Autism Inside-Out

The school year is well underway so now is the time to ready myself for the annual IEP meeting.

There are several things I gather to share with the school personnel every year.

  1. Top things I want you to know about my child.

This is a document I create to share with everyone who comes in contact with my child at the school. I want to make sure everyone is on my son’s team.

The main theme and what I most want administrators, teachers, and support staff to understand is the following:

My son is an individual, he is not defined by his autism diagnosis.

This is how I start the document:

Autism stole me from my parents at 20 months of age.  I am first and foremost a child.  I have emotions like everyone else but I may show them differently than my neurotypical peers. I repeatedly talk about my favorite things when I am stressed “I hear a train” or “highway sign” or “go on the highway”.  Just repeating what I say is calming for me. I have many talents are an important part of  who I am; I have proven I can read 328 sight words; I can also count to 50.

Now I explain his skills, rein forcers and obstacles:

My fine motor skills are still a challenge.  I can trace highlighted items and sometimes dot to dot.  I have gotten better with scissors and crayons but these are still a struggle for me. I have my own laptop and have been typing on it since Christmas; I do very well on the computer.

I am getting much better at answering questions and not just using echolalia (repeating what you say to me).

I am what is called a “grazer”. I have several food and texture sensitivities and this makes eating quickly or in a noisy environment difficult for me.

I love vehicles, highways, trains, bridges.  These are often used as rein forcers and rewards for me.

I don’t assimilate well to change.  My family moved from the country to town this summer and it was a difficult transition for me especially due to the trains I can hear but not see.

Patience is still required with me vocally. It may take me several minutes to answer a question. I am much better at conversations but this is still a work in progress for me.

My left ear is completely ruptured and changes in barometric pressure can affect my hearing and behavior and sleep patterns.

Heat affects me more than my peers, I get dehydrated easily.

Please remember to distinguish between: won’t ( I choose not to ) and can’t ( I am not able to ).

I interpret language literally, and am a concrete thinker.  Slang confuses me. If you say “DUCK”  I won’t bend down to avoid a ball, I will look up for a flying duck. If you say “It’s a piece of cake” I will expect a snack of cake and start to look for it. Please just say “get down” or “it is easy to do”.

If I get distracted, normally redirection is all that is needed .  I have a large problem with over stimulation from crowds and noise.

My sensory perceptions are distorted. I use self stimulation visually and vocally, I move objects back and forth in front of my eyes and hum. This helps me to release unused energy and relieves my stress.

Because language is still difficult for me, I am very visually oriented. A visual schedule is helpful for me to learn routine. If I need help please show me how to do something, not just tell me.

Please focus on my strengths, not my weakness. Though I am not as verbal as my classmates, I understand everything and am more affected by criticism. Don’t forget that there is more than one right way to do things.

I need help with social interactions. I do not know the proper responses to many situations. I don’t read anger, menace, sadness etc. from the faces of my peers or my teachers.

Though my tantrums are becoming less frequent and less severe, please learn what triggers them and try to understand that I can’t help it.  Many think I am spoiled when I do this, but I have no other way to release what I am feeling, so sometimes I just cry and repeat things.

Unlike some children with autism, I am very loving and don’t avoid touch. But I have a very delicate nervous system and no weighted materials are to ever be used on me as it is too stressful for my nervous system it can cause me to pass out.

Recess could be a problem, as I am prone to running without paying attention and I don’t always stop when my name is called. My parents are especially concerned with the fact that older children play with younger ones and I don’t understand when I am in harms way, whether from a vehicle, adult or schoolmate.

As with most kids with autism, potty training has been difficult for me, I worked very hard this summer and I am totally potty trained.  I have learned when I need to go and it may be in the middle of something important so please use patience and allow me to go when needed as I just learned these important signs from my body and I am still adjusting, I may speak out in not so appropriate ways that I have to poop or pee on the potty. We have really been working on quietly letting someone know these times but it is still a work in progress. Thank you for learning about me.

Kaden Lee Linderman

I update this every six months and make copies to distribute to all school employees who could come in contact with my child. This includes janitors, secretaries and lunch room personnel even though I always prepare his lunch.

I have found by doing this not only do we help the entire school become part of our team but it also raises awareness and can make the entire school process go much more smoothly. The more people who understand what your child goes through in the school environmentthe better the chances are that you’ll avoid stressful situations for the school and your child.

This edition is a couple of years old, I will be updating it in the upcoming weeks to be shared at his annual IEP. If your child is starting school for the first time you need this to accompany him/her on the first day, or if at all possible before school starts. This will give everyone a proper introduction to your child.

2. My next step to ready myself for the annual meeting is to go over last year’s IEP- goals and updates and make a list of how I feel my child has progressed over the summer break. It is a good idea to contact your IEP team before the meeting is scheduled to discuss “where” your child is, give your input on the goals you would like to have added and give feedback on the goals they have in mind.

3. Typically I always send rein forcers from home, things I feel with be beneficial reward options for them to utilize with my child. You can do this at very little cost by utilizing dollar stores, sales and printing off pictures instead of paying for premade options.

4. Communicate with your school; we use a communication notebook to keep our child’s aide up to speed. You don’t have to write a novel, just be sure to give updates daily so the school is aware of emotions, situations, and timely subjects. Our child’s aide updates us daily on how his day went, advises us of any questions or concerns and lets us know if they need anything from us.

5. I always try to share resources with the school. Sending a copy of The Autism File magazine is a great way to help the school stay informed on the world of autism, better yet, get a gift subscription for those who you feel would benefit from it.  I share books, therapy items, and relevant DVDs. Additionally; I always keep them up to date on his health.(Without going into details of his current treatment of course)  The school needs to be aware of allergies and sensitivities as well.

I hope you found some helpful tools to optimize your upcoming IEP meetings. I would love to hear any tips or suggestions you would like to share that have worked for you with your school.


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