Getting Your Child with ASD Ready for the New School Year
Three weeks before:
- Look at a calendar with your child. Mark the first day of school.
- Take your child to buy supplies.
Two weeks before:
- Make or read a social story about going back to school.
- Arrange a play date with a school friend or classmate.
- Make visits to the school playground.
One week before:
- Schedule an appointment to meet your child’s teacher at school.
- Make visits to the school playground.
- Adjust your child’s sleep schedule so it’s in sync with a healthy school sleep schedule.
One or two days before:
- Visit your child’s classroom(s), including specialty rooms (art, gym, music), if you can.
- Meet the teacher.
- Share an index card of helpful hints about your child with the teacher. You may want to include what motivates him, his strengths, and a few targeted goals.
- Visit the cafeteria, office and health clinic.
- Play on the playground.
- Take photos of your visit to review at home. (You can use to create a social story .)
Ongoing throughout the year:
- Figure out the best communication process that works for you and the school.
- Schedule observations of your child during the school day to see how he is doing.
- Offer to volunteer in your child’s classroom, if your schedule permits and you think your child can handle it.
- Request teachers send home work samples to see how your child’s skills are progressing.
- Call for meetings whenever you find there is an issue that needs discussion.
- Encourage your child’s teachers to keep you informed of any problems that come up and how they are resolved.
- Keep a notebook and bring this notebook to all school meetings. The notebook should include: the current IEP, psychological and other evaluations, home goals, SLP goals, and any notes from your observations.
- Bake cookies for the teachers! Make sure you show your appreciation for their cooperation. A heartfelt note from you can be a wonderful gift for a teacher – more meaningful than a mug or gift card.
Getting to Know My Child: A Guide for My Child’s Kindergarten Teacher
School Transitions in the Elementary Grades
Planning School Transitions
Transition to Middle School
Middle School—The Stuff Nobody Tells You About: A teenage girl with ASD shares her experiences
Inclusive Programming for Middle School Students with Autism/Asperger’s Syndrome
Social Skills Picture Book
6 Tips for My Special Education Child’s Mainstream Teacher
My Aspergers Child: Back-to-School Quick Tip Sheet for Parents of Children on the Spectrum
Navigating the IEP Process
Your child’s IEP is crutial to his success in school. The process can seem daunting, but it can be completed in a timely and effective manner.
Before the meeting:
- Start preparing 1 or 3 months ahead.
- Find out your school’s observation policy, and request an observation for you to determine how your child functions at school.
- Invite your school team to observe your child at home or videotape a routine at home that you want to share and bring to the school team.
- Write a vision statement that creates a “picture” of what you would like your child to be able to do in the future.
- Review your child’s current progress reports and any recent assessments.
- Email specific goals you want to see included in the IEP.
- Ask for a draft ahead of time, it will be too much to digest in the meeting.
- If you want the school to speak with outside therapists, make sure to sign release forms.
- Jot down questions to ask in advance: homework questions, home school communication, hour adjustments for special education.
- Determine family priorities for your child. Annually think about these priorities (e.g. increase access to grade level content, increase access to peers, functional skills, increase student’s independence) and send these to the school in advance.
- Think about at what age your child should be included in the IEP process.
Who should attend the meeting?
Besides the parents, attendees can include the general education teacher, your district representative, and other professionals who could provide service to your child and input to the goals. This may include (but is not limited to) a speech pathologist, occupational therapist,physical therapist, school psychologist or a classroom aide.
This article highlights people you should consider asking to join your child’s IEP team.
At the meeting:
- Share what is working well with your child at home and at school.
- Bring reports and data from other people, if applicable.
- Bring a list of your child’s medications in case the school has any questions about them.
- Collaborate to determine what your priority skills are.
- Ask questions if you need clarification. If any goals are not clear, ask to have them explained. You can request an explanation of Whose IDEA Is This? or ask for all technical terms to be explained.
- Aim high with your expectations in the meeting! Make sure the goals set for your child are a stretch, and not goals he will reach easily. It’s important for your child to have lofty goals to reach for.
- If you have concerns or want to think further about it, understand that you do not have to sign the IEP right then—you can take it home and return it later.
