As we enter our second week of school, I find myself a bit nostalgic as I think back to Ryan’s time in school. It’s hard to believe that it has been five years since he graduated high school! I truly believe that one of the reasons he was successful in his school career was my willingness to commit to working with his teachers.
What do I mean by that? We began each new school year by scheduling a meeting with the principal to walk through his new school and/or new classroom. We took pictures of the various rooms in the building so that he would have a frame of reference when he imagined what the first days of school would be like. This was helpful because Ryan was always very anxious about change. During the first week of inservice, I would meet with Ryan’s entire team. When he was in elementary school, few children with autism were enrolled in the “typical” classroom. I saw this meeting as an opportunity to educate staff; not only about Ryan, but about autism as well.
I provided a fact sheet, “Tips about Ryan,” which identified the essential information that each teacher would want to know. For instance, very loud noises are troublesome to Ryan. He would pay attention to the sound, place his hands on his ears, and be oblivious to everything else going on in the room. In addition, I was always sure to emphasize that because Ryan’s brain functions differently than the teacher’s or mine, this impacts how Ryan would respond to classroom instructions. It’s my belief that these tips helped to make the day much smoother for both the teacher and Ryan.
I also believed it was important to meet weekly with the teacher(s) to discuss his progress and challenges. This assured consistency between home and school – a critical variable for Ryan. Looking back, I drove to his school in blizzards as well as frightening early morning meetings at 7:00 AM! I was fortunate that my best friend, Jeanne, attended as Ryan’s advocate. She was great support. I would encourage all parents to take a friend to team meetings. So much is being discussed and it’s helpful to have someone taking notes.
Whether you wish to hold weekly meetings, write letters, or any other strategy, I can’t stress enough how important it is to maintain open lines of communication with your child’s team. Because you know your child best, you are the most important member of that team.
I wish you all a great school year!