1) Ensure that you have given the teacher a complete change of clothing for your child. Many autistic children have sensory issues and would have a hard time coping if something spills on them and they are unable to change.
2) See if you can find some foods that have long shelf lives, and keep them as a back-up lunch. My son does not like school lunches and has panicked before when I forgot his lunch in the morning (I know, bad Mommy award). He likes trail mix and juice boxes, both of which stay good for a few months. So, now I have a back up “lunch” in his back pack, just in case I forget his lunch, or he doesn’t like what is in it.
3) Make a list of things that upset your child and send them into the school. Although special needs teachers have extra training, they may not have had special training for autistic children. Or, there may be a teacher’s assistant or a bus monitor that has received no special training with autistic children and doesn’t understand your child’s needs. It is always better to have a list that mentions things like, my child will become upset if you touch their stuff without asking, so the adults are aware of your child’s needs.
4) Make a list of all of the things that your child loves and give it to the teacher. Include all the little things, like bouncing a ball against the wall. The school will have you fill out many, many forms and more than one of these forms will ask for this information. You will be better off having a list that you can reference on your computer at home as this list can grow and develop over time.
5) Have the teachers send a list home of all of the “rules” of the school. These rules should include things like:
a. Don’t chew gum in school.
b. No cell phones.
c. No hand held computer games.
d. No special blankets or stuffed animals.
e. The child should not try to leave the room without having an adult go with them.
f. The child should not stand up without raising their hand.
These rules are important to know so that you don’t send your child into a situation where you have told them “don’t lose this!” and then they have a teacher’s assistant try to take it away. You would be amazed at the number of rules these school’s have – and your child will probably have a hard time communicating with them to explain their point of view. Then they may become intimidated and cry. Put in writing a letter to the school explaining to them an autistic child’s difficulty with communicating and the need for you to have all of their rules in writing. Also, request that the rules that impact your child are not changed without first discussing the changes with you. Review all the rules with your child at home.
6) Understand the power of the IEP. If your child does not have an IEP, request one. If you feel that your child has a need that is not being meet, request an extra IEP meeting. If the meeting doesn’t go the way you would like, search the Internet for special needs parents support groups in your area. There are many non-profit groups set up to help the parents navigate the special needs system … you want to find one and work with someone at this charitable organization that also has a special needs child of their own. Think of them as a mentor, as a guide to finding out what programs are available for your child.
7) Try to bring cookies or pastries to meetings that you have with the teachers. If they do something nice, be certain to send a thank you note. Although you may need to push the school to make proper accommodations for your child, you want to stay on a really positive ground with the people that deal directly with your child. Since your child may have a hard time communicating with them, you want to make certain that you communicate really well with them.
The factor that will have the greatest influence on your child's comfort will be your ability to communicate with the teachers at the school. It is really good for you to be on the same page with them, even from before the time you enroll your child in the school program. Please look at my post Sensory Deprivation for some important questions to ask before you choose a school for your child.