Living With Autism: Moving From Preschool to Kindergarten (page 2)
Leaving preschool to enter a more formal educational system represents a major transition for every parent and child. The environment will be new, challenges will be different and new relationships will be formed. While parents of children on the autism spectrum (ASD) initially may approach this time with trepidation, it actually represents an opportunity for learning and developing new friendships and relationships. The following are some suggestions for parents to ensure a more successful and less stressful transition.
Talk to the preschool teacher about how you can best prepare your child for the new curricular/environmental demands of kindergarten. Parents can find their state department of education on the internet or autism sourcetm (www.autismsource.org) and check the standards for kindergarten; this will tell the focus of the standard curriculum and where your child will need additional assistance or adaptations. This also shows where parents might provide additional home instruction or practice, with direction from the classroom teacher, once the new school year has begun. Check out the national center for learning disabilities sponsored web site, www.getreadytoread.org, for a checklist about home support for early literacy development. The site also contains a screening test. Inform the local director of special education in writing that you are enrolling a child with special needs for elementary school programming. List the child’s special needs, such as challenges with understanding and/or using language, medical issues, the need for a nap, drowsiness during specific times of the day, sensory needs and distractions, responsiveness to visual supports such as schedules, impulsiveness, need for structure, need for supervision, difficulty paying attention in a noisy environment and so forth. A bulleted format may make it easier to notice each need. Parents can provide more detail when preparing a file folder for the teacher. Notice given to the special education director may result in the scheduling of one or more assessments (further assessment may not occur, however, if your child has attended that district’s public school preschool program). You will be given a booklet about your rights under the federal law regarding special education services, but you may want to do more reading about such topics as the individuals with disabilities education act (IDEA) and a child’s individual education program (IEP). Public libraries, bookstores, asa’s web site (www.autism-society.org) and special centers have materials that provide basic information.
An IEP meeting will be scheduled to discuss your child’s needs, goals and school classroom assignments. Parents are members of their child’s educational team which considers options and how to best accommodate specific needs. educate yourself and be prepared to be involved as a team member. If desired, bring someone more experienced with you as an advocate.
During the IEP meeting, ask if the special education program has an autism consultant(s). Find out who will provide support for your child’s school, the type of support offered and how to contact the person so he or she can perhaps assist the classroom teacher. Ask when asd training will be provided to the appropriate staff. As more children with ASD are entering public schools, more people have had previous training. Training is frequently offered after aides have been hired for the school term. Or, the training may occur after the school year has begun. Contact ASA for additional information or suggestions, and visit its web site for helpful materials. Tour the new school and meet the principal. Also, make a formal appointment with the principal so he or she can meet you, get a better understanding of your child’s needs and begin building a positive relationship with your family. With advance preparation, the principal can talk about school rules and operations and how parents can be involved in the school through volunteering, organizations and support for school functions.
Provide opportunities for your child to become accustomed to the new playground before the transition, if the playground is open during non-school hours.
Prepare a portfolio that contains easy-to-read information about your child. This is the time to supplement the material already prepared for the director of special education. List strengths, challenges, likes, dislikes, supports needed (and why), along with specific strategies. Keep the file limited to two to five pages. If you know which kindergarten teacher your child will have prior to the end of the preschool year, you may want to give the teacher the file and some references for books and videos about autism. Give a copy to the autism consultant, as well, if one is assigned to your child’s school. In the fall, offer folders with the same information or portions of it to any person who would benefit from the information (e.g., music teacher, aide, occupational therapist, principal). Include your phone number and e-mail address. Indicate that you are always willing to work cooperatively to address any issues related to your child, and that you appreciate hearing about your child’s successes.
Reprinted with the permission of the Autism Society.
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