5 Tips for Helping Your Autistic Child Excel in Public Schools

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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 the field of autism has exploded in recent years, as experts strive to find clues as to the causes, symptoms, and conditions of this spectrum disorder. While the symptoms and classifications of autism are broad, autism manifests itself as a Pervasive Developmental Disorder, which falls into the category of a neurological impairment.
According to the Autism Society of America (ASA), autism impacts an individual’s ability to interact socially and communicatively.  “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 are continually discovering more information about this condition, a rising number of children and adults are being 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, and this number continues to rise at a rate of approximately 10 to 17 percent each year.  Experts suspect that there will be approximately 4 million Americans coping 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 autisic children with added support, parents can utilize five core tips to more effectively improve their child’s progress and development in public schools.

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 made 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
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 out answers to all relevant questions that will impact their child’s upcoming academic year.  Additionally, parents have a moral obligation to inform the teachers of any behavioral concerns or issues relating to their child. 
This conversation must be honest and upfront, so that both the parent and the teachers can openly talk about 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
When meeting with teachers, parents should set up a clear and agreeable communication pattern.  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 pattern of communication may include asking the teacher email the parent each day with a quick summary of homework and upcoming quizzes or tests.  Or, on the other hand, if the child needs less support, then 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 routine of dialogue 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 issues of anxiety and worry, parents can help assuage feelings of angst by adhering to a daily program and regimen. 
For example, each day, a parent can review homework assignments with their child in a specific order 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 a child should complete their homework each day.  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 tasks such as: complete homework, put all materials in the correct class folders, make sure 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 need to 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. Concerns from teachers that involve 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 keep in mind 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, parents can begin by first speaking respectfully with the teacher.  If this is not an effective conversation, then parents always reserve the right to advocate for their child by speaking with another school leader.  Ultimately, parents want to strive to maintain a positive, honest, and cooperative relationship with school leaders and staff.

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