Supporting Your Autistic Child at School

With school starting at the end of August, those of us with school-aged children on the spectrum get to deal with all kinds of issues surrounding accommodations, i.e.p.s and son on. And in this more often than not the schools act like they are your adversary than your partner in educating your child. Only if you are constantly on them, strict with them, and insistent will teachers and administrators at least give the appearance they are doing what they ought to be doing.

This isn’t to say that you won’t occasionally luck into a good teacher and SpEd teachers, and even a supportive administration (which is vital to there being good teachers and Special Education teachers). There will be. But that’s not most parents’ experience. If you have an autistic child, most of the time you will not find a great deal of support.

This is why it’s important to get an advocate for your child. There are professional advocates for SpEd students and their parents who can go with you to your school for their annual meetings and to help you address the kinds of problems that arise from the fact that teachers and administrators don’t understand autism in the least. And this is true even of the SpEd teachers. I’ve been a substitute teacher for SpEd classes, and I was amazed that they were amazed at how well the autistic children reacted to me and behaved for me. Which is telling.

One problem is that, for many with autism, it’s an invisible disability. You won’t look at me or at Daniel and say, “He must be autistic.” Autism gets expressed in behaviors and thinking. And we have a tendency to say that we can help whatever behaviors we exhibit–which is only partly true. And schools aren’t designed to deal with anyone who isn’t perfectly normal in their behaviors, is willing and able to sit still for hours, and isn’t of average I.Q. and generally uncreative and unimaginative. (In other words, they aren’t designed at all for anyone even marginally on the spectrum.)

As my wife and I have learned, you have to fight the schools every step of the way. And you have to be strict and insistent. Only then will your child get what they need from your schools.

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