Every year my son’s new teacher’s ask what they need to know about my son. If it were only as simple as telling you a couple things to ensure a good school year. This year as my son enters middle school it scares me greatly. This year he has 7 different teachers that will need to learn to work together to figure out his educational needs. These are the years where he may fall through the cracks or may be be labeled as a problem child. Please do your part to ensure this does not happen and I will help you as much as I can.

My son has Autism and once again as I say those words I am asked by you what do you need to know. Unfortunately it is not a simple answer and to understand my son you need to get to know him.  Just reading his IEP will not tell his entire story just as my telling you about him does not either. I can tell you about him all day long but there is nothing I can say will guarantee he will have a good day or will not have a bad day/ meltdown.

Yes, he is different. His brain just works in a different way than other kids. When working with my son you will be pushed to think out of the box. No two children with Autism are the same so just because you knew another student with Autism does not mean what you did with them will work for my son.

My son thrives on routine, structure and consistency. Routine calms my son and reduces anxiety and without it he has problems. If there is going to be a break in routine you need to prepare him for it if you can. If you can’t just try to help him through the change. An example of change my son is not good with is substitute teachers.  An alternative plan needs to be in place for my son when he has a substitute teacher. My son needs structure, he needs to know the rules. Please be consistent with my child because when you are not it gives him mixed signals and it is difficult for him to comprehend what he is suppose to do.

My son interprets  what he is told one way, literally. He does not get idioms and the like. When speaking to him please get his attention and speak to him with plain, simple words.

Social skills are not my son’s strong point. My son is not disrespecting you by not looking you in the eyes/face. He may not be looking at you but he is usually listening. To get your point across please ask my son to repeat what you have asked. My son may do other things that are not socially acceptable such as pick his nose. If you catch him doing something please redirect him, he will stop. We have been working on personal space, he needs clear boundaries as he may invade others personal space not realizing what he is doing is rude.

While on the subject of social skills my son will say what he thinks and does not have a “filter” and will express his opinion. He will say something is dumb or stupid. Just as he will call someone fat or tell them their breath stinks. Please understand he is not saying things to be mean,cruel or disrespectful.

My son’s speech is a work in progress, please understand this. Sometimes especially when he is excited or upset it will be hard to understand him. If you do not understand him ask him to repeat what he has said. Be warned though, too many repeats may equal a meltdown.

My son communicates but you need to do more than just listen. You will need to watch his body language for cues. When he is anxious he will do a variety of things such as run back and forth, hum songs, twirl his hair, pick at his skin or other things. My son may even growl or loudly sigh when he is not excited about doing something. Watch him and he will show you how he is doing.

Group work is not a strong point. If he can do assignments independently he will. He may need redirection from time to time but he does best work solo. This goes back to social skills and interacting with his peers.

Handwriting is not a favorite thing for my son to do. It is hard for him and he does not have a traditional writing grip. Give my son a iPad, computer, alphasmart or other word processor and he can do it. He also does awesome power point presentations.

Your classroom is full of things that may throw my son into sensory overload which may lead to a melt down. His classroom size is larger than what he is used to. A larger class often means more noise and this can overwhelm him. Pep rallies and similar grade level functions are a nightmare for my son. He would rather stay in the classroom and do classwork. Other things that may overwhelm his senses include your classroom temperature, lighting and smells. He tries his best but sometimes it becomes to much and he can’t focus.

When over simulated my son will need a “time out”. He will need to go somewhere quiet to “cool off”. When he is not allowed to do so he may shut down and a melt down could happen. He has attempted to run away from school before. Please do not allow him to get to this point.

My son is very bright and typically learns new subjects easily. He also relates everything back to Mario and Sonic and other video games. If you listen to him though it often makes sense as odd as it may sound. Don’t hate the video games it is just another way my son communicates and expresses himself.

Our family does not use the word can’t so please do not use it in regards to my son such as you “can’t teach my son”. You can teach my son but you may need to rethink your methods. Look at his strengths, you will find a way. He can be taught.

Last but not least the most important thing to remember when teaching my son is to be patient.

What I have written is only a starting point for you. I could go on and on writing about him, he is an awesome kid and if you allow yourself you will learn about his greatness. I invite you to look at things through his perspective and learn how things are not always black and white.

1 Comment on A letter to my son’s teacher… Autism and my son

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