WV ATC's Tina Hatfield, a former educator once named Teacher of the Year in her county, provides these back to school tips for teachers and for parents.
Back to School Tips for Teachers
1. Accommodate the visual learning styles of students with autism. Providing visuals of notes, or other material the student is expected to learn, may improve academic, social, and behavior expectations.
2. Role playing how to “think it-don’t say it” with a child may help him or her recognize when and how to speak aloud during class.
3. Please be very considerate before instructing a student with autism to maintain eye contact with you. Not making eye contact isn’t a sign of poor attention or disrespect. Many students describe eye contact as “painful,” or “uncomfortable.” Their feelings should be respected.
4. Communicate with the family to learn about your student. Ask what things may trigger a meltdown, what the student likes and dislikes, what he or she is good at. Use a peer buddy for note taking.
5. Plan for a “safe space” for whenever things get overwhelming. Providing a quite area or another room the student can go to if he or she needs to calm down may help prevent difficulties.
6. Compliment and provide positive reinforcement even during brief, simple interactions.
7. Develop a structured class routine. Prepare the student in advance if something in a typical routine must change.
8. Be considerate of sensory issues. Some smells, sounds, lighting situations, etc. can cause a sensory overload. Be sure to offer self-soothing techniques that the student can use.
9. Remain calm and patient. We are all in this together and the more support the student has, the more success he or she will have.
Back to School Tips for Parents
1. Start getting your child back into the school routine as early as possible.
2. Visit the school before school starts so you and the child can meet the teacher and get acclimated to the new classroom. This may also give you time to talk with a new teacher about effective strategies.
3. Understand that not all challenges are related to autism. Your child is still a child. He or she may be acting like any child of that age.
4. Believe in yourself as much as you believe in your child. No one knows your child better than you know your child.
5. Discuss the unexpected. You can’t know everything that will happen during the school day but using strategies like Social Stories may help familiarize your child with routines, and provide tips for when the unexpected occurs.
6. Teach and review school related “hidden curriculum.” Go over the “dos and don’ts” of school expectations.
7. Establish communication early with all staff that will be interacting with your child. This is to help prepare you as well as your child for the upcoming year.
8. Smile! Your child loves you!