5 Tips for Helping Your Autistic Child Excel in Public Schools

5 Tips for Helping Your Autistic Child Excel in Public Schools
Learn about five ways you can work with your child's public school, teachers, and special programs to help your autistic child succeed academically.
Research in autism has exploded in recent years as experts strive to find clues as to this spectrum disorder's causes, symptoms, and conditions. While the symptoms and classifications of autism are broad, autism manifests itself as a Pervasive Developmental Disorder, which falls into the category of neurological impairment.
According to the Autism Society of America (ASA), autism impacts an individual’s social and communication abilities.  “Both children and adults with autism typically show difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities.”  As scientists and researchers continually discover more information about this condition, more children and adults are diagnosed with autism. 

Startlingly, as ASA reveals, autism is currently the most common developmental disorder, impacting 1 out of every 150 children.  With this data, an estimated 1.5 million Americans are currently coping with some form of autism spectrum disorder. This number continues to rise at approximately 10 to 17 percent each year.  Experts suspect that approximately 4 million Americans will cope with autism within the next 10 years.  With this rising number, schools are rapidly striving to implement programs, resources, and support tools for families and children dealing with autism.  To help provide autistic children with added support, parents can utilize five core tips to improve their child’s progress and development in public schools.

This video looks at autistic children in school settings.

Find Out About Available Programs
Whether a child with autism is in elementary, middle, or high school, the first step to fostering support begins with parents meeting with teachers and school leaders.  Every public school is legally required to offer all students special services, and therefore, the earlier parents can meet with the school, the more tailored the program can be for your autistic child. 
As autism rates are soaring across the country, many schools are creating programs, classes, and resources specifically for students with autism.  If the school does not offer these resources, ask leaders if any nearby cooperating / county/district schools provide autism-specific support
This video explains why public school is so challenging for children with autism.
Meet with the Teachers
When meeting with the teachers and staff, find out how much experience the teachers have with autistic students.  This is an opportunity for parents to seek answers to all relevant questions impacting their child’s upcoming academic year.  Additionally, parents are morally obligated to inform the teachers of any behavioral concerns or issues relating to their children. 
This conversation must be honest and upfront so that the parent and the teachers can openly discuss effective strategies.  For example, as autistic children struggle with learning appropriate social behaviors, many autistic children/teens exhibit occasional outbursts, physical tendencies/quirks, inappropriate speech/comments, and so forth.  If this is part of a child’s behavioral pattern, then the parent must honestly and truthfully disclose this information.  The more informed the teachers are, the better the teachers can prepare for the child. 
Establish a Communication Plan
Parents should establish a clear and agreeable communication pattern when meeting with teachers.  As students with autism often exhibit unexpected behavior, outbursts, or other tendencies, parents and teachers must be able to quickly contact one another in the case of an urgent need or emergency. 
In addition, considering that many autistic students struggle with organizational skills, teachers and parents can set up a communication plan so that parents are informed of all assignments and upcoming assessments.  A positive communication pattern may include asking the teacher to email the parent daily with a quick summary of homework and upcoming quizzes or tests.  Or on the other hand, if the child needs less support, an alternative plan could involve the parent calling or emailing the teacher when a concern arises.  By informing the teacher(s) of a child’s needs and abilities, the parent can help boost the ease of their child’s education and development by creating a regular dialogue routine with their child’s teacher.
Maintain and Monitor a Routine with the Child
In addition to establishing and maintaining a routine and plan for communicating with a child’s teacher, parents must also reinforce routines at home.  As autistic children and adults often struggle with high anxiety and worry issues, parents can help assuage feelings of angst by adhering to a daily program and regimen. 
For example, a parent can review homework assignments with their child in a specific order each day to maintain routine and predictability.  If a child needs less one-on-one support, then a parent can establish a routine of where and when they should complete their homework daily.  Oftentimes, as many autistic students respond well to lists and visual organizers, parents can help foster success by providing their child with a daily academic checklist.  This checklist can include completing homework, putting all materials in the correct class folders, ensuring materials for tomorrow are in my book bag, and so forth.   
Trust the Teachers’ Judgment and Maintain Your Rights
Although more schools are providing teachers with training for special needs and autistic children, not all teachers are fully informed on the needs and demands of this spectrum. Despite this, parents must have a respectful and trusting relationship with their child’s teacher. If a teacher observes some form of behavior or expresses a concern, parents need to remind themselves not to take this feedback personally. Teachers' concerns about moving a child to a lower or higher class or providing a child with appropriate discipline should be discussed openly with a parent. 
On the other hand, while parents need to respect a teacher’s expertise and feedback, moms and dads should also remember that they have the right to ask questions and request administrator intervention if parents are concerned about their child’s teacher.  If, for any reason, parents feel uncomfortable with a teacher’s actions, responses, or communications with their autistic child, and parents can begin by first speaking respectfully with the teacher.  If this is not an effective conversation, parents always reserve the right to advocate for their child by speaking with another school leader.  Parents want to strive to maintain a positive, honest, and cooperative relationship with school leaders and staff.
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