Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
While children are enjoying the sumer vacation, or at camp or perhaps summer school or even extended school year, the parents are already trying to prepare for the upcoming school year. There are many changes as the first school day approaches. They can range from new teacher, new aide, different classmates, mainstreaming instead of special day class, new therapists, transition into secondary schools, different school hours and a change in routine, temperature and having to switch from shorts to pants or a uniform if required at the school.
This coming September will be a drastic change for my 12 year old high functioning son who will be homeschooled. Matthew will continue with the same autism class for the fourth year in a row. This time he will be in fifth grade with the same classmates and possibly some new ones arriving from different schools.
I believe the same aides will be back in the classroom, but the speech, occupational therapist and adaptive PE teacher are all going to be different after having all three for three years in a row. This is good and bad for my son because I feel it is worthwhile to get a fresh perspective, but it will also take some time to get familiar with new teaching styles.
The adaptive PE teacher combined the DS, MR and autism classes - doing one in the morning and later in the week an afternoon session. The OT was at the school on Friday mornings with the speech doing a pull-out session on Tuesdays and a classroom session on Thursdays. It is possible that the new SLP will do both sessions on a pull-out basis, although the goal is classroom based.
I hope the progress Matthew has made with the Intellikeys keyboard will continue and that the SLP has experience with the communication device. The school is also changing from a year-round to a traditional school year. This means starting school three weeks later and teachers and staff having six weeks of unpaid vacation. Matthew will have a spring break, but no more half days for the month of February, known as intersession. That is when his extended school year was offered.
There are not that many products I have come across that deal with preparing the child with autism into going back to school. The following are brief reviews on a book, video and software that cover various issues for those across the spectrum and age groups.
Welcome to School - Helping Friends with Autism this book utilizes photographs of pecs and picture schedules to help classmates comprehend nonverbal and speech delayed children. This sells for $12.00 at Pyramid Educational Products, Inc.
There are sixteen pages of illustrations and photos showing and explaining what the special tools are for students with autism. It covers the steps used for students to find out what they are to do next and how they get their pictures from the book pages. There are sample pictures depicting a water table, food items for lunch, feeling happy or sad and the valuable help card.
A sample choice board for selecting the colors of the sun are shared as to how they do school work. An illustration similates a child flapping their hands because they are excited. Children use their pictures to ask other classmates for something and like to take turns when playing.
Sometimes students with autism will have a special helper and they may not look at you when talking, but they are good friends. It is suggested that students ask their teacher what they can do to help the classmate who has autism.
This book can be something used to prepare student for school since it shows the school setting, but is more geared for the classmates of the child. This is something the parent can share with teacher and classmates. To prepare my nonverbal son Matthew for another year of school I get out the school picture and start talking about school and show him the photos I have taken of him in the morning at the cafeteria and the other kids.
School Rules! Volume 1 - Social Skill Builder CD-Rom for ages 8-18 that sells for $89.99. This is both MAC and PC compatible. There is a free demo at the site and a mailing list to get free therapy ideas.
You have the option of printing out your scores for all the lessons in School Rules. You can also clear out the scores and customize the presentation by turning specific questions on or off.
This CD-Rom covers classroom behavior, assignments, feeling fit in PE, Locker room, walking in the hall, identifying appropriate and inappropriate behaviors, conversations, team work, perspective of others and personal hygiene.
You begin by clicking on the photo of the students and are asked if you want to help finish the design of the school yearbook. You earn game time to capture more pics for the yearbook. My son Nicholas was not interested in this since he has not yet experienced a yearbook so we tried to avoid this screen and move onto the lessons.
For some lessons there were still images, multiple choice selections, predict and formulate responses. We had a hard time doing the click and drag responses and found some of the voices to be irritating and the music too loud. It was not easy to distinguish between excited and pleased for the responses of how the students appeared while walking in the hall. On level 2 the voice stated the response was surprised, but that was not an option on the screen.
Although the age level starts at eight, I feel this is more appropriate for students already in the middle school system so they have experience with PE, lockers, locker rooms and hallways. For the elementary students they are in the same classroom all day and might not comprehend all the issues portrayed in the CD-Rom.
This is more geared to the higher functioning student who has some computer skills. The price is steep, so you should look into obtaining this for a support group or parent center so that multiple families can utilize it and share experiences and offer feedback. This is also suitable for a social skills group and for professionals to facilitate in a setting for a group of kids to view and work on as a team.
A Day at School - Video Learning Program for Visual Learners - this is by Special Kids, VHS format for ages 2-10. The day starts by taking attendance, followed by standing for the Pledge of Allegiance. It is mentioned that your teacher is your friend and you will learn the alphabet.
The setting is similar to that of a first or second grade class with many rows of kids at desks. Writing is another subject that children learn and practice doing, which is a form of communication. The class starts by reading aloud from a book before selected students read various passages from the book.
The children learn about numbers and how to add them with some at the chalkboard doing these steps. They move on to subtraction with the teacher using bananas for some hands on experience. Jeffrey takes the viewer on a refresher course of what has just been shown and writes the words down for the child to learn spelling.
History, shapes, studying and using a dictionary are also explored in this video. The video teaches at a slow, repetitious pace showing small photographs on the screen to reiterate the point and show the word being spelled.
It is great for the visual learner and to reintroduce the school day to younger kids. Art, music and recess are examined showing classmates drawing and coloring, singing a song and swinging outside and playing basketball and softball. The students enter the hallway after recess to go back to work.
Rules at school are discussed - sitting at your desk, being quiet, raising your hand to ask and answer a question. Getting around school to the library, lunch room, lockers and backpacks are also covered. The rules for the bathroom are mentioned as well. The tools used as school include chalk, desk, pencil, eraser, markers, crayons and computer.
The bell, clock, water fountain and exit signs are explained and shown to the viewer as part of the school day. This covers all the items one would see at school and gives a brief overview of their role.
Ten Tips for Helping Your Child with Asperger Syndrome Get Ready to Return to School
The Oasis Asperger Syndrome Guide For Teachers Letter of Introduction
Transitioning Into Middle School