The first day of preschool is an emotional event for parent and child. New clothes, backpacks, crayons, and juice boxes are the beginning of a journey that ultimately ends with tossing a tassel on a graduation cap.
The parents of an autistic child understand that classroom supplies are the easiest part of getting ready for preschool. For a child on the autism spectrum, the transition from home to preschool is a three-fold effort. Before that first day, parents, educators and the child must map the terrain they all will be covering.
Lilly Jinkins, mother to three-year-old Laila, shares her strategies for making the adjustment to preschool on "The Mighty", an online support community for people with disabilities and those who love them.
Change can be terrifying for a child with autism. Ease the difficulty by introducing the idea of school and the routine that will accompany it, especially for the non-verbal.
- Know the surroundings. Help your child recognize the physical places she will be seeing every day. Give her a picture of the school, busses, and the teacher. Point out those things on TV, in books, or when driving. Hygiene issues are difficult for a lot of preschoolers, but more so for a special needs child.
- Encourage potty visits. Even if it is unproductive, it will accustom her to the process. It's all about making her comfortable with the concept of it. Knowing who will be interacting with your child is essential for your own peace of mind.
- Meet the staff. Make the effort to introduce yourself to the teacher before school starts, at orientation, or back to school night, if possible. Some districts have programs for teachers to observe the child at home. Often there is the opportunity for a special needs aid to assist your child at school; an added bonus. Going to school will present a shift in her daily routine, but it doesn't have to be abrupt.
- Establish a schedule. Adjust bed time and get up time to approximate what will happen during school. Consistency between school and home will help her the most. Structure her day to mimic school as closely as you are able. Segments of activity such as story time, game time, snack time, and nap time will help her get used to conforming to the discipline of the classroom. Talk about school often. Make it sound fun. The work you put in to preparing for preschool will pay dividends. The beginning of formal education will be easier for all of you.
There are many opportunities to work with special needs children and adults. If you are thinking about a position in this field, please contact us.
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