In my experience successful education for a child on the autism spectrum starts with a positive working relationship between home and school. One of the biggest challenges for parents/carers and teachers is to develop an effective relationship. It is in the interest of everyone involved child, staff and families that we create a positive partnership. This is created by:
1. Team work is the key to achieving desired outcomes. We are all on the same side. We all have the best interest of the child at heart. When we have the attitude that we are all on the same team, the child’s team we view everything differently.
2. Share information, brainstorm ideas and learn together.
3. Ask questions. You should never be ashamed to ask questions – we are all there to help the child through life.
4. Brain storm ideas. Remember not every strategy works for every child so it is good to have a few ideas to try.
5. Keep it real. Be brave and honest about the child and their requirements.
6. Remember the child may act differently at home and at school.
7. Respect each other! Be appreciative of each other’s efforts.
8. Ensure the child and family develop a good relationship with the Principal. An informed Principal can support staff, student and families. They can be a good mediator when issues arise at school and find resolutions whether it is funding, behaviour or breakdown in communication. Principals tend to be constant in schools, whereas teachers can change each year. When the Principal is on side everything else will flow. Remember, usually on a bad day the child gets sent up to the Principal who needs to understand the child for this to be an effective strategy
9. Start meetings with the positives. It is always nice to discuss which strategies are working and then look at the challenges.
10. Ensure you have regular meetings so you don’t end up having meetings only when there is an issue.
11. Ensure ALL key people are at meetings – teacher, teacher assistants, specialists, parents, caregivers.
12. Work towards common goals: write them down so everyone remembers.
13. Limit the number of goals. Especially in the Early Years (0-6), often it is best to focus on two goals at a time.
14. Make sure the goals are clear and everyone knows the strategies to be used.
15. Communicate, have a clear system in place whether it is communication book, email, text, phone calls.
16. Be honest, open, non-judgmental, make no assumptions. Where possible, ensure all communication is concise and to the point.
17. Ensure other professionals (Occupational Therapist, Psychologist, Speech Therapists) who are involved with the child communicate with the school (email, phone call, copies of reports). Asking therapists to visit your school can be invaluable for everyone involved.
18. Create information on the child; folder, letter, etc. This can include likes, dislikes, what they enjoy, what they find hard, strategies that help through the day. Focus on strengths and challenges. (See tip sheets page for examples of Student Profiles and letters by parents).
These can be an invaluable tool of communication between home and school. However, they can be extremely time consuming in busy classrooms and families. Parents and schools need to discuss exactly what needs to go in these books. I prefer the student actually completes a daily schedule/diary and they can share with family. Families can also use this about their weekends, holidays, etc and take back to school. I like to get the child to communicate about their day. In Visual Learning (page 39) is a Diary the student can complete each day and the Boardmaker Pictographs (page 40 & 41). I recommend laminating the Diary page and using Velcro to attach the pictographs
Diary: Visual Learning Book pg 39
You can use this as a daily “English” activity. It can be cut/paste, writing, typing on computer, etc.