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The Do's and Donts of Mainstreaming Your Child with Autism

Editor Katelin Walling spoke with author Barbara Boroson of "Autism Spectrum Disorders in the Mainstream Classroom: How to Reach and Teach Students With ASDs" to get advice for parents about how to mainstream their child with autism.
autism spectrum disorder book by barbara boroson

Author Barbara Boroson of "Autism Spectrum Disorders in the Mainstream Classroom" is a social worker, educational consultant, and mother of two--one of her children is on the autism spectrum, and she offers advice for how parents on how to go about mainstreaming their child with autism.


DO: Be a respectful advocate for your child. As a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, you probably have some great resources. If you want to share some of them with your child’s teacher, approach him or her "with an attitude of: I know my child is challenging, and you are going to have your work cut out for you. But I found this great book, and it has helped me and other teachers. If you think it would help you I am happy to give you my copy," Boroson says. "As long as a parent presents it as, Hey, we are in this together, it tends to be well received. In other words, you want to start the relationship off saying, 'I am going to be respectful of [you and] your time, but we need to make certain accommodations for my child.'"

DO: Support your child’s efforts at socialization. “Across the board, [socialization] will be the greatest challenge,” Boroson says. If you have the means, Boroson suggests getting your child into a social support group. Alternatively, see if your child’s teacher is willing to organize a small group of kids who eat lunch and play together during recess a few days a week.

DO: Role-play different social situations. Boroson suggests that parents act out different situations with their child so that he or she can learn the appropriate way to act. For example, the playground can be especially hard for children on the spectrum because "you are essentially throwing hundreds of kids out there with no structure [and] with more sensory stimulations," Boroson says. Swings are the easiest for a child on the spectrum to deal with because they are predictable and solitary, but it may be hard for the child to recognize that other children are waiting for a turn. Parents can act out this situation—and others—with their children so that the children can practice these behaviors.


DON’T: Expect teachers to rearrange their class and schedule. At home, your family may be enabling certain behaviors of your child on the spectrum. Teachers will have to be accommodating, but they can’t be expected to change everything about their classroom to meet the needs of one child. Teachers want to be fair to all the children in the class, so Boroson suggests that you ask the teacher to "tell [your] child ahead of time that she can’t go first, for example. Tell her that she is going 12th so she can expect that. That might help her wait."

DON’T: Automatically be on the defensive. One of the hardest things for parents to hear during parent-teacher meetings is if the child is struggling. “I think that parents can tend to get defensive when the teacher talks about how much the child is struggling at school,” Boroson says. “Having been on both sides of that conversation, being both the parent and the professional, I know how hard that can be.” Boroson says parents need to remember that the teacher is only reporting what he or she observes in the classroom, not negating the parents’ own experience at home.

DON’T: Be surprised if the teacher describes your child differently than you do. “Home is less stimulating [than school] in a lot of ways. Schools have fluorescent lighting, which can be overstimulating to kids on the spectrum. Home is quieter, cozier, more familiar, and has fewer transitions,” Boroson says. "The school day is loaded with transitions, so there are a lot of reasons why a child may be functioning differently at school than home." School is closer to “real world functioning” for your child, so understand that the teacher is seeing your child in a different situation than you normally do.


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Katelin Walling

Author: Katelin Walling is the former editorial director for NYMetroParents. She has been writing about parenting, health, finance, education, fun things to do in NYC and the surrounding area, and more for nearly 10 years. She also has 20+ years of child care experience and was a babysitter in NYC for 8 years. Katelin graduated from the University of Maine in 2011 and attended the NYU Summer Publishing Institute during the summer of 2011. To unplug in her free time, she can often be found reading, knitting (or general crafting), or whipping up a vegan treat—all with a cup of coffee nearby. See More

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