Starting school is a big step and could be stressful for many parents and children. For children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) this transition could be even more challenging. Having to face a new environment, people, and schedule is often problematic for first-time students.
How do we prepare them?
It is important to focus on two major areas when it comes to the transitioning process: skills that a child needs to have to be successful in school and techniques we can use to smooth that transition. Family members and ABA therapists should begin the transitioning process at pre-school age by evaluating a child’s strengths and weaknesses in areas of emotional, behavioral, social, academic and independent skills. Is your child ready to sit and attend for 15 minutes or answer questions, follow group directions and greet their peers? Can he go to the bathroom and eat independently? Other crucial skills to functioning in a group setting include: responding to name, understanding and following multistep group directions, attending to an activity and the ability to work independently or in a small group.
So what techniques can be used to ease the process and prepare your child? You can start with establishing and teaching a new routine and schedule. Introduce a calendar and start to count down the days until beginning of school. You can visit the new school and take pictures. Introduce new materials that are seen and used in the school setting. If possible, meet some of the kids prior to school starting in order to make friends and get more comfortable in a new social environment. Create a social story “Going to School” and read it few times a day. You can also teach new rules and start practicing them at home.