It Is Scary When Your Autistic Child Is Getting a New Teacher!
Good Teachers are Hard to Find
When your child has autism, changing schools or advancing to the next grade can be challenging because of the change in teachers. In my situation, my son is in the day program at his elementary school, which has a special needs classroom with multiple grade levels together.
His classroom has a main teacher and several aides. When it comes to the main teacher, it's hard to find one who you feel really "gets" your child. There is a certain level of understanding and patience that every special needs child requires. Those levels are different for each child, and a teacher who can adjust her teaching to match each child's needs is a keeper!
I found that in my son's teacher. She obtained the perfect level of stern yet lenient, and she stuck to her guns—which is a good thing when your child will try getting away with whatever whenever he can. She made each child feel as though they could harness their individuality and use it to succeed in whatever task they set before themselves.
Reef and his Teacher
The Dreaded Information
We recently found out that my son's teacher was moving out of state. I was shocked and saddened to say the least to get the news. There were so many thoughts and emotions going through my head all at once:
- Who would be the new teacher?
- Would the new teacher be able to handle his needs as well as her?
- How would this massive change affect his progress in school?
I wanted the answer to all of these questions immediately because I was driving myself insane.
At the end of a school year, most parents expect that their child will get a new teacher in the coming year, and they also expect that they won't know who that new teacher will be until right before school starts. When I found out the news about my son's teacher, it was the beginning of summer break. I was a nervous wreck. I couldn't wait to find out who the new teacher would be and have a chance to talk to him or her. I wanted to to explain a few things in order to facilitate a smooth transition.
Ready For School!
Awaiting the Information
An autistic child can range from needing very minimal support and supervision to needing so much that it is hard for an untrained teacher with minimal experience to handle. My son falls into the latter category, since he is non-verbal.
As a parent, you feel the need to explain in detail the needs of your child and his/her quirks, if you will. It is all in an effort to help the teacher deal with the challenges they will face with your child. The kicker is that your child is not the only one who has special needs within the classroom, so you can only expect so much.
As a autism parent, you constantly worry. You worry about them when they are in daycare, if you were able to find a daycare you trust that is. Is the provider you chose able to cope with the outbursts or the consistent needs that the other children do not require? You don't want them riding the bus home from school in case there is a sub one day and he/she gets off at the wrong stop. You worry about lunch time—are they eating? The last thing you want to worry about is are they being treated fairly by their teacher and is the teacher up to the task.
So yeah, I find it hard and scary when my son is going to have a new teacher. It is worrisome and stressful. You have to have faith in your school district that they will choose the right replacement, and the worry will not end until the first year is up.
You can advise and give information to the new teacher about your child as much as possible, and I'm sure it does help. But you have to try and relax, do as much as you can from home to make the transition easier, and believe that they will be okay. They might even surprise you and adjust to the change better than expected.
They key is to not stress to much if possible before school starts! I try to make a list of things I would like to the new teacher to know and add information throughout the school year. When it comes to change, autistic children do not take it very well—so we as parents need to be strong and do what we can to help. At least that's what I keep telling myself!
The Future Might Not Be So Scary
My advice to other autism parents out there is to please stay calm! I know it can be a stressful time, not only for your child but also for you. Work with the new teacher as a teammate, and maybe the outcome will be better than expected. You may even find a teacher who is just like your old one, and maybe they will help your child succeed in ways your never knew possible. Chin up and eyes forward—you never know what the future holds!