The Denver Autism Wheel

Yep, it’s another “back-to-school” post

Posted on: August 14, 2010

I can’t believe school starts in a week…sure, you’ve heard that before, and we’re here again. I’m back in preparation mode now that we’re back from vacation. Kate’s posted about her packet. I’ve used it for the last two school years – the first one was pretty much ignored. The second year used, it was highly successful.

What was the difference? The teacher.

The Teacher is the scion of the classroom. They are the person who makes or breaks your child’s experience at the school. When you’ve got a not-so-great-one, you know it. But when you’ve got a good one…it’s as if the skies have parted and the angels are singing. And you never want to go back to the not-so-great ever again.

But you can influence teacher selection only so much…

Here are a few things you can do regardless if you are a working parent or a stay at home parent:

  1.  Autism packet for classroom teacher, specials teachers, any therapies received at school and all paras (paraprofessionals that are the in the classroom to support your kid and any others who need additional help).
  2. If you can, set a meet and greet with teacher, one on one. Come with child, packet and a little bit of time. Your main goal is this: find out how the teacher would prefer to communicate: via email, a phone call once a week or…fill in the blank.
  3. Ask the teacher and anyone else who works with your child how you can help them be successful this year. You might be surprised by the answers.
  4. Talk up school to your child: Why it’s important. Why it’s fun.
  5. Get involved where you can.

I’m trying something new this year. It could be because I’m a control freak. It could be because I’ve realized that we’re too isolated. I’ve joined the PTCO board at our Elementary School. I’ll keep you apprised of how that’s working 🙂

That said, there are so many other things that we’ve had to put in place to make Ian successful at school. With two working parents, it was hard to finish homework when we picked him up from the After School program – which was usually around 5:30 – 6 p.m. We would end up spending an hour or two doing homework. Sometimes it was easy and other times it was a huge struggle. Once that was done, then it was time for bed for Ian.

We knew we were losing vital hours but that the homework program at After School wouldn’t work for Ian. He needed that extra support.

We hired two people. The first one was a tutor who came from the same place we’d been using for a social skills group. She picked him up from  After School two times a week (about an hour and a half after school got out) and worked with him on homework, but a big part of what she did was preteach items, work with him on executive processing skills and just good general school skills. Her hour and a half would be done when one of us got home from work.

The second person was a college student who would pick him up from school directly the other three days a week. She’d work with him on homework, and once he got that done, they’d play. It was about 15-18 hours a week, perfect for someone going to school. We look for someone who’s a natural with Ian.

They don’t have to be Psychology or Special Education students. So far, we’ve had one woman who was studying Dance (who’s started her second degree in Special Education over the summer). Our second is a marketing major just finishing up her last semester. The third, who we hired this summer, is our first Psychology major.

We’ve had to sacrifice to do this. No major vacations (which is hard for two travel buffs); much less eating out and other items that you “want” but don’t “need.”  It has been worth every penny.

Ian is working at grade level academically. He’s much more confident at school. And every night hasn’t been a fight over doing homework. We get some homework and some family time. It is a great place to be and I hope you can find a way there.  Oh yeah, and school starts in a week!  Sigh, summer is over…again.

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