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As a parent of a child with autism, you need all the support you can get. It’s a rocky path with many detours, dead ends, and turnarounds. When your child is first diagnosed with autism, you are by no means an expert. But with support and the will to learn, you quickly become one.
Even parents of neurotypical children find it challenging to support them when complications arise during their school years. With additional issues like autism, it’s even more critical that a solid support network be implemented. This will see to it that your child gets the best chance of a fulfilling and happy school career. And that’s where the Child Study team comes in.
What Is a Child Study Team (CST)?
Don’t be intimidated by the phrase “Child Study Team.” It’s actually a fantastic resource to provide guidance in academic challenges. A Child Study Team (CST) is a team of professionals who work together to evaluate and support your child’s educational needs. These teams are typically composed of educational professionals, such as special education teachers, school psychologists, ABA therapists, social workers, and administrators. The team may also include medical professionals, such as physicians or psychiatrists.
CSTs are an invaluable resource for parents of autistic children. They may also offer advice and assistance with behavior management, social skills, and other vital areas. In addition, they may be able to provide resources and referrals to other professionals and services that can help your child.
It’s essential to understand the roles and responsibilities of each member of the team. For example, some members may be more involved in the evaluation process, while others may provide more support and resources. When you understand each member’s role, you can better communicate with them and ensure that your child’s needs are met.
Is there a Difference Between a CST and an IEP?
Many people use the terms Child Study Team (CST) and Individualized Education Plan (IEP) interchangeably, but there is a difference between the two. The CST is the team of professionals who evaluate and develop the IEP. The IEP is the document that outlines your child’s educational and health goals and the strategies for achieving them. The IEP is formed by the CST and is often used to track progress.
Common Problems Parents Encounter
Many parents of autistic children struggle to effectively communicate with their child’s study team. Common problems include feeling overwhelmed by the process and that their voice isn’t heard. These issues can make it challenging to advocate for your child and difficult to make sure they are getting all the support they need.
Luckily, some strategies can help you effectively communicate with your child’s study team.
Do a self-check
The first step in effective communication with your child’s study team is to do a self-check. Ask yourself some questions to assess your feelings and expectations. Are you feeling overwhelmed? Are you feeling like your voice isn’t being heard and the team isn’t listening to your concerns? Once you’ve identified your feelings, you can better communicate with your child’s study team. It’s also important to set realistic expectations. You may not always get the answers or outcomes you expect, so it’s essential to keep an open mind and be flexible.
Ask pointed questions that give you specific answers.
When communicating with your child’s study team, asking questions that will give you specific answers is essential. This will help you understand what the team is saying and that they understand your concerns. Try to be clear and avoid asking open-ended questions.
For example, instead of asking, “how can I help my child?” try asking, “what strategies can I use to help my child with their behavior?” This type of question will give you more specific answers that you can use to develop a plan of action.
Make sure your sensitivities and emotions don’t get in the way of communication
As parents, it’s our job to be protective and defend our children. However, hearing a panel of people rattling off problems that need addressing can be difficult. Parents of kids with ASD can be especially sensitive, as they have more than likely had ‘well-meaning advice’ and criticisms thrown their way for years. Especially by people who have no clue what they are actually dealing with.
But remember – The CST has your child’s best interest at heart. And they understand autism in a way many others don’t. They just want you to see the complete picture and want to work with you to overcome challenges and achieve goals.
How to Effectively Communicate with Your Child Study Team
Maintaining a good rapport with your child’s teachers, counselors, and other school staff is a great starting point for addressing any issues. Build bridges early on by introducing yourself and getting to know the people responsible for your child’s education. This will help set the tone when the need arises to speak with them about a concern. Taking a positive and proactive approach in your interactions will help your child succeed.
Before meeting with your child’s study team, do your research. Research the topics and strategies that will be discussed, and make sure you have any documents or materials that may be needed. This will help you be prepared and have all the information you need to effectively communicate with the team.
If something has just upset your child, no doubt you are upset too. Take a few moments to breathe deeply and find your calm before doing anything else. This will help you avoid doing anything rash, like sending off an angry email you might regret later. A better solution is to acknowledge your child’s emotions and use the opportunity to teach them how to self-regulate. Try saying something like, “I can see you’re very distressed right now, and I am too. Let’s take a moment to calm down so we can work out the best way to move forward”.
Model appropriate behavior:
Model the power of positive problem-solving for your child by being upbeat, brainstorming solutions, and talking with the teacher. Show them that complaining and aggression won’t get them far – but smart problem-solving will!
Follow the chain of communication:
Start by scheduling a chat with your child’s teacher, rather than going straight to the principal for the best results. An open dialogue with the educator can help prevent the situation from becoming more complicated.
Don’t be afraid to speak up and share your thoughts and concerns. The team needs to hear from you to understand your child’s needs and develop an effective action plan.
When difficulties arise, people may tend to be on the defensive. This can obstruct the process of finding solutions, so it is beneficial to strive to understand the teacher’s point of view and to facilitate the teacher’s understanding of yours.
It’s essential to listen to the team and consider their advice and input. They have the expertise and experience to help your child succeed, so their input is valuable.
Get The Support Your Need!
Always remember that you are your child’s advocate. You know your child best, and it’s your job to see to it that their needs are met. So, speak up and make sure that the team understands your child’s needs and is taking steps to meet them.
Also, remember that you are not alone. There are many resources available to help parents of autistic children. You can find support groups, online forums, and other resources that provide guidance and support.
Successfully parenting a child with special needs takes courage and hard work. Show yourself some love by celebrating your wins and acknowledging that you are trying your best each day.
At Circle Care Services, we are more than just your ABA provider. We are your parenting partner, navigating the ups and downs together with you. If you live in New Jersey and have a child diagnosed with autism, reach out today for a free consultation. The staff at Circle Care would love to meet you and be a part of your support network. If you’re interested in learning more, consider signing up for our email list! We send helpful tips and tricks for parents of children with autism who might benefit.
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