“One in 68 U.S. children has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a 30% increase from 1 in 88 two years ago,” said CNN. This means more people have a form of Autism yet less people know how to help, especially in schools.
We wanted to explore the idea of how autistic children are personally affected in school, so we talked to parents with non-neurotypical children. Our first question was “ How does autism affect your child’s school life and education?” Angie Moore, the mother of Noah, replied by saying, “ It affects my child’s school life and education, in that from the time he was about 2 and a half he has been in speech therapy as well as occupational therapy *which builds his motor skills like writing*, so we are working as a team to get him ready for preschool ,where he will need an IEP in place so he can get the extra help he needs.” Arielle Kiss, mother of Skyler, said, “We went from a 504 plan, to an IEP, to increasing accommodations on the IEP, and finally this year we put her in a school specializing in autism.” In fifth grade, skyler struggled the most with retaining information that was taught in class, which resulted in homework taking six to seven hours, but, with her new school that specializes in autism she learns at her own pace now, and does much better.
Parents and children are affected by this in many ways. What makes everyday life different from Neurotypical children? Arielle Kiss said, “She needs to know her schedule. Hiccups and alterations will cause severe behavioral issues. And once she gets to that point, the day is over. She has the mentality of someone closer to 7 or 8 instead of almost 12.” Sometimes Skyler has hard times brushing her teeth and keeping her shirt on the correct way, other times she can get very frustrated and injure herself. Skyler went through 3 to 4 grades with no eyebrows, no eyelashes, and nearly no fingernails. Angie Moore also said, “ Everything is different. Not bad different, just something that needs adjusting to.” Adding that even something simple for neurotypical people like ,going into the grocery store is difficult. Children with autism can go into sensory overload and be affected by lights, sounds and crowds of people.
Lastly, we asked what social skills does your child struggle with? Angie Moore said that therapy helped when he would isolate himself. Also, therapy helped him handle social gatherings so he wouldn’t feel overwhelmed. Adding “Autism isn’t bad it’s just a different way of seeing and learning.” Arielle Kiss said that Skyler struggles with all of the social skills, she wants friends but not the “unpleasant stuff that comes with being a friend – doing what they want not what you want, compromising, etc.”
Families, staff, and classmates are all affected by autism, but in different ways and not always negatively. Courntney Brodkorb, a Health Services Coordination nurse (HSC), said, “I have done this job for 11 years. There are days that are harder than others, but I love helping people, especially those who can’t always help themselves.” Adding “I consider them more like family than patients, they are people just like us.”