My autistic son just got kicked out of school. Again. Wherever he goes, I always warn them that he has serious behavioural challenges, but they never believe me until they have dealt with him themselves. And then they usually give up pretty quickly.
If there is one thing I have learned about my son, it is that what needs more than anything is a trusting relationship with the adults around him. A lot of problematic behaviours in autistic children are driven by anxiety. Having a buddy relationship with someone takes the edge off. The schools always take the approach that my son needs stern discipline, but what he needs first is a relationship. If they would take the time to invest in that instead of making compliance their priority, things would go a lot better. The way the schools have handled him has always led to problems escalating, until they end up putting him in restraints. All this accomplishes is that he decides he hates school and everyone who works there. He loses all motivation for school. Their approach backfires: his behaviour only worsens.
My son is a child who requires extreme patience on the part of the adults around him, but it’s worth it to exercise that patience or you end up with an unmanageable situation.
Second, it would serve the schools well to accept his autism and to stop perceiving him as a wilful, disobedient child. The sooner you get it through your head that he is autistic, the better. Let go of your stereotypes and preconceptions. Autism comes in many forms.
Third, don’t assume that severe behavioural problems are the domain of children who have ‘lower functioning’ autism with more verbal impairment or who have co-existing intellectual disability. And don’t assume that because someone is outgoing or has a sense of humour that they aren’t really ‘that autistic’ or that their problematic behaviours are something they can turn on or off at will. Just don’t assume anything.