Wednesday 25 January 2017

Dear Teacher

Dear Teacher/s,

It’s the beginning of another school year and you are about to have one of my children as a student in your class. I am very happy to know that my children are in your class. I’m sure that you have chosen your profession because you love working with children and have a passion for teaching. There are a few things that you will need to know about my children before they start in your class.

L will need your patience because communication can be difficult for him at times. At first he may not talk to you, he will make sounds and point and make side way glances at you. This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t like you, he is just getting to know you. He will learn to trust you, but it may take time. Once he trusts and feels safe with you, he will climb all over you and ask for random cuddles, all the time! He will want to know where you are going and where you have been!

You might have heard that children with Autism cannot show emotion. This is a myth. Both my children show emotion, L is learning empathy and he has come a long way in the last 12 months. At times both my children will show extreme emotions and you will know immediately when they enter your classroom if they are happy, sad, angry or anxious. If you take a few minutes to work out any challenges that they may be facing in that moment, it will save a lot of stress in the long run.

O will need you to understand that when she gets upset or starts to fidget, it isn’t personal she is just in sensory overload. At times L will need to get up and move around in class, he isn’t doing this to be naughty, he does this to refocus.

Please understand that meltdowns are not down on purpose, they are done to serve a purpose and in that moment, L or O may not be able to verbally express to you what they need or what is wrong. Sensory overload is significant and it may occur on a regular basis – there may be too much noise, smells may be overpowering, L’s clothes may be prickling him, O may be seated in a different spot. They are not being naughty, their senses are in overload and they simply can’t focus. A few minutes outside the classroom will help them to refocus.

Please don’t force L to make eye contact, this can be painful and very difficult for him to do. If you ask L “are you listening to me,” L will look at you briefly. He hears you just fine.

If O answers with “what” or “can you please repeat that” it’s not that she wasn’t listening, she is trying to recall a memory on how to answer you. Please don’t get angry at her, if you repeat the question then O will be able to answer you.

Both my children have strengths and challenges the same as all children. L has amazing gross motor skills and runs, at a very fast pace. He doesn’t run to be naughty, he runs to get away from sensory overload or when he wants to go and look at something. If L runs, you need to run. He will not stop if you call his name. Please remember, behaviour is done for a purpose not on purpose.

L is a visual learner, one of his challenges is understanding verbal instructions. If you show or demonstrate to L what you want him to do, he will get it. You may need to break down the steps of certain tasks for L - he still struggles with complicated steps.

O has an amazing dry sense of humour and loves creative writing. If O is sitting at her desk staring off into space after you have given an instruction, she may not have understood the task and her anxiety will prevent her from drawing attention to herself. Please go and ask her to repeat to you what the task is about. You may need to reword your request.

L likes to be in control, he always has been. Where possible please offer him choices, but offer choices that have the outcome that you want. That way you both get the end the result that you want!

Children with Autism can make friends however at times O struggles to understand social cues. She misreads or misinterprets situations which leave her feeling extremely anxious. O suffers from severe anxiety, what she worries and stresses about might seem small to you, but they are big issues to her. Please keep this in mind when she is in tears over a pencil.

Both O and L are very intelligent, please don't under-estimate their abilities. They may take a little while to get there, but they can do it. Given the right circumstances, they may surprise you at times.

The word "can't" is no longer in their vocabulary.

Thank you for all that you do and I look forward to building a working relationship with you. The last piece of advice is that the needs of both my children are the same as any other child in your class, they want to feel safe, secure and happy. They don’t want special treatment, they want to be accepted.

And if all else fails, L loves anything and everything to do with superheroes and O loves talking about space, in particular Titan!

ASD Mum xx

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