I might have mentioned this one before but it bears repeating. Our child’s elementary school has an end-of-the-year open house each year. It’s an event where the entire family is invited to go to their child’s classroom and get a glimpse at what kids having doing at school the entire year.
The event at my child’s school offers a dinner (which you buy) and a bookfair (which is open the entire week). Also, our kids get the pleasure of not having any homework for the last three days of Open House week.
Can we take our child with autism to the school open house?
I encourage it. I understand that some events or outings may be overwhelming for your child, but I feel this is yet another event that you should try to attend.
However, if you feel you can’t bring your child, then I encourage one parent try to attend.
First, like parents of typical kids, you get to see what your child has been doing in school all year. You get to visit his classroom and check in with the teacher. And, you get to go home and tell your child that you saw his work (if he couldn’t attend). They might respond well because you showed an interest in their schooling.
I feel my second reason for attending your child’s open house – whether with or without your child – is even more important.
What is my second reason?
An open house is a perfect opportunity for you to scout out the teachers for the next year!
My child’s elementary school goes through sixth grade. This means that middle school starts at seventh grade. For us, this has meant we have had six opportunities (we have taken advantage of five out of six) to scout out the teachers for our child’s next school year.
What do I look for?
The first thing I like to look for in a future teacher is a teacher’s relationship to their students.
Concerning my child, I’m not a fan of the teacher who tries hard to be a students’ friend. I want the teacher who is the teacher. (Similar to how I am my child’s parent, not his friend).
I feel it’s important to know a teacher’s relationship to his/her students in order to determine the strength by which the teacher approaches my child.
Some kids, for example, can handle a friend teacher relationship, but I feel my child responds well to a strong structure and a more disciplined approach. Hence, a teacher that does not go out of his/her way to become his friend.
We have had teachers who were the weaker-friend type and we simply feel the better match for our child is the stronger, more disciplined teacher.
Can we talk to the teacher about our child?
I tend to be more open about my child and his needs. Remember, I’m not a shy newbie. I don’t see a problem with approaching next year’s teacher and asking him/her some questions.
What do I ask the teacher?
There are two important things that I ask the teacher:
1. Do you have any special needs experience?
2. Do you have any experience with an aide in your classroom?
Why do I ask these questions?
First of all, it puts me at ease if I hear that a potential teacher may have had experience with special needs students and/or they have dealt with an aide in their classroom before.
These things may mean that they may “get” my child quicker than other teachers and they may know how to deal with a child’s aide – they have an understanding that that aide is for one child, and is not their classroom aide.
Second of all, I ask these questions because it puts the teacher on notice that I’m NOT a shy newbie. I am a parent that will be involved. And, I have my child’s best interest at heart.
Do I say anything else?
I tell the teacher that I’m an open parent and that if he/she needs to make any adjustments, they are welcome to involve me. I tell them that I have tons of experience – especially with my child, and that I will do anything to help the teacher and my child have a smooth classroom experience.
I know that my child may – at times – be a detriment to that smooth experience. (He has in past classrooms.) I don’t want that kind of environment for my child, for the other children, or for the teacher. I am willing to help make the experience the best possible for everyone.
Is that all?
I cap off the whole scouting experience by sending an email that night or the next day to my son’s principal. In the email I give the principal a formal request for next year’s teacher.
My son’s principal typically responds something like this; “We received your request and will do our best to place your child with this teacher.” Obviously, that’s no guarantee – except my son’s school has done an excellent job in the past of following through with our requests.
Attending your child’s open house has many advantages. I hope you consider attending the event as it can certainly help you and your child’s experience at school.
You can establish early communication with your child’s teacher, establish a presence at your child’s school, and feel more secure about your child’s education.
To Find Kimberly Kaplan:
www.smashwords.com or Amazon Kindle ebook “A Parents’ Guide to Early Autism Intervention”