Autism, We Need to Bridge the Gap Between Parents and Educators!

In Jordan's freshman year of high school due to extreme frustration with his math teacher, I ended up writing a letter to the Principle and copied the Superintendent! High school has been a challenge that's for sure, it's way different than dealing with middle school teachers. I find I have to scream to be heard at the high school level in middle school I only had to whisper. Jordan's Sophomore year wasn't much better, I won't back down, and you shouldn't back down either what's that slogan? Just bring it!

Dear Mr. Principle,
Dear Mr. Superintendant,

I am a mother of a child with high-functioning autism who is at Glenbard North High School. He is receiving special education services through inclusion.

Our son has been extremely successful in school and life. We truly feel that working together as a team will allow Jordan to continue his success and lead the way for children following in his footsteps. I have consistently advocated for my son and together the school and myself have always found strategies for success.

A huge part of this success is communication. We need to bridge the gap between school and home. Working together as a team includes; family members, administrators, teachers, assistants, and therapists and anyone else who can provide in the best interest of the child.

A key perspective for the entire team to consider is thinking outside the box. Jordan, nor any other child with Autism came with rules or a guidebook. The team needs to realize that student success should matter more than preset standards or standard rules. .

I realize teaching a disabled student can be terrifying, but there are resources available to help us all work together. Differentiating Instruction involves providing instruction that is accessible and challenging to all. Dr. Paula Kluth is a master at this skill and holds workshops, please consider having her come in and speak to all regular education teachers and parents as well!

My mission is to try to help educate so everyone has equal opportunities to learn parents, educators, therapists, and students. If everyone could lower their defenses, just a little, we could make great strides.

Nobody knows it all. We each have to be willing to learn more. This letter is a request for further education of your staff on Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. It is time to assume intellect when it comes to these very capable children who learn just a little differently.

The first semester has shown me that there are members of your staff that are not willing to be teachable or work together as a team. This saddens me because these kids are very capable learners and as of this point are falling though the cracks of our school system.

The staff needs to realize this is a nation wide epidemic a child is born every 20 minutes with autism. This epidemic is higher that childhood diabetes and most childhood cancers.
If your teachers don’t have a child under the spectrum as of know they will… that’s a fact!

In addition, general IEP protocols have not been followed through with. Jordan’s team had not all read Jordan’s IEP until we were significantly into the school year and I made the request to do so. I realize educating the staff on Autism may not be mandatory, but following through on the IEP is required.

The school has unfortunately for my child dropped the ball in many areas. Below is a summary of recent events.

Jordan needs in many prompts and cues. This is stated within his IEP.

Jordan’s math teacher called me to inform me that Jordan was not re-taking his quizzes as she asked him once to do. I asked her if she was aware that he had autism and her response was yes.

I explained he needs a visual prompt such as a print out of the list of the quizzes he needed to retake and a room number to where he had to retake the quizzes.

Her response was he’s in high school known I should only have to tell him once!

I asked her if she would work with me on this. I would print the information out if she would help me make sure he followed through. She said she would try she has 125 other students to deal with.

Looking over Jordan’s Power school on line I saw he was receiving an 86% in the classroom, so he understands the content but was failing his tests so I put in a call to his math teacher.

I asked if he could take the tests orally. Maybe it was too much information on the test or he didn’t understand the language? I wasn’t quite sure at this point.

The math teacher stated she had told Jordan he can take the tests in the testing room and he had gone only when another child went other wise he stayed behind.

I asked her do you think he knows he can go anytime. She thought maybe he was possibly intimidated to go alone.

NOTE: I asked Jordan when he came home that day about testing and he didn’t realize he could go every time, just as I suspected.

I suggested the use of a prompt I asked her if she would write out a pass which she would have to do anyway and hand him the pass with his test to prompt him to go to the testing room. I explained I would follow though and explain to Jordan he can go every time there’s a test so she would only have to prompt him a couple of times.

Her response to me was she was not going to be responsible for this…
I asked if she read Jordan’s IEP because if she did she would know that she is responsible this is her job.

I also stated that I have never come across a teacher in nine years of working with them that was not willing to bend even slightly for the best interest of the child’s education I told her that she frustrated me.

She than said she was not trying to be difficult.

I expressed my concerns with his case worker and speech teacher knowing that there wasn’t a lot they could do on their own.

The next thing I saw on the power school was Jordan received a zero in note taking?

Jordan should not receive a zero in this on his IEP he has note taking in all areas its extremely hard for him to listen and take notes at the same time. Note taking is supposed to be provided for him according to the IEP. It is stated “in all areas”.

