Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Part I: School Transition Strategies

Image: Recently My child has made the successful transformation from being a Vowles Viking to a Pullen Panther (Yes, I know that is quite the metamorphosis!) and has adjusted to attending a new school. Part of the success, was due to the implementation of the strategies listed near the end of this post.

My oldest son with a mild form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has finally done it. As of March 9 he's attended all four K-4 elementary schools in our district--and we have not moved one single time. Over the last five years that we've lived in the same house, my son has attended four different schools. It's not that he's been kicked out. It's not that any of the schools do not want him as a student.

It is that he started attending the Mildly Cognitive Impaired (MiCI) classroom (with half days in a regular ed room) at the wrong time, thus getting caught in a stream of organizational shifts. That said, he's been a Ganiard Gator (1 year), A Rosebush Rocket (two years) a Vowles Viking (1.5 years) and a Pullen Panther (all of two weeks and running).

The bad news is that I became a bit irritated with all the school changes. The good news is that I and the rest of my family have become pretty good at transitional strategies when it comes to getting a person with ASD to switch schools. I have a small list of strategies to share. Today I will share Parent strategies. Tomorrow I will share strategies for teachers of new students, and the next day I'll post about what what current teachers can do to help their student transition to a new school.

What Parents Can Do:

1. The easiest place to start might be taking the child to visit the playground at the new school. Usually, the playgrounds can be visited at anytime.

2. Next, schedule a visit alone to observe the teacher with her/his students in the classroom.

3. Make a one page resume about your child to give to the new teacher when you go to your visit. Put a small photo at the top of the page along with the basic info (name, age, etc). Add in likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. Limiting the 'resume' to one page will help to ensure that the new teacher will not become overwhelmed with too much information.

4. Schedule a 'field trip' to take child to see the new school. Use a social story or visual aids so that they know that the field trip is just a visit and not a permanent situation yet. Along with asking for some time in the new classroom, also ask to meet the principal and take a tour of the school.

5. Make sure your child knows exactly what day they will start attending the new school. Visual schedules or merely putting a note on the family calendar might help.

6. Communicate on a regular basis with both the new and the current teacher.

7. Look up the new school on the web. Show the child any appropriate pictures of the school, teachers, etc. and read a little bit from the website if there is something that might interest your child.
8. Keep a positive attitude. As a parent, I know that it is easy to become overwhelmed and even a little depressed about a new school switch. However, negative feelings and attitudes are usually non-productive. A positive attitude will be more helpful to your child than a negative one.
9. Keep in mind that morning and afternoon routines might change at home due to a change in transportation to and from school (going from riding in the family car to riding a bus, for example). Communicate with your child about the transportation and resulting schedule changes.

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