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Child on the spectrum

  • 1.  Child on the spectrum

    Posted 10-04-2019 08:21 AM
    ​We have a child who, we believe, is on the spectrum.   Paper work has just been submitted for an evaluation, but I have teachers who will resign if this child is not removed from the school.  Our policy is that, once that decision is made, the parents have 2 weeks to find alternative child care.  The parents have hired their own wraparound to help until an evaluation is done.   I guess I just need advice as to how to deal with the staff ready to quit.

    Barbara Sharofsky
    Adath Israel Early Childhood Learning Center
    Merion Sta PA

  • 2.  RE: Child on the spectrum

    Posted 10-05-2019 07:16 AM
    Please note the original question is from Barbara. This post was first time user error!

  • 3.  RE: Child on the spectrum

    Posted 10-06-2019 12:35 PM
    why would staff threaten to quit? Is the child violent? We have 4 children on the "Spectrum" and yes I mentor and work along side of them.  If your staff is not trained then they should not be with the child. Do you spend time with the family and the child before you enroll? It's generally obvious if there are delays... issues if you are trained and aware of them. We also have therapist that come into the classroom "community " to work with the child and mentor staff.. The child deserves better than staff that threatens to quit because they are not equipped.

    Vicki Hare
    Bethany Early Childhood Center
    Cherry Hl Vlg CO

  • 4.  RE: Child on the spectrum

    Posted 10-07-2019 05:21 AM

    Have your teachers articulated their frustrations a little more in depth with you? With no training or understanding of Autism, the day can be very long. Perhaps asking what they need such as tools to help him (sensory ideas, busy items to slow his mind and keep his hands busy, etc.), adding in time that you can cover to give them a few minutes a couple times of day out of the room, etc.) It can be hard for a teacher; especially if what is going on in the room makes the child feel overloaded (sights, smells, sounds). Short staffing can be another hardship because often teachers feel like the child is giving a clear message, but they just don't have the one on one time the child needs. I am glad the evaluation process is underway. Try communicating with your teachers a little more and ask them what would help them in this situation.

    Marilyn Walbom
    Lead Teacher
    Plain City OH

  • 5.  RE: Child on the spectrum

    Posted 10-06-2019 04:03 PM
    Hi Marilyn,
    Like Vikki, I am wondering why the staff is threatening to leave?  It does sound like in the meantime, with this challenge, you need extra hands in the classroom.  Which I know is often impossible.  But I wonder if there is a way to get some volunteers who might be able to one-one-one with the child, and free up the rest of the staff to do other things?

    Joanie Calem
    Music and Inclusion Specialist
    Sing Along
    Columbus, OH

  • 6.  RE: Child on the spectrum

    Posted 10-07-2019 12:49 PM
    Hello Barbara,

    I am sure that this is a challenging situation.  Your team is essential to your program success and them threatening to quit is causing a lot of stress for you.  In Minnesota our organization is funded to provide free, on-site inclusion coaching support to child care settings so that they can successfully include children with unique learning and social emotional needs.  This service is funded by the MN Department of Human Services.  I would recommend that you explore your own state to determine if there are services available through DHS or the Department of Education.  It is important to listen to your team and try to determine the root cause of their anxiety related to this child.  If the child is exhibiting challenging behavior there are resources available to help you.  Our website offers free downloadable resources and if the child is receiving a diagnosis the professionals providing that diagnosis, whether the school or medical professionals, would be the first stop for tools.  They, with the parent's permission, can give you information about what they will be focusing on as far as skill development and can share strategies for ways to adapt what they are providing to fit your setting.  This partnership is important.  The key is to help the parents during this time of diagnosis and support them with consistent care.  Upsetting the child care routine while the family is trying to get answers can be very difficult.  This family is possibly finding out information that will truly change their lives so your caring and compassion will help provide them and their child with one place that remains predictable and consistent.  If you can help your staff understand that once the process of evaluation is complete there will be a greater understanding of this child and his/her needs and therefore a plan will be put in place for this child and family it may help calm their anxiety about caring for this child.

