Autism, and all learning differences, are very, very complex.

That seems so obvious, but I still get questions asking for a “single most important thing” about educating autistic kids. My answer, “as if there could ever be such a thing,” doesn’t satisfy, of course. What I offer instead of “single best” is a more global truth: that it is critical for parents and teachers create and sustain a productive working relationship based on honesty, respect, empathy, and shared goals and ideals, and to know immutably that the child’s success depends upon theirs—how successfully they collaborate as team members with the common goal of helping the child meet his/her full potential.

This can get tricky because parent-school partnerships do have an emotional layer that can sometimes waylay even the best-intentioned participants. Here are ten succinct tips for creating and maintaining positive partnerships between parents/caregivers and educators/service providers that serve the best interests of the autistic child.



  1. Commit to a child-focused team mindset. Check egos at the door.
  2. Play kind, play fair. Be respectful; firm but polite. Don’t deliberately embarrass team members.
  3. Accept that team members can disagree but still hold child’s best interests in mind. No one is always right or always wrong.
  4. Follow through, follow up. Supply what’s asked of you efficiently and accurately. Be persistent but reasonable with others.
  5. Parents, respect that educators manage IEPs of many children besides yours and can’t always respond immediately.
  6. School staff, recognize that most often the parent is the expert in understanding the child and how s/he functions.
  7. There are no stupid questions if you don’t know the answer. Most people like to help others. Ask, ask, ask until you get an answer you understand.
  8. Base decisions on the child’s need, not personalities or interpersonal skills of team members. Place a photo of the child on the table. If the meeting starts to veer off course, tap the photo and say “This child.”
  9. Establish rapport, maintain communication thru the year. Share information freely. Return calls and notes promptly.
  10. Be familiar with both the rights of parents and school regarding provision of services. Be personally educated and responsible.

Respecting and valuing all individuals as individuals must be the cornerstone of all learning, throughout formal education and beyond. Understand that the gravity of the decisions being made about this one child will affect his success or failure not just the current year, but for all the years ahead.


Adapted from 1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children with Autism or Asperger’s, 2nd edition, by Ellen Notbohm and Veronica Zysk. (2010, Future Horizons).


Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash


Categories: autism, autistic, ASD, parenting, special needs, teachers, IEP, special education