Parenting a Speaking Autistic ChildOct 17, 2022
Parenting a Speaking Autistic Child Blog Series
There is a community that is growing in the Autistic community- speaking Autistic children. This group may have been considered high functioning before or Asperger’s but now all children with an autism diagnosis fall under the term Autism in the DSM V. Resources can be limited and as many parents experience and there are specific struggles to raising a speaking autistic child.
This blog series will begin to shed light on some of the specific concerns of parents with speaking autistic children and tips to help. My parenting community, Parenting with Letters, is a group of parents dedicated to normalizing raising children with the diagnosis.
How common is Autism?
In 2021, the CDC reported that approximately 1 in 44 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to 2018 data. (autismspeaks.org)
- 1 in 27 boys identified with autism
- 1 in 116 girls identified with autism
- 31% of children with ASD have an intellectual disability (intelligence quotient [IQ] <70), 25% are in the borderline range (IQ 71–85), and 44% have IQ scores in the average to above average range (i.e., IQ >85).
More than half of the children diagnosed with autism are speaking with average to above-average intelligence. They struggle with social skills and repetitive behaviors. Their strengths are numerous and help support their functioning at home, school, and in the community. The number of diagnosed children is growing as more doctors, teachers, and parents are learning to recognize the early signs of autism.
Let’s Focus on School
Educators can understand autism when it is a nonverbal, flapping child who is in special education. But what about your “they look normal” autistic child? Many concerns in the classroom arise during recess, specials, and even academic times.
What does autism look like in the classroom? The preschooler has sensory overload when we put on the Fundations theme songs and runs out of the room. The elementary student has a difficult time when others are not following the rules of four square at recess. The middle school student who is not understanding why we have to complete homework, a task they find infringing on their spare time. The high school student refuses to change for gym class due to how the gym uniform feels. The student who completes all their work is socially engaging with peers and loves theater. Yes, differences are what make autism a spectrum disorder. There is no one "look" to an autistic student.
Discipline versus Assistance
Often the everyday differences autistic students present are met with discipline or teachers not understanding why they need accommodations. They are “smart students but they are just not motivated”. Nope, not it. They are smart students and they are autistic. Autism in the classroom presents in different ways for different students. For example, many students will not ask for help and will shut down instead of asking the teacher for help. A social deficit that shows up in the classroom setting.
We have to train educators that autistic students struggle with social moments throughout the day. For example, the annoyance of a neighbor talking in class could cause a student so much distress that they stop completing their work. Now they are in trouble for not completing their work and instead of telling on the other student (awkward social moment), they will get in trouble. The internal frustration will bother them and internally upset them that a week later they lash out at the student in class with no provoking moment. Discipline is now the only option for schools. We have to change this.
Many autistic students are average to above-average intelligence and may perform well in academic settings. Some students benefit from an Individual Education Plan (IEP) when they qualify for special education and others benefit from a 504 plan when their disability is impacting academics but they do not qualify for special education. Many students are able to navigate school without a formal school plan in place. Review your school district's websites to determine which level of support is best for your student.
Academic Strengths and Challenges
In working with hundreds of autistic students, what I have found to be interesting is the love for math, organization, and lists. Some students may excel in Math and Science and loathe English and Writing. Or it can be the opposite. The goal is to find out which subjects your student excels in and why. We can help to support the areas of weakness by putting in some specific strategies.
Visual Supports- Students can benefit from visual supports not just in elementary school. The college student who can use a calendar on their dorm room wall to help manage assignments can now get work turned in on time. Visual aids including checklists for chores, daily routines, and for homework can help students stay organized. Executive functioning skills are an area that many autistic students need additional support with as they transition into school.
Notes ahead of time- Subjects that require a lot of writing like English, Language Arts, History or Science can be a challenge for a student who is trying to take in notes, listen to the teacher’s words, block out the interfering noises around them, and feeling the touch of their clothes on their skin- overload. Giving students notes ahead of time can be a tremendous help in the classroom.
Limiting non-major assessments. Autistic students often do not like senseless homework or assignments that are not major grades. By high school, many students have figured out what assignments they need to complete to pass or to keep their grades- and that is all they are doing. They would prefer to complete major assessment assignments like exams or projects versus redundant daily homework assignments.
Be aware of time- Many would love to have education time in the classroom sped up so that they can enjoy their interests. “school takes too long” “school is boring” and “school is like a job- 30 hours a week”. Be mindful that your student would prefer to have downtime or relaxation time because school and social demands daily are exhausting.
Homework in school. Students who can complete work in school including homework often feel relieved when they come home. The afternoon is already hard because there is a need to unwind from masking all day and “holding it together”. Homework demands can be tough as an autistic student may not value the idea of “more work when we are not in school”. Encourage your student to use study halls or time in school to get homework completed. You can also set timers to work in 10-15 minute intervals on assignments. Make sure to support the idea of “you have more time to relax than it takes to complete homework.”
It is not easy navigating the school system and academic needs when you have an autistic student. We will continue to explore in this blog series the challenges and strengths of parenting a speaking autistic child.
Check out my resources including our parenting group Parenting with Letters at www.drstacyhayneslpc.com
Check out The Neurodivergent Universe Series, Josh the Neurodivergent Student and Marcus the Neurodivergent Gamer- books helping autistic students navigate their day with daily missions and strategies on Amazon
Get Dr. Stacy's Free Back to School Guide Join Our Email List for More Free Resources
Stay connected with news and updates!
Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.
We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.