So It’s a Month Into School and…

Jean Stern, M.S.

By October, the quiet honeymoon time of getting acquainted and slower academic demands is ending, and everything gets ratcheted up. By now, new and “quirky” behaviors may be seen as annoying, teachers start to feel that it’s time to get going making their academic deadlines, and our children show more signs of stress. Reviewing a new book, Asperger Syndrome in the Inclusive Classroom: Advice and Strategies for Teachers by Stacey W. Betts et al., reminded me of a few pointers that I’ll pass along to you for a smoother fall.

Did you provide your child’s teachers with a brief introduction or description of what makes a successful day for your child? Chatting in person is best way to start, but be sure also to hand him/her something in print for the teacher to refer to afterwards. We know teachers should have the IEP at hand, but your concise paragraph and conversation might get the critical points across more effectively. By October the teacher may really see the need for your advice, and be willing to try your proven strategies.

Teachers know that a good home/school communication system is going to help them, but they will probably be swamped at school start-0up. You can facilitate the process if you work with your child’s educational team to create a simple communication system, preferably a one-page form. Provide space for messages going both ways, and clear sections for what you need to know (homework assignments and details, upcoming requirements or events to prepare your child for); it will help get the system going quickly. If the teacher has not had the time to provide this for you, s/he may really appreciate your support and will remember this kindness later.

The sections you provide in the form also let the teacher know those areas that will need the most communication in order for things to run smoothly. You can shape the focus of the exchanges. Any of the following might be some areas to work on together. Only do what you can, and in your child’s priority order.

Other ways to help your child:

  • Provide down-time when your child comes home.
  • Get an additional set of text books to keep at home.
  • Each evening, review the next day’s school schedule.
  • Practice the locker combination, or provide a lock with a key for school. (N.B.: Look for new alphabetic combination locks!)
  • Ask for a homework materials list for your child, so you know what to get out at home, and for a homework checklist for the child to check off items when done; talk with the teacher ahead of time about which assignment it’s o.k. to drop on a difficult night.
  • Assist in starting homework and prioritizing assignments.
    Talk to the team about limiting the amount of writing teachers expect.
  • Ask for notice of tests, so you can review content with your child.
    Rehearse and desensitize your child to the worst sensory school moments.
  • Work on hygiene issues.
  • Practice school-provided, popular, age-appropriate social topics to talk about.
  • Be sure your child has time each night for a joyous, relaxing activity.

Parenting a child with AS is about being organized but also about being reassuring, being kind to yourself, spraying yourself with “Guilt Away,” and keeping your sense of humor—nurturing yourself so you can nurture your child.