Autism in the Classroom

You’ve heard of Alexander’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, right?  Well here’s mine.
Let me explain…
I have found 2 really good iPad apps for Jack to use in and out of the classroom.  One is Abilipad which allows me to customize keyboards for him to improve his typing skills.  You can make letters a specific color or add a picture to the key…it’s been great.  
Another app I am using is called Dragon and it is voice recognition software where Jack can dictate things and it will type them for him. It’s been a favorite because he gets so easily frustrated with writing and sounding things out, while trying to simultaneously keeping his train of thought.  His working memory is definitely an issue. 
With the Dragon software, he’s able to email what he’s written to me (all by himself) and then I can print it out.  I think it’s a great tool for him to use for exposure to writing and words, if nothing else.  The other day he emails me this:


*melt my heart*
But then the next day, there was this:

*broke my heart*

We had a bad day.  He was scattered, all over the place, taking advantage of the allowances I make for him.  It just wasn’t good.  I know there will be days like this, my mama said.  
But still.
It hurt.
How do you handle it?  Well, before I could even think about it, he and I went into the hallway and I let him know it was unacceptable..I was a bit angry (with a large side of hurt)  I quickly decided to send him back in the room and deal with it later.  Later came and we went back into the hallway and I did the typical mom stuff: how would you feel if I said, “I hate Jack” every time I didn’t like what he did.  I also pointed out that hate is a word we don’t throw around a lot and that he is more than ok to say he’s mad at me or angry. Or that he doesn’t agree with me.  When I asked him how he’d feel if I said “I hate Jack” tears were in his eyes almost immediately.  I know he loves me.  I know we will have tough days, but this was a doozy of a day.
Honestly, I know that this situation is not unique to children on the spectrum. All kids (including myself) have said we hate our parents. Usually it’s once we get back to our room- but what is unique is that it can be difficult to get Jack to recognize when he’s hurt my feelings (or anyone’s) which tends to make him seem insensitive or uncaring.  He doesn’t notice if a rude comment bothers someone, especially if the comment is a “fact” that he stated (in his mind, it’s completely ok)
It can be difficult to help him understand that other people have feelings, even people you don’t know or who aren’t in your family.
For instance…
A teacher asks Jack (as he’s taking his garbage to the trash during lunch) “Jack, will you take this for me to the garbage” as she is handing him the wrapper.  His response?
He walks away.

He was genuinely not being rude, even though it came off as rude.
You asked, he answered.
I asked him later why he said no and he explained that he already had both hands full.
I explained that even when his answer is no, that there are better ways of saying it to a grown up.  Also I also explained that when an adult “asks” you to do something, they are really just telling you to do it.  It’s a subtly he doesn’t get…at all.  Social cues are never easy for him.

Which is why I cannot stress it enough, try your best to mean what you say.  If you are asking, then be prepared for an answer…be prepared for a “no”.  You asked, he answered.
Another point is sometimes it is valuable to ask WHY he is saying no or refusing to do something…he may have a sound, logical reason for his answer.  Or you may have an opportunity to modify something minor in order to make the no a very easy yes for him.

As for our days together in the classroom, there have been more good than bad.  He is doing his best most days and so am I. Want to read more about our journey? CLick HERE!


  1. Hang in there! If anything, just like you said, emotions are a challenge for him to understand. I see a teachable moment in there where you were able to explain to him that he hurt you and made you sad. And he had a sad reaction too. The good days always out weight the bad and you are doing an amazing job being his mom AND his teacher– that's a hard balance for sure!

    Creating & Teaching

  2. You shared a lot of really good advice in this post – so there's one good thing to come out of your yucky day! I learned pretty quickly that with all kids (especially those on the spectrum), you need to be direct. Many do not interpret "Do you want to grab me a glue stick?" as "Please get me a glue stick". So helpful to know!

    Paiges of Learning

  3. I love your stories about Jack. I have to say the "asking" kids things we really want done is a pet peeve of mine. I completely agree that if we form it as a question, they have the choice to say NO. I am forever telling adults to say they "want" something done instead of "can you". Thanks for another great story.
    Ms. K/1 ELL
    A Teacher's Plan

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