds work and I simply reply I have no idea.  Their brains think so quickly it blows me away, but they retain so much information and grasp concepts quickly.  These individuals make wonderful engineers and mathematicians.  It has been said that Albert Einstein had Autism, and look at the amazing scientific and mathematical things he taught us!

                Another area some of these individuals are amazing at is musical ability.  It has to do with the brain and how it processes information.  Some famous past musicians have also been thought to have had Autism.  It is a rare gift to have and one that is beautiful!

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                I love the uniqueness of individuals with Autism.  The personalities and funny quirks make me smile.  At times the repetitious things my son does can be annoying; but last night at his kindergarten performance it was quite funny watching him rock back and forth in sway to the beat of the music.  It is these quirks that make the personalities unique and special.

Teaching us

                I have said it before in a previous post, my son teaches me daily.  I learn so much from individuals with Autism.  It has made me more patient and even instilled more confidence in myself.  I have gained knowledge in how different people process things and learn new knowledge.

                Perhaps the greatest thing I have learned is how to teach and work with each person individually.  What I mean is everyone, whether they are on the spectrum or not, has their own way of learning.  Individuals with Autism have their own way they learn best and it is up to me to figure out how each of my students and clients needs to have their unique needs met.  It can be a challenge, but one that I lovingly embrace daily!

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                It can also go without saying that people with Autism teach us how to love!  I know it can at times be challenging to love and embrace these individuals because they can often struggle to receive it.  But we endeavor to find new ways to show our love towards them.  We continue to love our children unconditionally.  And we find the blessings that they offer us in their own unique ways!

Find the Positives!

                Seek to find the positive!  It is there, even in the worst of times.  Look past the challenges and see the beauty he or she can offer.  When you see it, praise it!

                Keep a list or diary of these positive traits so you can look back on the rough and tough days and remind yourself why you keep going.  Tell your family and friends these things so they can help remind you of them on your low days.  Celebrate any progress!  It is valuable to us parents and can take an awful week and turn it around!

                Stay strong my friends!  The good traits are there even when it seems like all is bad.

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Jen Edwards

Voyages Counseling

jen@voyagescounseling.com

720-258-6392