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August 28, 2013

I often have parents ask me what they can do to help their teachers understand their children more. They say, “I don’t feel like they really know my child.” We all know that we have exceptional children with great traits, but that seems to get lost sometimes when people focus on their disability. This is why writing a letter to your teacher is important.
Sometimes called a one-pager, a letter to your child’s teachers, aides, and staff members is one of the greatest ways to let them know all about your child. This gives you an opportunity to tell all the good things about your child and show them off a little. It also lets the teacher know some of the things that your child likes so that they have something to talk to them about. You can also include things that may set your child off and cause irritation.
I’m going to include the letter that Jen wrote (with help from Konner) to give to his teachers last week. I hope that you can use this as a template, and I hope that you get to know Konner a little better because of this.
Fifteen things about me:
Hi, my name is Konner and I am in your class this year. I want you to know a little about me. I’m nervous to be in your class because it’s new and I don’t know what to expect. I need some time to adjust and then I will feel comfortable. Please don’t judge me on my first few weeks. As the time goes by, you will be amazed by the skills you never thought I possessed. I sometimes look like I don’t understand. That’s just because I don’t have the same expressions and reactions as other people. I might not look at you when you talk but that doesn’t mean I didn’t hear you. I did. In fact I usually hear more than most people. As I become familiar with your classroom I will begin to shine. A great way to speed up this process is letting me know what to expect. Written or picture schedules for the day reduce my anxiety. A five minute warning before a change of activity can help me greatly too. You are my teacher and I look up to you. I want to succeed this year but I can’t do it without your help and most importantly, your belief in me that I can do it!
1. What is my general disposition?
I go from happy to frustrated in mere seconds, so please be patient with me and in time you will be able to read me well enough to help me keep my frustrations to a minimum.
2. What am I really, really good at? I have a really good memory and I can mimic any sound with perfect pitch. I am really good with technology.
3. What do I absolutely love doing? I love to draw on my marker board and play on my iPad.
4. What do I absolutely hate doing? I hate to miss recess and lunch and MERP.
5. What academics are my strong areas? Math, reading, and spelling
6. What academics do I need a lot of extra help with? Sometimes I have trouble understanding language and I need things to be said in a different way so that I know what I am expected to do.
7. Which skills would my parents really like me to work on this year? Social skills and inappropriate behavior
8. How do you know when I’m getting frustrated? When I am frustrated I sometimes scream, jerk, repeat the same phrase over and over, fall in the floor, slam or throw things.
9. What can you do to calm me down before the storm hits? Ask me if I need to take a break or go to my safe area in the classroom, take a walk, redirect me to a different task, weighted vest.
10. Too late! The storm hit! What can you do to calm me down? Take me to an isolated area away from others and try to apply pressure by hugging tightly and wrapping in a blanket. Do not talk to me until I am calm enough to focus. When I am having a meltdown I do not understand what is going on around me or what I am doing.
11. What strategies work really well to get me to do something I don’t want to do? Reward Board, Nerds, iPad time, marker board time
12. What typically makes me laugh? Loud noises
13. What consequences backfire and don’t give the desired results? Yelling at me, corporal punishment
14. I don’t like consequences, but which consequences work well for me? Taking away my stars from my reward board, sometimes timeout from recess works
15. I would also like you to know… I love to build things on Minecraft and I want to be a computer programmer or an engineer when I grow up. I love Thomas the Train and I talk about the different engines constantly.
This was a template that Jen found online by Jene Aviram, of Natural Learning Concepts. There is a second part to this that I will try to include next week that has an article explaining children on the spectrum to teachers. I think it goes well with the letter.
There is way more to our children than a label. They are not a tag that says, “I have a disability.” They are children like others for the most part. They just have some different attributes.

Kodey Toney is a parent of a child with autism. E-mail him with questions or ideas at pervasiveparenting@hotmail.com. You also can find all columns archived at blogspot.com.

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