Create a transition book
Use photos and simple language to create a book about school for your child. You can include:
- A countdown calendar
- Name and photo of teacher
- School map (with important places marked i.e., classroom, toilet, library, canteen)
- Information regarding how the child will get to school and who will be there waiting at pick up time
- Names and photos of some known classmates
- A picture of the child in school uniform
- The name of the school with photo of the school entrance
- Photo of the classroom
Communicate with the school
- Prior to school commencing arrange a meeting with the school principal, student wellbeing coordinator (or equivalent), classroom teacher and your child’s aide (if applicable). Use this meeting to make sure they understand who your child is and what your child’s special needs are. Give them a summary sheet, including information about your child’s strengths, needs, preferences, and tips for how to “reach and teach” your child. Informing the school personnel about behaviours of concern, triggers, and how to prevent and manage them are also important.
- Emphasise the importance of regular communication and suggest to your child’s teacher the way you would prefer to communicate (i.e., email, in-person) and the frequency of communications. Establishing this at the beginning of the school year ensures that you are aware of how your child is transitioning, and you can address problems early should they arise.
- Children with autism often crave routine, and not knowing what is going to happen and when can lead to great anxiety. To minimise this possibility start the school routine with a week or two left of the holidays. Set the bedtime, wake time and meal times as the same as they will be when school starts. Pack the same kind of lunch that you will prepare on school days and have your child practise opening the lunchbox and unwrapping items before eating.
- Seeing, experiencing and learning about their new school can help reduce anxiety in children with autism. Visiting the school three or four times in the lead up to school starting is an effective strategy to help familiarise the child with the school. Take the same route as you will when school officially begins and use the same school entrance (if it’s open). Some students may enjoy watching a videotape of the school visit including footage of inside the school and outdoor play areas, the classroom and a brief interview with the class teacher.
- Discuss a plan of action for free time and what to do during lunch and recess. Use a social story to teach your child what to do when something unexpected occurs.
- As classrooms can be very noisy at times, anticipate sensory overload and establish a plan of action with the teacher should this occur (e.g. have a quiet space where the child can take a short break)
- Clearly communicate special dietary requirements and how they will be managed at school.
REGISTER FOR OUR JAN 2016 SCHOOL TRANSITION GROUP HERE!
Good luck and I hope that the transition to school is a positive experience for you and your child!