Looking back to my days in elementary and middle school, I can recall that my mom always met with my teachers before the first day of school. Until I was about nine years old, I did not know what those meetings were about and even then, I wasn’t sure because I didn’t get to participate in the meetings. Her ultimate goal was to ensure classroom success for me and my isms.
Those meetings were about advocacy. My mother met with each new teacher at the start of each new school year to advocate for me and my autism. She would introduce herself to the teacher and discuss my strengths and weaknesses. It was very important to my mother that she and the teacher were “partners” in my education – and in my socialization.
My mother would supply the teachers with books and articles about autism, especially those that related most to my skill set. Her goal was to provide the teachers with an appropriate set of expectations. Mom would additionally supply a list of suggestions that would set me up for success. For example, she would explain that I needed to sit in the front row. She would ask that I be seated next to a new girl to socially engage me.
A die hard advocate, my mother volunteered at the school a lot. For many years, my mother was the room parent and would chaperone many trips.
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Tips for Classroom Success
During my school years, there were simple adjustments and accommodations that would serve me well. Perhaps they will serve your child or student well too!
Sit in the Front Row
If you can, sit in the front row of the classroom. This helps you to see the white board better and decreases potential distractions. It was extremely distracting to me to see all the other children sitting in front of me.
Sometimes the front row is not the best choice. Perhaps the child with auditory isms needs to be located close to the sound source. For example, if the teacher teaches from the left middle of the room, the front row is not the best choice. The left middle row is the better choice. Consider the location of the sound source when making seating arrangements. Ensure your child is sitting where he will experience the optimal classroom success.
Post the Daily Schedule
When I was in elementary school, my teacher would write the daily schedule on the board and leave it there. This was incredibly helpful as I knew what to expect and when. Having the daily schedule easily viewable will contribute to overall classroom success this year.
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Fire drills were a horrible experience for me. It was helpful when the teacher would let me know about an upcoming fire drill so that I could adequately prepare. Since these alarms are incredibly loud and sudden, they would startle me and put me into sensory overload. If I knew a day in advance, I could bring in my ear plugs. If she could alert me that the fire drill was coming within the next half hour, I would be able to have the ear plugs in place to decrease the shock to my sensory system.
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The loud noises in the lunchroom were a problem. It was just more than my senses could bear. We had an arrangement with the school that allowed me to eat in a quieter location such as a supervised classroom or in the nurse or guidance office.
Perhaps your guidance counselor can set up a lunch buddy program? A lunch buddy program allows a child to invite 2-3 friends to join in for lunch in a quieter location. This option prevents the sense of alienation and also encourages socialization over a meal – in a much quieter arena!
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I offer many more sensory and school related tips in my book, Middle School: The Stuff Nobody Tells You About.
Consider meeting with your child’s teachers in advance for classroom success this year. Bring your child too! This can help reduce the anxiety of meeting the new teacher and your child can share with the teacher what works for him or her. Partnering in the educational experience is a win win for all parties involved. If meeting with your child’s teacher in person is not a possibility, definitely email the teacher to introduce you and your child. All the best to you in this new school year!