When Your Child With Autism Goes to School; Navigating the System and Building Your Team (Part 1: Preparing YOU for When Your Child Starts School)

I have had the privilege, and I mean privilege in the most sincere way possible, of working with several children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD or Autism in this post) as a special educator, a consultant and classroom teacher in my career.  I say privilege, because these children taught me so much , especially about behaviour and inclusion.

As a special educator, one of the things I learned early in my career is that sometimes, by the time they enter the school system, parents of kids with special needs have spent years fighting for what they need for their child.  They’ve been navigating a system that has not always been easy and accessible, and have not always been listened to or honoured for what they know about their own child’s needs.

Sometimes, when parents have come into the school system, they have come in “swinging”.  They have their hackles raised, ready to fight, even before the process has begun.  This is so sad, and can sometimes start things off on a difficult note.

I’m guessing that if you are reading this, you are already relating on some level.  From an educator’s point of view, I’d like to share a few ideas that will help you gain more power and influence in the school system and in the decisions that will be made regarding your child’s education.

Ok… before I go any further there are a few things I have to clear up.

  1. Please use and ask others to use respectful terminology when referring to your child.  Your child is a child with autism (ASD), not an ASD Child or an Autistic of an Autistic child.  Respectful language puts the child first and the challenge second.  We want our kiddos to be seen as kids, not “disabilities”, and this subtle use of wording can make a difference. I don’t consider this a “labeling” problem as sometimes labeling can be quite useful.  But the label should not define the child.  Politely, with a smile, ask people to use the appropriate wording.
  2. Not all systems are the same.  The policies, procedures and processes in each school district, and even within individual schools, can differ greatly! I don’t claim to know how all schools operate regarding programming for high needs kiddos.  But knowing that all schools can differ is a powerful understanding, and one that can work to your advantage as you begin your education system journey.
  3. You need to know off the start that I’m a huge advocate of inclusion.  This is not the same as “integration”. (This is material for another article)  Inclusion goes further than integration.  Inclusion isn’t a “place” the child is in, it is more of a philosophy for making decisions in a way that does not exclude the child from experiences and opportunities.  And for me the biggest of these is social experiences and opportunities.  AND you need to know right from the get-go that not all educators and certainly not all systems agree with inclusion, or implement it in the same ways, or even fully understand it. So you may have to take a gentle lead if this is what you want.

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BIO- Roberta Luchinski is the Owner/Facilitator of Empowered Parent Plan.  She helps busy parents prevent, respond to and change their kiddo’s difficult behaviours.  Roberta uses positive parenting strategies and brain based methods tried and true from her experience as a Mom, Grandma and 30 years of Educator experience. Roberta holds an MEd in Educational Psychology and has worked with diverse students as a Classroom Teacher, a Diversity Teacher, a Special Educator and a Consultant.

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2 thoughts on “When Your Child With Autism Goes to School; Navigating the System and Building Your Team (Part 1: Preparing YOU for When Your Child Starts School)

  1. I have had a number of kids in the autism spectrum in my college classes. I found that the idea of inclusion rather than integration helpful in giving them the best college experience.

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