Florida's First Choice for Autism Support

Posts tagged ‘Back to School’

Autism & Back to School

It’s that time of year once again, every kid’s favorite: back to school! We hope everyone’s successfully readjusted to their school schedule and aren’t still stuck in summer mode. It can be a stressful time for parents as well, not knowing how their kids are going to be treated by the other students, their teacher, and the administration. Will they make friends? Will they have to sit alone in the cafeteria? Is getting them to do homework going to be a daily stress? My parents can attest to all those feelings, and I know personally just how scary the whole experience can be; the first day of school was my worst nightmare when I was younger. But it really doesn’t need to be. School can be a wonderful and fulfilling part of your life, a time you’ll look back on with nostalgia when the realities of adult life hit you.

I’d like to outline some general advice I have for the back to school period that can be beneficial for both the student and parents. This is assuming you’ll be in a general education classroom which, as I’ve previously discussed, is becoming more common for kids on the spectrum. First is to keep a constant line of communication between student, parent, and teacher. As someone who’s going into the teaching profession, I can’t understate the importance of this. Teachers have to balance the needs of an entire classroom, and it can be difficult to properly identify one student’s troubles if they don’t know what’s going on in that student’s mind. Not only is a good relationship with the teacher positive academically, but I’ve seen firsthand teachers who are willing to help integrate their special needs students with the rest of the class. New friendships are formed that never would have been otherwise.

Another important thing, and it’s one that in hindsight I’m glad my family forced on me, is to get involved. Boy/Girl Scouts, sports, clubs, any extracurricular activities. When I was much younger I did these things (reluctantly at first), and ended up making many of my friends through them. It also allowed my mom to form relationships with the other parents so they could set up play dates for all of us. Even for older students, it’s never a bad idea to stay active, learn some valuable life skills, and have fun instead of wasting away doing nothing like many high schoolers are prone to do. I know that for many with ASD, putting yourself out there in social situations can be a daunting task, but facing your fears and anxieties is the only way to overcome them. Building a rapport with your teacher and getting involved with the school are what I consider to be the most important methods of feeling comfortable in school from the very beginning of the year.


G. Sosso

CARD & HIPPY Program To Be Featured on News Channel 8

The Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at USF partners with the Florida HIPPY program (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters)

The HIPPY program offers a structured home based model focusing on parent-child centered learning. This international parent involvement school readiness program uses an evidence based curriculum for children 3-5 years old. Parents, as the first teachers, are provided with the developmentally appropriate materials and books to help teach and strengthen their child’s cognitive, literacy and social/emotional skills.

Four years ago, CARD approached HIPPY about the idea of expanding the use of their curriculum to children with disabilities, specifically children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. This had not been tried before and we felt that CARD constituents would greatly benefit from this opportunity. After HIPPY successfully received a grant from the Children’s Board in Hillsborough County, we were off and running to find 16 children for our pilot group. We have been tracking the data on the enhancements that CARD has offered to the HIPPY curriculum as well as child outcomes. Our goal is to have our participants school ready to attend the least restrictive classroom environment.

We had the honor of having Gayle Guyardo from Channel 8 news join us for a session with a local family that CARD and HIPPY serves. This story will be featured on September 23 on the evening news. I hope you can take a moment to watch and if you know a family in Hillsborough County with a child aged 3 or 4 who can benefit from this program, please have them contact Beverly King at beverlyking@usf.edu.

Jossie3                             (Jossie, a HIPPY graduate, with Gayle Guyardo)

Guest Blog: Start off Strong this School Year

By: Erica DuPont, LCSW

If you have a child with an IEP or 504, please do not plan to wait until the first day of school to call a meeting to review their needs, modifications and accommodations.   Consider this scenario; you have been called in for backup as a pizza chef. A customer called in an order for 30 pizzas; however, these are not your ordinary pizzas. These pizzas are to be made without cheese, sauce or flour. In addition, they must be kept at a certain temperature in order for the customers to be able to eat the pizzas. I’ve attempted to make pizza before, it wasn’t round and didn’t taste like New York pizza, but I was able to put something together. However, if I had to figure out how to make a special pizza with these limitations and was provided with these last minute accommodations without the proper considerations for materials, time or manpower, these customers would be left with little more than disappointment and hunger…

Point being, as I’m sure you have concluded, these pizza makers are your child’s teachers. Most teachers are doing the best they can with what they have. Chances are they are also juggling several orders at once, adjusting to new expectations and working within the limitations put on them by their supervisors – trying to provide your child with the best, individualized, warm slice of “pizza” or education they can. It makes sense that provided more time to prepare research, ask questions, and learn more about your child and their needs in general, there is a better chance that your child will benefit from the teachers efforts to best serve your child.

Consider requesting a meeting before school starts, before all the other orders are in and changes are being requested. Request that the entire team of professionals involved in working with your child be present. This includes the ESE teacher, regular education teacher, guidance counselor, school psychologist, social worker, speech and language therapist, and the principal.
It is helpful to have all of your questions, concerns, strategies, and what has worked in the past written down. This will help you stay on track and keep the meeting productive and focused. There is no doubt that no one knows your child better than you. YOU really are your child’s best advocate. However, you are human and you are a parent. Both of these things make you prone to being more emotionally involved in the process. Strongly consider bringing another person to any and all IEP meetings with you. Qualified advocates are available but sometimes just bringing another body to take notes and be supportive is also helpful.

Another tip to consider is to have your child fill out information about themselves. Perhaps a fill in the blank type of letter that helps the teachers understand what works best for them, what they feel they need and what they hope their school year will look like. I remember a student once saying, “ Whenever my teacher says, ‘in other words’ I really start listening because I know she is going to rephrase it in a way I can understand”. Most kids know what type of environment they thrive in and what type of teaching style best meets their needs. Most kids also know what has not worked in the past.

Some other examples of good information to share might be:

-Things that I really enjoy are…

-Things that really bother or annoy me are…

-It would be helpful if…

-These are things that might be triggers for me…

-I think it’s important that you know…

-Here is how you can tell if I am getting frustrated…

-These are some things that help calm me down…

Give this year’s teachers a chance and a head start by preparing them as much as you can on your end.

Best wishes as summer comes to an end and the new school year begins.

ProTherapyPlus, in additional to counseling services also provides many levels of IEP and school advocacy services. IEP trainings and seminars are also scheduled throughout the year.

By: Erica DuPont, LCSW


Tag Cloud