In speaking with Donna xxxxxxxx on this subject she explained that just because it states on the IEP note taking is in all areas doesn’t necessarily mean it is in all areas…

I asked her to explain to me what all areas means to her because all areas to me means it covers everything…

I asked her to contact his 8th grade resource teacher that we worded the IEP that way to cover all bases.

I also enquired as to why he wasn’t in an extended co-taught algebra class that should include a special education teacher, in which I thought he was in because that is what was agreed on in the IEP?

My son won’t make it without the proper assistance needed.

As of today I believe everything has been taken care of, however if it weren’t for my persistence, sadly my son would be flunking and it wouldn’t be his fault. How many others are falling though the cracks?

In conclusion, the primary intent of this letter is to illustrate and inform you as to the need for training in autism in particular for the regular education staff and their responsibilities in managing IEP’s.

I am a proactive parent and will assist in a positive manner in any way possible.


Rhonda Brunett
Suggested Resources:

Paula Kluth PH.D: Consultant, former special educator, inclusion facilitator, author, advocate, and independent scholar. She lives in Oak Park Please consider educating your regular education teachers help them feel more confident and comfortable in teaching our children.

Paula Kluth

Her books: (Your Going to Love this Kid), (Autism in a Inclusive Classroom), (A Land We Share), this book is about teaching literacy to students with autism.

Diane Heacox Differentiating Instruction in the Regular Classroom.

Rhonda Brunett From Autism to All-star.

Please provide he following examples for regular ed teachers.

Autism tips and examples for teachers

Are you aware that Bill Gates, Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, Charles Shultz’s, Thomas Edison just to name a few are and were under the autistic spectrum as you can see where dealing with very capable high functioning autistic individuals.
Even though each is different always assume intellect….

1. Paraphrasing of summarizing information. This is key to ensure that the student is grasping the direction or message. Have the students retell you the direction, message, statement, etc. in their own words to ensure understanding.

2. Teachers check in at the end of the period with the student.
To ensure that the student understands what happened in class and the exact details of the homework, have a check in at the end of the period.
The student can come up to the teacher and show their assignment notebook or agenda to the teacher.

The student should have the assignment written down and the teacher can have the student explain in his own words what the assignment is. If there is no homework or as an addition, the teacher can ask a few basic questions to the student to see if they grasped the material for the day.

This check in can just be a quick routine for the student because the teachers are busy and the student has another class to get to.
However, if the student gets used to this check in and makes it apart of his or her day, it will greatly limit the number of difficulties that can occur throughout the year.

3. Checks for comprehension throughout the period.
This would involve asking questions throughout the lesson- literal and abstract to see what the student is getting and what they are missing.
The teacher can possibly use this information to create an additional assignment for the student to work on at home with the parents if extra assistance is needed to help grasp material.

4. Quick recall checks thought out the period. As the teacher is giving directions thought out the lesson, you can periodically call on different students to say,
“What was my direction, or what did I just say?” This way all students know that you are periodically checking to see if they are on task and it helps focus.

5. For the student with autism, sometimes simply walking around the room and tapping on the page that the teacher is speaking on ensures the student stays with the lesson.

6. Vocabulary work. For vocabulary work, if the teacher has the students find definitions from the dictionary; have the students write the definition in their own words.

Students with autism are often good with rote memory skills or copying information they simply copy the word for word of the definition in the book.
They have known idea what it means. Try to get the students used to putting things in their own words

7. Visuals, visuals, visuals……. as often as the teacher is able to!
Pointing and gesturing, pictures, or modeling when giving directions.

8. Write homework on the board everyday. Have all students write in there agenda.

9. Finding the main idea can be a challenge. Try to find ways to incorporate this thought out the lesson.

For example at the end of the period, ask the students what the main idea of today’s lesson was?

Another example, ask students to summarize what they did over the weekend in one sentence. Get the students used to summarizing and finding the main idea.

10. Any changes that are being made tell at least one week in advance if at all possible.

11. Modeling of specific things that need to be done in class. (Heading of papers, specific math problems.)

12. Graphic organizers break tasks into smaller chunks. In this way, you take what is largely an invisible abstract concept and make it visible and concrete.

13. Inferential questions

Example: When reading Anne Frank, a student would be asked a question such as: “Why do you infer that Anne would dress in Peter’s cloths?”

Prompt them by saying, “Think about what boys and girls do when they like each other.” To which the student would respond “I infer Anne dressed in Peters cloths because she might like him.”

14. Figurative language (idioms specifically)

Autistic children take what you are literally saying (I’m in a pickle they will picture someone standing inside a pickle.)

You can find pictures as an example to help them better understand such as someone getting yelled at by an adult.

When they are assessed you
can put the picture on the assessment so they can remember what each idiom really meant.