School is IN!

School is IN!

By POPARD

You’ve had a month to settle in to the demands and expectations of a new school year… new students, new teachers, new peers. And things are either going really well and you’ve dealt successfully with any minor glitches or you have a sinking feeling that those minor glitches will increase or grow to become major issues. Although one has to pick one’s battles, it is often more effective to address concerns early rather than later. Over the years we’ve encountered the following issues and share tips that teachers and parents have provided to help address common areas of concern:

concern

Student doesn’t want to come to school. As a result, is frequently late. (He may seem to enjoy school once he is there.)

teacher tip

Greet the student warmly each day (whenever he arrives!)
Start his day with an activity he prefers, with low demands (warm up time).
End each day with praise. Draw his attention to a preferred activity that will occur the following day.

parent tip

Try to ascertain why the issue is occurring (especially if it is new). What might be making him anxious? Or does he just prefer the routine at home?
Set up a visual schedule for the morning routine.
Consider the use of incentives (e.g,. follow the schedule + get to school on time = visit to the comic book store at the end of the school day).

concern

Student appears fine at school, but has regular meltdowns at the end of the day at home.

teacher tip

Recognize that when a parent shares this information, they are not trying to “blame”, rather they are trying to figure out what might be making their child stressed or anxious.
Understand that some students with ASD are working really hard to hold it together at school and this internal effort may take it’s toll, leading to meltdowns at home, regardless of parenting styles.

parent tip

Build in a low stress, calming activity at the end of the school day. If the student goes to after school care, ask them to do the same.
Ensure the teacher has information regarding common stressors for your child (e.g., sensory sensitivities, written output demands, social anxieties, etc.)

concern

Student is disruptive in the classroom: interrupting, calling out, refusing to comply or transition, etc.

teacher tip

Take time to try to figure out why the student is engaging in the behaviour of concern. When we understand the reason for a behaviour, we can often teach an alternative behaviour.
Respond calmly to challenging behaviours and refrain from immediately applying a negative consequence as this can raise anxiety, hinder the relationship and make problems worse.
Make sure your directions and expectations are explicit. Students with ASD may not “read between the lines” and can get anxious (or angry) when they don’t understand. Use visual supports!

parent tip

Don’t assume the teacher is doing something “wrong”: avoid the blame game. Most teachers genuinely want to help all their pupils succeed.
Offer support, e.g., writing a social narrative to help your child understand the expectations, providing ideas about what has worked in the past, etc.
Set up a visual schedule for the morning routine.
Consider the use of incentives (e.g,. follow the schedule + get to school on time = visit to the comic book store at the end of the school day).

concern

The student reports being bullied or isolated by his peers.

teacher tip

Take the concern seriously, even if you believe the student may be perceiving the situation incorrectly. His feelings are real and should be acknowledged.
Debrief the situation with the student individually. Drawing out the players as stick figures in a comic strip fashion can help you get a clearer idea about who said and did what. Help the student understand the possible intentions of the other students in the situation.
Talk to the other students in the situation to help them understand the impact of their actions on the student with ASD.
Create and model a classroom that is understanding and accepting of diversity. Consider implementing an ASD awareness curriculum in consultation with parents and other professionals

parent tip

Take the concern seriously but try not to overreact. When our children are in pain it is challenging to control our own emotional response. Share the concern with the teacher and develop a plan for teaching your child how to respond in similar situations.
Consider collaborating with the teacher in bringing in some ASD sensitivity training to the class.
Be pro-active in helping your child make connections with peers in his class e.g., facilitating play dates, finding out what groups or activities other students are engaged in that might also work for your child, etc

resources

Resources abound for both teachers and parents and it can be hard to zero in on what would be most helpful for any specific situation or team. Many of the eLearning lessons on our website address the positive behaviour supports and emotional regulation strategies that may improve the coping skills of individuals with ASD. Parents may also find support at such websites as http://www.asdfriendly.org/ , which invites parents to blog about concerns and get advice from other parents. Parentbooks (https://www.parentbooks.ca/ ) has great lists of books and resources available for sale on their website that address a variety of helpful topics related to ASD. In British Columbia, peer awareness and sensitivity training resources are available through the Friend 2 Friend Society (http://www.friend2friendsociety.org/) or the Canucks Autism Network (http://canucksautism.ca/.)
In addition, POPARD consultants are available throughout the province to help school teams address these and other issues of concern.


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