- For an older child (beginning at 14), talk about transition planning and think about whether your child’s priorities are being supported.
- Review tips for writing transitional IEP goals and how those goals differ from pre-transitional IEP goals.
- Make sure you know how the school will communicate with you about your child’s progress, including frequency.
- Ask the team how you can support what is done at school.
If there is disagreement between you and the school team at the meeting:
- Discuss concerns.
- Ask how you and the school can come to an agreement on goals.
- Consider a separate meeting with only a few of the team members.
- Review this chart from the Ohio Department of Education to determine your next steps in dispute resolution.
What are my rights if I do not agree with the IEP?
- Review your Whose IDEA Is This? (parent procedural safeguard notice you received prior to the meeting) to inform you of your options.
- Communicate concerns to the school and put them in writing with specific examples.
- Contact your State Support Team, Family Service Coordinator, or Parent Mentor for further assistance.
- Consult an Ohio parent advocacy organization’s website for further information or assistance.
- If you are at a stalemate, consider requesting an independent outside evaluation.
After the meeting ends:
Know that you can call for a meeting with your team any time to discuss any item on the IEP—you do not have to wait for your next IEP review. You can also request a conference with any one person on the team as questions arise.
8 Steps to Better IEP Meetings: Play Hearts, Not Poker
All About the IEP
Wright’s Law—Writing SMART IEPs
Free IEP Checklist Phone App
From Emotions to Advocacy (2nd ed.) by Pam and Pete Wright
The 7 steps in the development of an Individualized Education Program (video)
How to Organize your Child’s IEP Binder
Riding the Bus to School
Prior to the beginning of the school year, contact the transportation office to confirm your child’s bus information, and to find out any particulars about procedures. Can your child’s bus stop be at your driveway rather than at the corner? Can your child bring a book or gum on the bus? Does your driver have experience with kids with autism?
Training information for bus drivers is available online- there are a couple listed in additional resources below. Make a copy for your bus driver if they do not have experience with autism.
If you feel you need to, disclose your child’s disability personally to bus personnel. The staff may not have been told your child has special needs or autism – in some school districts, this information is not disclosed to the bus driver.
Make sure there is an aide on board, if necessary. (A bus aide would need to be written into your child’s IEP.)
If your child has any medical needs, make sure the transportation staff is trained prior to the first day.
If sensory overload is a concern because of loud noises, ask permission for your child to wear headphones or earplugs on the bus.
If riding the bus is a new experience for your child, see if he/she can be assigned a seat near or behind the driver so he/she knows when to get off.
Check with your school district to see if it offers a bus introduction event for young children, if your child has never ridden on a bus. It will give your child a chance to ride on a bus with you first.
Find books from the library or YouTube videos about riding the bus and read them together. This is called “priming”. You can also make your own video.
Create a social story on how to behave on the bus and what to do when the bus gets to school.
Create a visual schedule for your child to carry in his/her backpack that goes through the bus riding experience, if you think it will help.
Autism Speaks offers a comprehensive guide for Bus Drivers and Transportation Supervisors.
Here are additional resources with general information for caregivers and families:
Staying Organized at School
Teaching organizational skills is a great way to teach students of all ages to be self-sufficient. Being organized is a life skill that crosses over to many aspects of life, regardless of age or stage. The school environment offers many opportunities for teaching these skills, which in turn can make homework time at home less stressful for students and their parents. Many experts have suggestions, like how to keep assignments from disappearing from backpacks, keeping a study area at home organized, or how technology can help. Here are several web links, offering organizational ideas – for the backpack, a study area, within the classroom, or at home.
Autism, Homework & Beyond by Michelle Garcia Winner
Organization Skills for children with Autism — My Asperger’s Child
Tips for Teaching High Functioning People with Autism — Indiana University
Teaching Organizational Skills — Autism Support Network
Organizational Skills for Students with Learning Disabilities: The Master Filing System for Paper
Individual & Visual Schedules — PBIS World
11 Useful Homework and Study Apps — ADDitude Magazine
The Best Apps for Student Organization at School and at Home — Huffington Post