Teacher Professor

August 24, 2010

Different- But the Same

Filed under: Autism,Schools — Teacher Professor @ 7:44 pm

I have this wonderful and unique opportunity to talk to teachers of children with autism about working with parents of children with autism- how to talk with them, help them, and work through being caught between the large school system bureaucracy and the needs of the child.  I’m going to start with the “official” language- that is found in textbooks, and talk about how that translates into reality- for parents and for them. 

Professional- Delayed and impaired language acquisition and usage

  • Parent – Hearing “I love you, Mommy,” once and not again for two years
  • Teacher – Multiple children screaming in class

Professional- Impaired social interactions

  • Parent –  Not having your child go to birthday parties, or if she does, being the only parent who can’t leave because your child needs you
  • Teacher–  Physical altercations- or teaching them why punching is not a way to say “Hello”

Professional- A spectrum disorder

  • Parent – Meeting another child with autism who is ahead of  grade level and your child cannot even talk
  • Teacher– Having 15 children all on individual plans all with different goals- all at the same time

Professional- A neurological disorder

  • Parent – Results that involve multiple doctors who never talk to each other, nor translate, but you’re still expected to make instant decisions- and good luck to you if you make a decision that conflicts with their professional opinion
  • Teacher– Results that involve multiple doctors who never talk to you, nor translate, but you’re still expected to know everything about their field of specialty and apply it to the classroom- with no money.

Professional- May exhibit sensory-seeking or sensory-defensive behaviors

  • Parent – Not being able to hold your child’s hand without a major meltdown, but having to stop and smell every seashell on the beach
  • Teacher– 15 children who are all putting pencils in their mouths or one who needs it quiet while another one needs rhythmic rocking

Professional- Exhibits a range of abilities

  • Parent – Hearing so many times, “Oh, like Rainman?”
  • Teacher–Trying to teach one child algebra while teaching another the letter “A”

Professional- Irritable and impulsive

  • Parent – Having your child scream at the top of their lungs in a rage that is so severe that words cannot find them, or a cold shower stop them- for 2.5 hours
  • Teacher– Never having a day be calm; watching the door like a hawk, so that your runner doesn’t leave and then having your “Sweet one” start throwing chairs

Professional- Exhibits repetitive behaviors

  • Parent – Watching “Matilda” 18 times in 10 days
  • Teacher– Having a child ask you- every single day- “What time is lunch?”

Professional- Fascination with self

  • Parent – Not being potty-trained at the age of 6 because she is so interested in her own poop
  • Teacher– Trying to keep 15 children to keep their hands to themselves, but not on themselves

Professional- Delayed Development

  • Parent –  Celebrating a child’s use of “more” sign language- at the age of 5.
  • Teacher– Having social stories using Clifford the Big Red Dog for 7th graders

Professional-Misunderstood or mysterious

  • Parent –  Having strangers back away and speak to your child in shorter, louder sentences when you tell them she has autism; loving him and you want to understand
  • Teacher – Having other teachers whisper around you- that you’re the “autistic teacher” and refuse to let your kids into their classes; loving him and you want to understand

Professional-Restricted in their interests

  • Parent – Talking about nothing but Legos, even during a funeral
  • Teacher – Talking about nothing but Legos during a fire drill or an assembly

Professional-Difficulty understanding nonverbal communication

  • Parent – Does not look you in the face, blank look when you smile at him
  • Teacher – Not understanding the finger to the lips of the lunchroom assistant and getting in trouble every single day

Professional- Typical physical development

  • Parent – Discovering masturbation as a pleasure-seeking strategy at the age of 12 ; not fitting on the playground equipment or in diapers
  • Teacher – Wanting to play with the little kids when they’re 12

Professional- Unknown in causation

  • Parent – Blaming yourself, your mother-in-law, the tuna you ate during pregnancy, the immunizations you approved; Trying something- anything- diet, vitamins, magnets…. Not knowing if what you’re doing is going to help, but believing that it has to.
  • Teacher–  Having three kids on three different diets;  Not knowing if what you’re doing is going to help, but believing that it has to.

Professional- May requires special education

  • Parent – Please help my child be the very best that they can be; please help them cope with this… Please do everything
  • Teacher–I know a lot of strategies, but I need your help.  I can’t do everything


  1. Thank you for posting this. You must be inside my head as the parent and as a former teacher. This was very insightful.

    Comment by Christy — August 26, 2010 @ 3:38 pm | Reply

  2. […] did a presentation to special education teachers last Friday, which if I might brag just a little (ahem), was […]

    Pingback by You’re Not in the Club « Professor Mother Blog — September 15, 2010 @ 1:07 pm | Reply

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