School days are about to begin

School has been out for more than two months now. Throughout the summer months, the students have been at home often without much structure or concern for time.

For those with ASD (autism spectrum disorder), summertime becomes a real challenge. Moving from summer days to school days is another one. Now is the time to start preparing for the school year.

1: Organize your child’s school clothes. Most elementary and all middle schools use uniforms. For sensory sensitive children wash them several times before usage. If they don’t use uniforms, limit your child’s outfits to no more than two choices for each school day. Ideally they will pick them out the previous night.

2: Set alarm clocks to your school’s schedule. Practice the morning routine well before the first day of school. Drive by the campus and practice going into the building. The campuses are open in early August. Make sure your child is registered at his or her school before school begins.

3: Look at your child’s IEP (individual education plan). Check his “Schedule of Services.” Is he or she receiving any resource classes, inclusion services or self-contained programs? How many minutes of assistance does your child have for each special program? Does your child receive occupational or speech therapy. How many times a month does he receive services and how long are the sessions?

For example, a child with moderate to severe autism will have a similar core program like a general education child.

However, the day may be entirely in a self-contained special education classroom with some general education classes like music and library. The child’s schedule may also include a few days a week of adapted physical education, with once a week speech, occupational therapy and physical therapy.

Children with mild autism sometimes receive resource classes for language arts and math along with speech therapy. Some special education students with mild disabilities including autism may only have speech, occupational therapy and or physical therapy. They may have inclusion support in the general education classrooms.

Understand the number of days a service is given and the amount of time. Verify that school staff is abiding by what is on the IEP. Special transportation may also be available for your child. Your IEP includes that information as well. Call your school to meet with the head of special education for your campus if you have unanswered questions. If you feel a campus is not answering your questions, contact special services in your district for additional information.

4: Understand your child’s goals and objectives actually say. For example, if an objective says: “The student will be able to write his name,” it doesn’t really tell you the full story. Is he writing his name with hand over hand assistance, copying his name, needing verbal directions or can he do this action independently? Can the child write his name correctly 1 out of 2 times or 9 out of 10 tries by the end of his annual ARD meeting?

A goal and objective should include the time period, ability level and accuracy level. Ideally, the objective for a developing child might say: “The student will write his first and last name independently 100 percent of the time by the end of the 36 week period or annual ARD.

The data collected may be reflected within a 6- or 9-week grading period, depending on the school attended. Remember, as a parent, you always have the right to call a parent/teacher meeting or a special ARD to discuss your child’s needs.

Pamela Downing, a special education teacher, can be contacted at