It is common for autistic people and their families to seek a wide variety of services to help them be supported and successful in the world. In 2014, the CASDA National Needs Assessment Survey reported that caregivers of school age youth (5-17 years old) used on average 3.2 services from autism professionals in the last 6 months. The amount used ranged from zero to 13 services. This does not count any supports received at school.

As a result, people with autism and their families can end up surrounded by a circle of care.

A group of four people smiling at the camera

It is hugely important for everyone involved in the circle of care to communicate and stay on the same page. In this post published on the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) blog page, the author Rosemarie Griffin, MA, CCC-SLP, BCBA argues that:

“Professionals working toward common goals help their students increase overall engagement… Teamwork between autism professionals can also better teach our students to develop and use functional communication skills across a variety of instructors and environments.”

The Geneva Centre for Autism shares similar advice for teachers to welcome autistic students in their classroom. They recommend:

“…daily communication [should] involve the student, and the teacher [should] read and sign the [communication book] every day and write in it often. Call parents to share good news, and discuss difficult issues by phone or in personal meetings… Let parents know what learning was demonstrated, what new words were learned, and other achievements.”

A woman smiling holding a marker and standing in front of a classroom

People with autism and their families will find that different types of autism professionals may need different types of information in order to provide support. To help make sure that everyone has access to the information they need, it is important to maintain open lines of communication. It is also important that everyone has a good understanding of the health and learning goals being worked on. One way to do this is to use the S.M.A.R.T goals approach – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely – to keep everyone on the same page.

Bonus tip:

S.M.A.R.T. goals work best when they reflect what is important to the person being supported. One-page profiles, and the F-words Profile are great resources for the circle of care to understand what is important to the person being supported.

A young girl writing on a sheet of paper leaning against a table

There are many different tools that exist to help maintain good communication and information sharing with your team. Some people like using an individualized education plan (IEP) binder to keep track of progress at school, as well as communicate and collaborate with teachers and other professionals. We’ve met care teams who share information on Dropbox; others like to get their teams together and meet face to face.

Awake Labs has also created a free tool for better communication and collaboration. It’s an app that is like a high-tech communication book. Parents, teachers, and therapists are using it to keep track and share information related to health and learning goals. This app, Reveal Stories, securely shares pictures, videos, and notes with every person in the circle of care.

Bonus tip:

Reveal Stories is mobile, secure, and can be used by autistic people and their care teams in every aspect of their day to day lives. Your information is at your fingertips for when you need it. Whether it’s pulling up data during team meetings, or reviewing achievements at the end of the day, Reveal Stories can help!

Four different shapes above the words "Awake Labs"

To people who are familiar autism, there is a popular saying that goes: “if you’ve met one person with autism, then you have met one person with autism.”

What this saying means is that each and every person is unique. There is no one definition of autism. And since there is no one definition of autism, then there is no one-size-fits-all approach to building on a person’s strengths and meeting their unique needs.

Effective communication and collaboration are essential to make sure that everyone in the circle of care are working together to support the person with autism at the centre of that circle.