Do you have an IEP (Individual Education Plan) meeting scheduled in order for your child to receive individualized help or accommodations in school but have no idea what to ask for, or what can be done to help them? Every child with or without autism has unique strengths and challenges; therefore, your IEP should be tailored to YOUR child’s specific needs. However, in addition to having specific sensory needs, children with Asperger’s Syndrome tend to struggle with areas of [executive functioning], which can result in disorganization, forgetfulness, difficulty shifting activities, and prioritizing. Here are a few ideas that will address some major areas of difficulty for many children (and adults) with Asperger’s Syndrome.
What accommodations can help with organization?
Executive Functioning is responsible for our ability to organize. An autistic child’s difficulty with organization skills is a manifestation if his/her disability and as such can be accommodated for in the student’s IEP. Some accommodations that may help include assistance with note taking, which can be difficult when the student is having executive function issues with prioritizing information and organization, delayed motor coordination/pencil control skills, and oculomotor skills, which are needed for reading and copying accurately and efficiently in the classroom. Students can also learn keyboarding skills in order to take notes on laptops or tablet devices, (which can be a request in the IEP). Check sheets and visual schedules can also be helpful with organization, as well as, lab and math sheets with highlighted instructions, and concrete (visual) examples of how to solve the problems (especially important with Math sheets), and allowing students to utilize calculators or computers for computations.Since forgetfulness is a common component of executive functioning problems extra supplies, pencils, books, and paper and a duplicate set books can be kept in each of the child’s classrooms (if switching classes during the day is required).
What will help my child adapt to or shift activities?
Shifting activities quickly is often a challenge for children with autism spectrum disorders. They may need extra time to adjust to changes. Signaling activity changes with visual and audio cues can help, while ensuring the student hears and understands that the activity is changing, and is afforded time needed to shift (complete assignment, problem, notes, etc.). A timer can be set on the desk to sound or vibrate 5-10 minutes before an activity ends. Remember the student needs to know what to expect so provide a visual daily schedule. If the schedule changes for any reason, they will need to know as soon as possible and to know why it will change. A break may also be needed to re-adjust.If completing assignments is identified as an issue, shortening assignments may be appropriate in order for your child to access the current curriculum and transition timely to the next class activity.
Should my child have to do homework?
There is often heated debate over whether an autistic child should be made to complete homework assignments. In general homework is looked upon as a necessary part of a child’s learning day; however, in some cases, assigning homework to a child with autism can be counterproductive. Many children with autism spectrum disorders have difficulty getting through their school day, and are completely worn out (emotionally and socially) from the normal school day that doing homework causes more stress and anxiety than it is worth. Other children have difficulty remembering to transport their folders, textbooks, worksheets, and other supplies back and forth from school to home without forgetting or losing items. In these cases, some type of homework accommodation or modification may be appropriate.You can ask that no homework be assigned to be completed at home, and that a designated time during the school day be provided to complete any needed work, or to reinforce academic concepts. If transporting materials home is an issue, having two sets of textbooks (one for school and one for home), homework assignments posted on a school website, and visual checklists can help. Study guides, teacher’s note, or power point presentations can be given for study purposes. It may also be appropriate to remove all penalties for late or missing work because working on organization and academics at the same time can create avoidance of work.
What about testing?
Testing days are stressful. There are a few accommodations that can be made when your child struggles with tests. First receiving study guides prior to tests help the child prepare and understand what to expect. Key directions can be highlighted or read to the student to ensure they understand the directions. Testing can be performed in an alternate site or a small group setting in order to minimize distractions. Time limits can be eliminated meaning tests can be untimed, and allow for frequent breaks.
In the United States all children are entitled to a free and appropriate public education, and this includes your specials needs child. After testing and evaluation is completed to determine eligibility for special education services is completed, an IEP meeting will be scheduled to discuss the school’s finds and brainstorm for solutions. This is the time that you, as the parent who knows you child best, can ask for accommodations or modifications to the curriculum in order for your child to fully participate and benefit from the school program.