    If we step back and try to help professionals providing care see things from the family perspective we are helping them in this instance and in instances to come, because there will be others.  There will be other children that exhibit behaviors that challenge them and the key is to equip them so that when these situations arise they have a plan, a plan that begins with understanding that yes it is hard but there are things we as adults can do to provide calm, sensory interventions, routine and consistency, and a partnership of care with the family.

    Before you proceed with the expulsion of this child I would recommend that you also learn what the Americans with Disabilities Act states about serving children with a diagnosed special need or a perception of a special need.  There are strict guidelines related to child care.  I have included their website below.

    It appears that your staff is fearful of what the next day will bring and is therefore doing what they feel will preserve their sense of safety and lessen their fears.  If you as their supervisor can reassure them that they are not alone and that together, with this family, you can seek out answers and resources you may see a difference in their willingness to include.  The DEC/NAEYC Joint Position Statement on Inclusion is also something that would be helpful to review as a team.  The key to providing quality care for all children is focused on access, participation and supports.

    We sometimes get so caught up in the uncomfortable feeling of not knowing what to do next we forget that we can't possibly have all the answers all of the time.  There are resources and help available.  By setting up a program that truly provides quality care we are able to meet a variety of needs because we see each child as an individual, needing guidance and support to further their learning.  Compassionately remind your team that their role as educators is to meet the individual needs of young children in their care and work to provide them with experiences and opportunities that allow them to grow and learn and that at times that can be tricky but they are not alone, you are there to listen and support and also that the family can be an essential partner is this process.

    Resources are available and you are not alone.

    [Priscilla Weigel]
    [Assistant Director]
    Center for Inclusive Child Care]
    St. Paul,] [MN]
    At Risk Special Needs Interest Forum Co-Facilitator

  • 7.  RE: Child on the spectrum

    Posted 10-07-2019 07:04 AM
    Are you near a college or a public school that could have someone talk with your staff to give some suggestions? If nothing is close or available at short notice, there are some good videos on youtube if you google "autism strategies for preschool teachers"

    a few websites you might start with:

    a pdf:

    I know it's challenging, but once your team has some tools and strategies they can work together to craft, hopefully they'll feel more able to relax and begin to focus on the positive moments and lighten each other's stresses.
    I would, at the same time, see if an educator in the special education field would like to pick up a few extra hours a week to scaffold the staff as they learn to use the strategies successfully and independently.

    Barbara Brothers
    Cambridge MA

  • 8.  RE: Child on the spectrum

    Posted 10-07-2019 02:33 PM
    Hello Barbara,
    I have a feeling that the teachers are feeling very stretched and overwhelmed at this time. As a teacher, I taught in a toddler class(2 yrs) with a group size of 18 and a 1:6 ratio and I had two children that I believed were possibly autistic. I sent them out for evaluations and both came back as being on the autism spectrum and needing shadows. As much as we did as a team to support the children, it was impossible to provide quality care to any of the children while we waited for the shadows to be put in place at the group size and ratio we were at.

    My solution was to ask my director for extra staffing in my class until the shadows started. The director said no, so I went to the district manager. I provided copies of the evaluation, emails from the other families that had voiced concerns about the issue, statements from my team of teachers and floaters about their experiences during this time, and invited her to sit in our class for a day. After her observation, she approved the extra staffing in my class until the shadows were put in place and that changed the whole situation for the better. She even put in place a policy that if the shadows called in sick and the center did not have the additional staffing to provide extra help in the classroom, the child could not attend.

    I think at this point, I would offer some support to the teachers, just like my district manager did. It showed that she knew how hard our job was on a daily basis and that she wanted to support us at having a quality care experience for all the children in our care. In these situations, teachers often feel as if they are on an island all alone. I would spend time in the class( a half a day for 2-3 days) and send in some extra help.

    I hope this helps!

    Tara Gray
    Cornerstone Children's Center
    Berkeley CA