My own son is on the autism spectrum, so I can help you know what to do if you have a preschooler with autism in your class. In this post I’ll share my personal account of my own son’s testing for autism and how you can help parents who may be facing the same thing.
When my son was 3 ½ years old, something just clicked in him and I started to notice that he just wasn’t like the other children. I had taught over 1,000 children in the time since I’d owned my preschool and none of them had had the behaviors I was noticing in my son.
Thinking it was just a phase, I thought he would outgrow it. Six months went by, then another six months, and he wasn’t outgrowing it. He started school, but the behaviors weren’t going away. He basically had an inability to attend school.
Because of my years of teaching I thought I knew how to handle it, so I did my own research. I looked up the symptoms of autism—check, check, check, check…no, no, no… Asperger’s—check, check, no, check, check, no, no, no… And the pattern kept repeating itself for several other possible diagnoses. Some of the symptoms, but not all of them, and some of the ones he didn’t have were the major ones. I was getting nowhere.
At the time of this writing, my son is now 7 years old and I just recently had him tested. I don’t yet have the results, but I suspect he will be somewhere on the autism spectrum, and he is also highly gifted. I wish I hadn’t waited so long to get him tested.
Start A Conversation With The Parent
If you have noticed behavior in one of your students that leads you to suspect autism, start a private conversation with the parent. Explain to them the behaviors you have noticed, using specific examples, then ask, “Have you seen this at home?”
Your Goal Is To Partner With The Parent On Behalf Of The Child
As the parent answers your question you will get one of three different responses:
- No, I haven’t noticed, but let’s talk more about this.
- Yes, but they’ll outgrow it.
- Yes, I am very worried about it. What can I do?
Listen carefully to their answer and you will be able to discern whether or not they already know and whether they are concerned about the behaviors or not. Your goal in having this conversation is to form a partnership with the parent to get the best possible outcome for their child.
What To Do If The Parent Is Also Concerned
If the parent is aware of the behaviors you have described and they are worried about what may be going on, suggest they discuss the situation with their pediatrician. You can also suggest that the local school district has programs that may provide free testing for their child. Encourage them to get their child tested sooner rather than later. There is a lot of help available for a preschooler with autism; I wish I had had my son tested sooner.