Why Parents of Children With Autism and School Systems Need to Work Together
School systems across the country are facing an uphill battle. With autism on the rise, school systems are taking in more and more students who are on the spectrum. Although many systems have trained staff in place, most districts are at a loss of what to do and how to handle the situation. Parents are becoming increasingly frustrated and in some cases, schools are being sued in order for a child to receive proper therapy.
This does not need to be the case if both parents and school staff work together to provide the proper environment. First and foremost, a school is not a place for a parent to drop off their child to be babysat, especially if that child has special needs. A school is a place for learning, social skills building as well as a place to learn life skills. Many parents of children with special needs put an enormous burden on a school to provide everything their child needs without providing any support. The reality is, if this happens, the child will fail and nobody wins.
The key to having success in school for a child with autism is to form a team mentality with the school and its staff. Take time to work together to create the environment to best suit the child, not the parents or the schools best interests. In order to do this, both sides need to be on the same page, speak the same language and understand where each other is coming from.
Raising a child with autism can be a daunting task. Parents of children with autism are frequently exhausted. A large number of children with autism stay up all night and finally fall asleep at 4 or 5 in the morning. Parents are working long hours and then have to come home to take care of a child who may have numerous challenges. Parents have spent every penny they have on therapy, and are reaching out for help in the best way they know how. Many times that way is to drop them off at school in hopes that by the end of that day their child as progressed in some way. At the same time teachers are attempting to work with every child in their class both typical and special needs to help them learn. Each child has their own challenge, but the addition of a child with autism can make a teachers day much more difficult, especially if that teacher does not know how to work with a child with autism. Furthermore, school systems have not been prepared to deal with this inflow of children with autism. They do not have the resources available to provide help, and when they do the cost can be extremely high. When all of these factors come crashing together, the powder keg is ignited and explodes into difficult, painful and sometimes litigious situation.
This situation can be avoided if both school system and parent are willing to work together to attempt to solve challenges and celebrate successes. This means understanding each others language and communicating to each other about the child.
Parents know their child best and also spend the most time with them. The know if their child has had a bad day or if they did not eat a good breakfast. They also know what works will with their children and what reinforces them. All of this is knowledge that a teacher needs to know on a daily, weekly or quarterly basis. When a parent contacts a teacher and tells them about a negative or positive situation that happened at home, a teacher can either be prepared to counter act a behavior or praise and celebrate an accomplishment.
It is also extremely important for a school to be as open as possible. A school needs to develop a plan to over communicate with a parent and let them know all that is going on, so that both sides can work together to solve problems or reinforce positive actions.
Finally, the school and the parent need to be trained on how to work with children with autism. School systems need to have training in place not only for their Special Education Department, but also for their para professionals, and general education staff. Each person in this child's life needs to know how to work on bad behaviors and reinforce positive behaviors. They need to be proactive, not reactive in their teaching to develop their student to the fullest potential. Parents need to be trained so that they can take what was learned at school and help develop skills and work on behaviors.
When both sides have open communication, are realistic about a child's goals and work together the child with autism has a much better chance of success.