Each child with autism has unique needs, so it’s crucial for both parents and teachers to understand what they need and how they are best supported in the classroom. School can be an extremely overwhelming experience for kids on the spectrum.
Here’s how you can support them better.
1. Teach them positive behaviors at home
When you teach your child positive behaviors at home, they will eventually become habits that extend to other areas of their life, like school. A great way to get your child to learn positive behaviors is through Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy.
With a customized ABA therapy program, your child will learn how to express positive behaviors that will help them succeed in life, like waiting their turn, following directions, and more.
After learning positive behaviors and being trained out of disruptive behaviors with ABA therapy sessions, your child will carry those skills into the classroom. They’ll be less likely to disrupt the lessons or have outbursts when they get frustrated. They’ll interact with their teachers and peers better, and school will be a little easier.
2. Talk to your child’s teachers
In a perfect world, all teachers would be trained to support kids with autism, but that isn’t always the case. Never assume that your child’s teachers know how to navigate the challenges of having students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Many teachers will be unprepared; it’s important that you schedule a meeting to discuss your child’s needs.
For example, in traditional classrooms, kids are expected to raise their hands to answer questions, and often, teachers call on the students who don’t. For a child with ASD, this can be a terrifying experience. When a student doesn’t answer a question immediately, teachers repeat the question and if it’s not that hard, they sometimes show impatience.
This type of interaction can put an enormous amount of pressure on a child with autism and as a result, they zone out or display inappropriate behavior. Teachers usually see this as willful defiance, and escalate the situation further by sending the child to the office. Worse, if this happens multiple times, the child will simply stop trying to engage and the teacher won’t be able to re-engage them easily.
Talk to your child’s teachers to help them understand your child’s specific needs. If they process information slowly, ask the teacher to extend patience in situations where other kids might not struggle. Explain your child’s stims, too, so the teacher understands that stimming is how they regulate their stress and sensory overload.
3. Enroll your child in a special autism school
There are many benefits to enrolling your child in a school that specializes in autism. Most importantly, they’ll feel like they fit in with their peers, and they won’t feel the intense pressure to socialize beyond their comfort. Feeling at ease is a fundamental requirement for learning.
Other benefits include:
- A focus on individual ability rather than age group
- Sensory-friendly classrooms (dim lighting, low sound)
- Small class sizes and personal attention
- Knowledgeable and trained teachers
- A curriculum made just for kids with autism
- Specialized elective classes and clubs
- Programs to help them transition to new schools or activities in the future
Although many parents praise these special needs schools, there are pros and cons to consider. For instance, if kids aren’t exposed to sensory triggers, they won’t learn how to adapt, which will make life harder as they get older and can’t control their environment.
4. Consider homeschooling as an alternative
If your child isn’t doing well in public or private school, and you can’t afford a special autism school, consider homeschooling. If it’s a possibility, it’s worth trying because you’ll get the freedom to teach your child on your own terms. You won’t have to worry about educating their teachers or intervening when there’s an issue in the classroom.
If you’re worried about your child not socializing with other kids, you can always take them to activities sponsored by community centers. These outings will probably be more beneficial and less stressful than socializing at school anyway, considering 60% of kids with autism get bullied.
Take control of your child’s education
You know your child best, but their teachers and other school administrators won’t. Make sure to communicate your child’s needs to everyone who will be interacting with them and/or handling disciplinary actions.
Never assume kids with autism will be treated with extra patience. It’s up to you to ensure your child gets the support they need at school.