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.