Autism and Academics: What Every Parent Needs to Know


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Any parent with a school-aged child knows that both classroom issues and homework can often be overwhelming for students. And no one knows that better than the parents of a child with autism. Not only do autistic students have an academic curriculum, but they have a social curriculum which is every bit as demanding and exhausting. Deciphering a myriad of social cues, making incessant transitions, contending with sensory input – it’s a day’s work in itself. Is it any wonder that they balk when it’s time to hit the books at home? 

Parents, take heart. Accomodating for a child with autism is their legal right. 

Extensions on due dates and taking a class pass/fail instead of having a letter grade can be very helpful in easing the stress and anxiety that are commonly associated with academics. If your child is dyslexic as many with autism are, proper spelling should not impact his or her grade. If writing out ideas is particularly odious or poor penmanship associated with fine motor skills is a problem, your child can have a scribe. 

Additionally, accomplishing assignments in short bursts with breaks in between can relieve the stress of a long assignment. 

The renowned autism expert, Dr. Tony Attwood, has written extensively on the subject of homework and academics for autistics in his books and articles. After invoking his sage advice that autistics work no more than thirty minutes a night on school work, one teacher let me initial my son’s homework after a half-hour spent, then considered him done. 

In the classroom, many useful ideas can be written into an IEP such as using a keyboard instead of taking notes longhand, having a calculator, learning math with computer software instead of in a group, and creating a cozy corner with pillows and books for the over-stimulated youngster to retreat to.

Listening to an iPod is helpful as well if your child is soothed by music. Middle and high school students can be dismissed five minutes early from class to avoid the crush of humanity in the halls and be given time during the day to do their homework at school.

You know your child best. Give free expression to your ideas about what would enhance their learning experience, then work to have them implemented.

Improvement in the quality of your child’s educational life through your efforts, on their behalf, is a profoundly gratifying experience and something that should not be overlooked.

2 Responses to Autism and Academics: What Every Parent Needs to Know

  1. Jeff W says:

    Nice post Susan. We’ve had nights where homework stretched for hours. Fortunately, our teachers have been great about modifying homework but we did it during the IEP which is why we always recommend IEPs early in the school year like October so it sets a precedent for the year with the new teacher. Dismissing kids early to avoid the “crush” is spot on.

  2. Susan says:

    Thanks for the comment. Scheduling the IEP early in the year is an excellent point!

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Did You Know?

  • * In 1970, Autism affected 1 out of 10,000 children
  • * Autism now affects 1 out of 88 children
  • * Autism affects 1 in 54 boys
  • * 1.7 million Americans have some form of autism
  • * 4 out of 5 autistic children are boys

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