It is that time once again when school buses begin filling up the streets and the little ones head back to school for a new year of learning and growth!
Many of my clients are school aged kiddos, so right now I am meeting with teachers, preparing report summaries for schools, attending IEP meetings, and helping families request the accommodations their kiddos need.
Similar to my Top Ten list post there are many issues around going back to school that I see happen over and over again, across clients. Regardless of functioning level, school setting, or how good of a relationship you have with the school, I think any family with children on the Spectrum could benefit from some general guidelines for successfully transitioning into a new school year.
Starting school or beginning a new school year should be a positive experience for the child, and as much as possible the family and therapy team should work together to give the child a smooth transition into a new classroom with a new teacher, new expectations, new systems of reinforcement, new classmates, and new skills to learn. I think sometimes as odd as this may sound, people can forget that the purpose of school is learning. I have had to explain to school staff that if my client is so wound up or anxious on the schoolbus, or so withdrawn and stimmy in the classroom, or so bullied or stigmatized at recess, that it impacts their learning during the school day, that’s a huge problem. Beyond just determining if the child can count, read, or write, there also must be a determination made about how conducive the environment is for a child with Autism to focus on learning:
Is the teacher trained in Autism Spectrum Disorders and behavior management? What about Applied Behavior Analysis, Precision Teaching, or Positive Behavior Supports? How often does the teacher or IEP team talk with the home ABA team? Are behavior plans consistent across both the home and school environment? Does the classroom have structure and organization? If the child is an inclusion student, are they still getting 1:1 support if it is needed throughout the day? If the child is a special education student, are there parts of the day where they learn side by side with typically developing peers?
……………Etc., etc., etc.
As ABA professionals we can play a very important role in helping our clients maximize their learning in the school environment, and reduce disruptive, interfering problem behaviors that not only may impact learning, may cause the child to miss out on the multitude of social opportunities a school can provide.
This is a very general checklist that may need to be modified for your child, but I hope it serves as a starting point for helping your child with Autism have a super successful school year:
General Back 2 School Guide
Sample home school communication note 1
Sample home school communication note 2
Sample home school communication note 3