15. Not Wanting To Come To School

My son, who has autism, simply did not want to leave our home to attend school. Teachers were gentle and compassionate in dealing with the separation each day. Our solution was that we just had to pick our battles. Sometimes you have day that it is just not worth it. Communication with the school is critical.

16. Frustration Issues

Our child breaks down and cries when frustrated. Teachers, year after year, had coddled our son even after we had asked that they not coddle him or allow the crying in the classroom. We met with his teachers when he was eight or nine and instructed them to be aware of the signs that he was getting close to having a meltdown and offer him some time to pull himself together. We also asked the teacher to hold him accountable for his behavior in the classroom. We let the teacher know that he was not allowed to act out in that way at home. The teacher last year was great. She would simply hand him a box of tissues and say, “When you are done, we will continue.” We recognized that the teacher was compassionate and wanted to show sensitivity to her student who was extremely frustrated. As parents, we understood that we needed to give the teacher permission to “not coddle.”

The parent went on to say: “If we continue just to allow him to do that, he will be a twenty year old breaking down and crying every time he gets upset and frustrated. So, at home, we tell him, “That is not acceptable. . . Suck it up.” We told our child’s teacher we did not expect that particular wording to be used as school. We wanted the teacher to know how we dealt with the crying at home.

Our son came home a couple of weeks ago and was upset because somebody had called him a baby. And I said, “Why did they call you a baby?” He had been crying in class. I asked him to put himself in their place. If one of your friends from class was crying every day, would you think he was a baby? He agreed that he would. So that is what our son was showing them when he breaks down and cries in class. He finally understood how it looked to other people. I would recommend classroom teachers use that method with their students who have behavior problems. Ask them to consider how they would feel and what they would think if one of their classmates behaved inappropriately.

17. Obsessing Over Time

Our son was afraid he was going to be late for class. He would ask repeatedly, “What time is it? What time is it? What time is it?” He is in 7th grade now and this was in the earlier years. Before he could actually tell time, he was concerned about it. The teachers in some grades determined it would be better to let him have a clock once he started learning how to tell time. They would tell him, “OK, you can be in charge of that part of the class.”

As he got a little older, he became overly obsessed with it. So, one year, we had to totally take the clock out of the classroom. The teacher told him, “We are not going to have a clock for you to keep staring at and saying ‘We are going to be late.’”

And that worked out well, too. I mean, sometimes, with the Autism, it can go, it can flex back and forth on what the solution can be. Each teacher must see what works with each child and with what year. It depends on the maturity level.

18. Meltdowns

Our child had problems expressing himself. He could not communicate what his needs were. He would throw fits on the floor as if he were a two year old. He continued to have fits up through 7th grade. Our son’s teacher recognized that he really enjoyed comics. There are software packages that allow a student to create their own comics. Our son was able to develop his own passes on the computer. He made Spiderman passes. If he felt like he was becoming frustrated because he did not know how to verbally tell the teachers “I am getting frustrated, I don’t know what you are talking about,” and he felt as though he was going to meltdown he was allowed to tell the teacher, “I am going to use my pass.” He would then go to speak to the principal or whoever was available to help him calm down. That was something that worked really well with him.

19. Throwing Fits

Our child has Asperger’s. He would start pulling his hair and start jabbing the pencil and all that kind of stuff. At home, we would say, “OK, let’s just skip that one. Let’s go to another one. Let’s put that one aside for a bit.” Sometimes he might even need to take a break, go do something else for a few minutes. That seems to work pretty well. They do that at school and they say he is pretty good at giving himself a time out when he needs one. If he gets overworked, he will get up and get a drink of water or something like that.

20. Inflexibility

Our child had a hard time with any sort of flexibility. He was very much into sticking to a routine. You know, school starts at 7:30, we have math at 8, we have reading at 9, we have lunch at 11, you know. If there was any interruption in the routine it challenges him. If the classroom teacher were to say, “Today we are doing reading at 8 and Math at 9,” that would just freak him out. He would be lost for the rest of the day and would not be able to focus on what was going on. I had to go to his teachers, especially in first grade and second grade and say, “You know, look, if there is going to be any interruption in the routine, let him know. Give him a little head’s up but, please, don’t be too obvious about it. Just very subtly, tell him, hey, we are going to do this a little bit differently. If you know you are going to be out tomorrow, let him know, hey, there is going to be a sub tomorrow.” This method has worked well for us.

21. Circumstances that Trigger Negative Behavior

It has been helpful for our child’s classroom teacher to be aware of circumstances in the classroom that bring on negative behavior. We have been proactive in disclosing information to the classroom teachers when we think challenging situations may arise and the teachers have been good about keeping us informed of new triggers they have found with our child. We call this “setting them up for success.” We have also requested that our child’s classroom teacher exercise a balance of praise and demand. Praise for performing better than he performed before and still demanding that he try to do even better. By demanding we mean pushing him to the next level. This is where close communication between parents and classroom teachers is so important. The praise is usually easy for the child with disabilities to hear. Demanding that they try hard and reach a higher level is harder for some children to hear and may trigger negative behaviors. Knowing what the parents expect their child to do makes all the difference. If a parent wants their child with a special need to be pressed for higher levels of performance, then a classroom teacher will need to be aware of the parents’ expectations.

22. Obstinate Student

Our child would go to school and go right to work one day and then go to school the next day and refuse to start any task. On another day, she might stop mid-way through her work. The solution was to become familiar with staff and express expectations of completion. Also, find a way to communicate the events of the day on a daily basis: e-mail, communication book, phone calls. Rewards were withheld at school. Make certain that all the teachers knew that daily communication was expected and less than adequate behavior was being addressed at home by parents.

23. Trouble Transitioning

Our son had difficulty transitioning from one center to the next. The teacher offered a picture schedule which eased the problem.

24. Trouble Getting Started

Our son couldn’t get his work started, so the teacher made a start chart with the word “start” and the time and name of each task following.

25. Progressing with Work

Our daughter’s school initiated a system whereby her work was done in order and initialed by the classroom teacher when it was completed appropriately. She earned free time and school currency. It was a form of Positive Behavior Support (PBS).