This site offers tips, ideas, and strategies for bringing Applied Behavior Analysis into natural contexts to support children and adults with autism spectrum disorders and related disabilities.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Home Support Instead of Homework!
I have not raised a child with autism, but I have worked in enough homes of families raising children with autism to know that it is not easy. Sometimes just getting through a day is all that can be expected when parents are dealing with challenging behaviors that result from impairments in communication, social interaction, sensory processing problems, disengagement, need for sameness, sleep problems, food allergies, reactions to medication, emotional regulation difficulties, etc. School teachers often view parent-teacher collaboration as teachers telling parents what academic skills they should be working on at home. While that may be just fine for typically developing kids or kids with mild disabilities, some kids with autism present such an overwhelming variety of challenges to families that working on academic skills is not the first task on the list. Of course, there are some families of children with autism who do not deal with such great behavioral challenges, and they can certainly focus on teaching academic skills as part of their daily activities with their child. However, if families are in crisis or are struggling just to get through each day, teachers need to view parent-teacher collaboration very differently. Instead of having the mindset of "Here's what you need to do to support the work we do in school," teachers should be asking, "Is there anything you are working on at home that I can help you with?" Effective special education teachers have a skill set that they can share with parents to help them achieve their goals at home. Of course, this cannot be accomplished by one parent-teacher conference with teachers just telling parents what to do. Instead, teachers need to more of a coach to parents as they are working on a specific goal with regular communication and ongoing feedback and support. This doesn't necessarily mean that teachers have to go to the home of all of their students (although, that can be helpful at times). Parents can bring video clips to a conference for teachers to view for purposes of problem solving together. The parent-teacher notebook can be used for teachers to say something such as, "How is it going with the bedtime routine?" instead of saying, "Aaron did not have a good day. He refused to work and was aggressive." Teachers need to understand that autism is a lifelong disability that effects the child and the family across all home, school, and community contexts. These families need support in learning how to effectively support the development of their child and how to manage challenges that arise. While this is the main focus of early intervention services, the problem is that early intervention programs do not serve families after the child turns three (in most states). In many cases, the family only receives early intervention services for six months by the time their child gets diagnosed and goes through the assessment processes. Six months (or even two years) is not enough time for families to learn all they need to know about raising and supporting a child with autism. In my "Pollyanna" world teachers in the public school system would continue the supports to families in a similar fashion as early intervention providers. It doesn't necessarily take a great deal more time, just a different use of time and a new outlook on parent support.