Entering Kindergarten is a big step for most children, but those with A.S.D. can benefit from even more planning and preparation. It's critical the school is informed of your child's diagnosis prior to starting the school year so they can access funding and supports required to help ensure your child's success.
In addition to attending the regularly scheduled Kindergarten Open House, it is beneficial to make additional visits to the school with your child to familiarize themselves with the school, the class, the playground, the washrooms, etc. You may also ask for a map of the school and review it with them.
A couple of other strategies to assist include reading your child books or having them watch videos about 'going to school'. You can also make a visual schedule for them that begins with the morning routine and takes them right through to bedtime. You can create these in a couple of ways: ask your service provider to create one using the Board-Maker program or create one yourself. You can also purchase magnetic ones from a company like Easy Daysies.
Get yourself a 'Back N Forth" book, which you may want to let your child help you pick out to make it fun and positive. They can choose their favourite colours or pictures - or you may even find one with their favourite character on it. This is a basic coiled notebook with lined pages and measures approximately 16 cm by 14 cm. You can explain to them this will go back and forth with them everyday to school. This is also a place where notes to and from school can be kept so they don't go missing.
Get to know everyone on the school-based team and establish preferred means of communication with all of them. If your child has sensory or motor skill challenges (and most do) or physical therapy requirements you will want to have early contact with the Occupational Therapist (OT) and Physio Therapist (PT). They can be magical at seeing things others don't and coming up with solutions that will ensure your child's day at school is more enjoyable. And, if you ever have a question about anything going on at school related to your child just ask!
You may also wish to create understanding and awareness about your child's unique strengths and weaknesses to their classmates and classmate parents. This type of lettercan be very effective in creating exceptional classmates who become Ambassadors for your child throughout middle school and beyond. A sample of this type of letter can be found in the "Helpful Tips" section. The decision to do this is a personal one and you need to do what you believe is best for your child - everyone's situation is different.
Grades 1 through 4: The Middle Years
Some of the strategies listed above may continue to be suitable for your child throughout any part or all of Grades 1 through 4. You may change them slightly from year-to-year to reflect necessary updates and your child's continued development.
In addition, you'll want to have an ongoing communication with all members of the school-based support team. Make sure you continue to advocate for Speech Therapy and Occupational Therapy services as these resources are scarce. We need to let the school district know they are key part of our children's success both in and outside of school.
You may also request a visit from the SD62 Autism Representative to provide an educational session to your child's classroom about ASD and other special needs. This of course will depend on their capacity to do so.
Grade 5: The Final Year!
Some of the previous strategies may continue to be suitable for your child or you may wish to modify them to reflect necessary updates and the upcoming transition. For example, this is when you may decide the visual schedule for classes each day does not have to be kept on their desk, but instead in their desk or in their Student Agenda.
In addition, you'll want to be sure to have an ongoing communication with all members of the existing school-based support team as well as, meet your new school-based support team at Journey Middle School.
In addition to attending the regularly scheduled Journey Middle School Orientation Trips which all Grade 5 students participate in, it is beneficial to request the school coordinate additional visits to the school with your child. This will allow your child more time to familiarize themselves with the new and much bigger school. You may also ask for a map of the school and review it with them.
It can also be helpful to provide your child with books or videos about going to middle school so they have an idea of what to expect.
The transition to and through elementary school can be a very stressful and overwhelming transition for you and your child. It's so important you remain positive and enthusiastic so they don't experience even more anxiety.