Guest post written by Dr. Paula Kluth. Dr. Kluth has written several books, including “You’re Going To Love This Kid“, available on Amazon.
A book teachers will keep forever for creative ideas and inspiration, this new edition of “You’re Going to Love This Kid!” is the ultimate practical guide to including students with autism, teaching them effectively and sensitively, and appreciating the gifts they bring to the classroom.
How can parents help teachers get to know their child?
Well, this is such an important question because too often educators may believe that “if you know one child with autism, you know them all.” The truth is, “If you know one child with autism, you know ONE child with autism!”
To make sure teachers really see your child and all that is unique about her, you will want to both “show” and “tell.” In other words, don’t just provide information in a meeting, provide photos of recent events or even of recent accomplishments. Some families even create a simple pamphlet or handout with information on the child’s strengths, gifts, and interests. Others might even put together an entire portfolio (for more information on how to create these products, see this article on the topic from my website: Paula Kluth.
How can parents help their child get the correct adaptations and supports?
I think the best way to ensure that your child will get what he or she needs is to become familiar with some of the language and practices of teaching and learning so you can specifically ask for what you want. I realize this is asking a lot of parents (and I also realize it isn’t necessarily the job of families to become education experts). Having said that, you will find it very beneficial if you can sit in a meeting and ask for “adapted books” or “word-prediction software” instead of just “adaptations for the literacy block.”
Another really effective way to advocate for these supports is to bring examples. One parent I know calls this the “adaptation suitcase.” She brings in a small collection of materials that have worked for her child in the past. For instance, if your child’s Sunday School teacher has adapted some written work by making the font bigger, you might bring that. If the classroom teacher at your last school used adapted seating, bring a photo of it. If your private tutor has created a math curriculum based on your child’s fascination with trains, it should be shared.
To learn more about appropriate classroom adaptations and supports, you can visit my blog on differentiation and/or any one of the following resource-rich sites:
How can parents have more of a voice in their child’s education?
It is certainly important to attend all meetings, ask questions whenever you need clarification, make relevant suggestions, propose supports, and talk to other families to be sure that you understand your rights, have access to the creative ideas of fellow advocates, and know about community-wide resources and programs.
However, don’t discount the importance of being involved in the school and in your community as a volunteer. For instance, by taking a “job” shelving books in your school library, you can observe your child informally. It will also help you understand the school community better so you can build relationships and make more effective recommendations to your child’s team. Parent teacher organizations (PTOs) are another way families often find a home in the school. By getting involved, you can find out about school priorities and contribute to the discussions about how funds are raised and then distributed. One mother I know was an officer in the PTO and was able to work with the PTO to purchase iPads for classrooms. This was a support that many children with disabilities needed, but also one that all children could use for independent and individualized learning. Joining a school board isalso a possibility for some reading this post. It isn’t for everyone, but it is a fantastic way to influence your district’s policies, practices, and even their personnel.