Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Back to School - The Aspie Way

After reading jemikaan's post about K's psych appointment and the preparations for first day of school I thought I'd dredge through my very iffy memory and see what where the things that helped Boy 1 back in those turbulent early days.

The first day of school for ANY child can be a daunting prospect. The first day of school for a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder can be terrifying for all. We are lucky to have had an incredible Grade 1 teacher (which here in Qld back then was where formal school began). These are just some suggestions which may help:
  • First day arrange to arrive either earlier than the masses or later when the noise levels are not so overwhelming. Plan with the teacher what they would prefer. We arrived early, showed him his seat, talked him through the classroom rules, settled him and waited for the others to arrive. We also had a full time aide back then, he had already met her in the calmness of his home so she was a familiar face in a sea of confusion.
  • We had created a folder full of information. Boy 1's photo on the front. Practical information on the inside. List of sensory triggers (insects, noise, smells back then), explanation of how we dealt with each. Sadly each year the new teacher chose not to read notes, preferring to make an unbiased assessment of each child. Could have saved both teacher and child a lot of angst if only they had realised. Usually a very stressful first few weeks for all involved. Not a big issue now as all know him at the small school.
  • On the noise factor: ear plugs. We use the plasticine type ones which you can split into smaller for little ears. He still uses these at nearly twelve; perfect for assembly, sports carnivals, storms or anywhere the crowds are raucous. He also had those tradie ear muffs in his younger days. Was considered cool, and all the boys went home requesting them.

  • Buy a plastic upright cutlery container. You know, the type that has four sections and a handle in the middle. Place velcro on the bottom, stick on corner of desk for pencils and scissors, erasers, etc. Perfect for all littlies not just ASD kids. This one was from our lovely teacher - thanks Mrs Morrow.
  • Have a quiet corner organised. Somewhere the child can withdraw to when sensory overload hits. Somewhere only THEY and their supervisor is allowed.
  • Have some sensory calming tools. We used stress balls shaped as a globe. Great for fine motor issues too. He would squeeze these as a sensory release.
  • Have a laminated emotional thermometer on the desk. Scale of one to ten, ten being blast off meltdown. Give the child options at each level. For example when things were reaching eight for our son, his aide took him outside and he did star jumps to get rid of the tension and energy build up. Discuss with the child and let them choose the activities which help them.
  • It is proven that these children, in a formal desk setting, learn more if seated at the front of the class on the right side of the board. Something I learnt at a Tony Attwood conference, and yes it worked.
  • Read the Ben and His Helmet series by Nelle Frances. Perfect children's books to help the other kids understand. We even bought a set for the school. Nelle's boy is Ben.
  • Colour code your subject books, you can use this for the rest of school.
  • Ask the teacher how they want you as a parent to be involved. Do they want a communication book for all: teacher, parent, aide, SN teacher, SEU to utilise? Do they want a quick drop-off or do they want you to settle and calm the child. Make sure they know to pass on all issues, no matter how small they seem for other children they can build into mammoth proportions for these little ones.
  • Take the opportunity to educate other parents. Don't lecture, smile, be charming, inform. Take away the fear.
  • If your school does not already advocate this - ask for a buddy system. An older child - in our case it was Year seven, who can help your child, mentor them, be their friend and supporter, teach them the ways of the school world.
  • Always remember that if you alienate the teacher your child will suffer. Keep the big guns hidden unless absolutely, unavoidably necessary.
  • Brain Gym was a big help in our early days. Look into it - it may assist.
  • WATER WATER WATER - the more hydrated these children are the better their coping skills. Explain to the teachers and staff, if it means more toilet runs, then so be it.

If I think of anything else I will edit and add. Good luck, any questions, please ask. Boy 1 is heading into Grade 6 this year, the little boy who we were told would NEVER be capable of learning has achieved much. Academically, he does well. Socially, it is getting harder as the kids' (and I must admit some parents') attitudes change.


Kakka said...

Great list of tips. I often wonder if my son (now 27) suffers from ASD, so many of the things I now read suggest he has it and was just never diagnosed, if we had know his schooling and even his adult life would have been so much easier. My daughter has a friend whose some has just been diagnosed with ASD at 5 I will pass on your blog address. Hugs from Perth xxx

E. said...

We meet the teacher before school starts. And have a discussion about what things could be issues and what has been done in the past. Going inot the meeting with a collaborative appaorach is generally well accepted and appreciated.

Madmother said...

E. You reminded me of another - will go edit now. My old memory disgards that it does not need, lol.

Jofisk said...

You gave out alot of advice that I wish I could use with dealing with DD1's school. I had requested a meeting with them to decuss this year with them, but they wouldn't give me an appointment. I will be chasing them again next week when the admin staff returns.

The extra information would make starting yr 6 easier for DD1 who has Autism.

Jen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jen said...

Thankyou MM for this amazing post of information :) . I got all excited seeing as I scrolled down that we did some of the things already, like the stress ball and the pencil holder :) .

DS loves the look of the emotion thermometer and wants me to print that off. He attends an open plan school without formal place settings and not much board work. I will keep the sitting position in mind though and let the teacher know.

How right you are about keeping the teachers on board..something I need to remember also as my shackles seem to rise pretty quickly when it comes to the offspring ;) . I haven't heard of Brain Gym or Ben and his helmet so will definitely check them out.

Considering the reports that two of his specialists teachers gave last year I have been toying with the idea of offering a talk to all the teachers that would be involved with him this year? maybe a little about Aspergers and alot about where he is and what he needs. Obviously they did not bother to educated themselves about Aspie at all after being told he had it, or they wouldn't be expecting the things they do of him.

I had a chuckle to myself today when DS was fighting me about having water rather than cordial in his drink bottle (last week, once in his life ~someone~ gave him cordial in his bottle! the water only rule is broken and he has his lawyer negotiation hat on every refill time) and I wanted to say to have to have water it is really good for you, MM told me so! :) but I didn't. We won eventually this time and he did have water (after a small cup of cordial as a compromise!)

Thankyou so much for compiling this :)

Madmother said...

Ooh - how are his fine motor skills? Do you use the rubber pencil grips? We found them invaluable for both boys (both have low muscle tone).

MultipleMum said...

What a helpful list for other Mums of Aspies! I think all kids could benefit from a bit more visual sequencing so some of these ideas are great for all of us. Thanks for Rewinding x