Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
It seems like every year we get one week's prior notification for school related field trips. Ideally I would like to receive a listing at the start of the new school year with the impending plans the Teacher has for the class. Surely they do not prepare for these trips at the last minute. I believe they need to make arrangements for a school bus to transport them to and from the field trip location and secure funds for the event.
At some schools a parent is allowed to attend the field trip, it all depends on the teacher, grade of the students and school. Nicholas, my ten year-old, is higher functioning than Matthew. Nicholas really wants me to accompany him on field trips, but due to both boys attending different schools with varying start and release times, as well as start dates it is impossible for me to attend and be available in case of an emergency at Matthew's school.
I get feedback from Nicholas on school field trips and make my decisions on whether I will send Matthew on similar trips. For the summer camp I do not send Matthew on outings that are out in the hot sun for the majority of the day. Another issue for me in choosing which field trip my children will attend is the location of the destination.
We have lived around the corner from the Elementary School for eight years - so neither child has a need for riding a school bus. I do not feel comfortable sending either of my children in a school bus for a field trip that has no seatbelts. Any place they go requires driving on freeways, which is something we hardly do as I avoid them and take streets to get to our destinations.
Several years ago Nicholas went on a field trip to the Long Beach Aquarium. A few days beforehand we visited their website and took the virtual tour. Since those on the Autism Spectrum are visual learners this is perfect for preparing for the field trip. I feel better seeing where my child will be walking and can help him feel more at ease with the trip. He gets to see the end result on the computer, and this gives him something to look forward to.
I was able to see the school bus drive down the street on their way to the Aquarium. I made sure I had the computer turned off due to only having a dial-up connection and watched the morning news to be apprised of any traffic issues. Within that hour I called the Aquarium to inquire if their school bus had arrived. I was able to go about my day once I knew they had arrived on time without any incident.
It would be great if the classes attending field trips would call the school office to notify them they have arrived - which would give parents piece of mind knowing their child is at the field trip site. Thus far we have not encountered any teachers that prepare the class for field trips by handing out materials or visiting the site during computer time. I think this extra step is something to consider in helping children be less anxious about the events of the day and where they are going.
One year Nicholas brought some handouts about the Museum they were visiting for his teacher. She had no idea this was available, but was easy to obtain through their website designated as teacher data for field trips. In my search online for field trip destinations I stumbled onto the portable zoo that is brought to the classrooms. None of the teachers knew of this resource that is available for fourth and fifth graders within the Los Angeles Unified School District. A few years ago we went to a Zoo Mobile event at the library.
The Los Angeles Unified School District also has insurance you can purchase for your children at the start of the school year. This would be worthwhile if your child participates in sports at school. How Safe Are School Field Trips is from The Canada Safety Council.
Since Nicholas is a picky eater we always bring his lunch on field trip days. This is most often a Lunchables box with drink and snack included. We pack it inside an Arctic Zone bag with a frozen ice bag. Nicholas also brings a disposable camera that has an address label on it in case he loses it and keeps it in a pocket.
The No Junk Food Website contains a healthy snack list and beverage list. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has an online collection of art.
Just last week Matthew went with the summer camp to the Long Beach Aquarium. I had planned on going with them, but due to jury duty I was unable to. This caused some stress for me because they were driving in cars and I felt a bit uneasy having Matthew riding with someone on several Los Angeles freeways. I took the cell phone number to his teacher and called during my long break from the Court House to see how Matthew was fairing.
The same day Nicholas was on a separate field trip to Universal City Walk and then a movie viewing. I was happy to get a brochure from the Aquarium, which led to Nicholas wishing he could have gone on that trip instead.
Nicholas always wears his sunglasses on the way to school and has them in his pocket for recess and after lunchtime on the playground. It eems he is the only one at this school who wears sunglasses and sometimes is not happy about wearing them.
He keeps a brush up packet in his backpack for cleaning his teeth at school. He ended up never using the lip balm I gave him. He believes this is something that only girls wear and nothing seems to work on getting him to use it. He always has a colorful bandana in his pocket for field trips in case it is hot on the bus or outside for lunch. He can wipe the sweat off his face and feel comfortable while on his outing. This year I also picked up through Avon a bug repellent wipe that has individual packets.
It is important to write down the name and address of the site the field trip is visiting. Do a google search for the site and note the phone number. Ask questions of the teacher or contact the school office to find out what time they will be leaving, arriving and returning. Also ask how many adults and classes are attending this trip.
Make sure your child knows the home phone number and has their address handy. I take care of this when I place the address sticker directly on the disposable camera. Here's hoping the children with autism benefit from their field trips and enjoy the outings in a safe environment.
Here are two books that are geared for the preschool aged child through first grade. Nicholas enjoyed both at the time. The Class Trip is available at Amazon. I suggest purchasing the book over the summer to help prepare a child for their first school trip. Our past experience has been a class trip is usually planned for September.
The Class Trip is going to the zoo so the teacher puts on her hat with the polka-dot bow. The class loads onto the bus with the teacher checking off names at the door. There is even a girl in a wheelchair. We see the two kids sitting on each row in the bus talking and singing on the way to the zoo.
Sam is excited to be at the zoo, but cannot keep up with the class since he is too slow. Sam gets lost, but quickly is able to spot the hat the teacher is wearing. It is a good lesson on staying with the group.
For Thomas the Tank fans there is a book entitled, Thomas and the Class Trip. This book focuses on the train preparing for a trip. Bertie the Bus takes the kids home from the class trip. Thomas and the Class Trip is also available at Amazon.
Promoting Autism Awareness