This is what I think about…better practices for teaching Autism kids in schools post COVID
I am a parent and have served as a K-12 leader of all students-special education, general education, all subjects all grade levels. You name it, I have done it. I am also an Autism mom and proud to be so. As soon as I learned I would be a mother, I was excited!! And still am. I have to admit I have had a joyful journey and grateful to God for allowing me the privilege of raising an amazing child.
So how did I learn about Autism? Well, I noticed the uniqueness early on when he stopped saying “ma ma” and lack of eye contact to name a few. So I talked to the pediatrician. She stated he should be evaluated for Autism. I had not heard of it at the time. But I researched it I got him support. This carried into schools. During COVID I created a platform during COVID that supported 1400 families. This topic is designed to help educators understand what needs to continue to happen to support all children.
Step 1. Get to know the family. Take some time to get to know the family. Find out what they want for their child, best form of communication and questions they have. Then share about you, your background and experience. Your job is to make them feel comfortable and begin the trust building process.
Step 2. Ask for a 1 pager. The one pager gives you a peek into the values, likes, dislikes, summer activities, and sensory diet. It helps you get started day one. Some things I shared are our trip to DisneyWorld, my child loved praise as intrinsic motivation and proprioception strategies during the school day.
Step 3. Review the Parental Input Statement. Make sure you learn from the parent or guardian what are the strengths and areas of growth for the child at home and across environments. This information must be added to the IEP and it will help inform how to set goals for the IEP.
Step 4. Embed Sensory Diet. Autism is a spectrum so you should learn about the 8 sensory systems and the best strategies to support the child. They may need input or output. In doing so, you can develop a sensory diet for the child and track it. Do this with the school based Occupational Therapist.
Step 5. Advocate for Professional Development. The worst case scenario is to have a child come home and decompress because s/he has masked all day in school. Push for your school to get and paraprofessionals trained trained in best practices that support the individual needs of the child. Not all kids need to same supports, but a missed opportunity to provide that support is not great for our kids.
Step 6. Invite families to observe. This is a gap that I noticed in schools, but I have done it and it has been helpful. For example, I was able to evaluate a speech pathologist who was unable to see
Step 7. Align Virtual Learning. A huge shout out to all educators who had to create lessons then use platforms in order to teach kids since 2020. I believe that the goal is to choose the platform that is best aligned to the the child’s skill. I have found that while there are great platforms, the platform must be aligned to how the child best learns. This is a progression that is made throughout their educational journey.
Step 8. Proactively communicate with families. We appreciate it when teachers and paraprofessionals take the time to communicate by phone, email, or virtually. The partnership is created when good news and challenges are shared on both sides. Plus, we appreciate getting new information or ides that are working. Ultimately, it is about what’s in the best interest of the child.
My child has been a part of some amazing school districts before I began homeschooling. I am LaTonya Davis and K-12 leader and lawyer who shifts people from good intent to exceptional impact. You can follow me @TonyaDavisTalks.