Monday, July 18, 2011

Back to School for 2011

So far, I think I have been blessed in the schools that my son has attended. I have consistently found understanding faculty who are at least halfway knowledgeable on Asperger's and autism. I'm sure there will be points in getting to know my son, but we have always been able to deal with that.

This is an important time. For many of us, school starts sometime in the next month. It's time to be thinking about how to be active parents in our children's school lives. I have a few tips that you may find helpful.

1: Make sure IEP's are up to date and check with the school on it a new meeting is needed. Sometimes they don't need one or have a time scheduled based on the last time you had a meeting. Double check on it. Have information from the last IEP ready if you kept it from last year. If you didn't keep it, you should have. Make that a new habit. Keep a file folder for your child's education information.

2: Meet the new teacher and see the new classroom. Let the new teacher know that you are readily available for any questions or needs regarding your child. Exchange emails, most teachers have them now. If your child will be spending time with a special education teacher of any kind, meet him/her too.

3: Get needed school supplies. That's a no-brainer, but some of our students need special supplies. Those are better found sooner than later.

4: Being an active parent means that you are readily available for anything. It means that you are involved and open in communications with the school staff. It means you ask questions and want to know how you can help and where. You don't have to join the PTA or volunteer all over, just be involved where your child is concerned. Be ready to help with behavior issues or questions that help staff get to know your child.

5: Know how to communicate. Asking what you can do to help is way better than demands of the staff to "do their jobs". Demands have their place and are best used when all other approach has been exhausted. Don't start out the school year with demands or veiled legal threats. Be pleasant and polite instead. It will get you much further faster.

Things that staff need to know:

1: Triggers: What affects your child and how it affects them. Will a fire alarm incite hysterics? If so, they need to know this ahead of time. Do they have a problem with being touched? Let the faculty know. Let them know the risks involved too. If your child is high risk for self injury, for example, schools need to know. They especially need to know what causes those reactions. They can't cover everything, but knowledge is power.

2: Medications: They especially need to know if there has been a change to meds and what to watch out for. If there are any concerns with a new medication that could have any affect on the classroom, make sure you communicate it.

3: Quirks and stims: These can be some of the most eyebrow lifting moments in a classroom. What the heck is Joe doing and why? Quirks and stims are nearly limitless in what they can involve. They can be surprising and sometimes disturbing. Understanding them is a great step toward helping a child in a classroom environment. Also, forewarned is truly forearmed.

Remember, you don't want them to re-create the education system. You just want to help them work with your child. You just want to be a part of his or her educational team.

If you are at a school that won't do this, that is a different story.

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