Getting ready to start a new school year causes anxiety in most children; especially so for children on the ASD spectrum. As a parent, what should you be doing to help prepare your child for the highest level of success through this tricky transition?
Try the following tips to ease anxiety:
1. Visit the school beforehand with your child, especially his own classroom. If this isn't possible, see if you can visit alone and take some pictures, or ask the teacher to email you some pictures. A visual preparation of what to expect can make it easier to visualize and prepare mentally. Visit with the teacher if you can, and do a bit of a walkaround of the classroom. This is an ideal time to talk about your child's optimal learning environment with the teacher.
2. Try to obtain some of the curriculum and/or lessons that will be taught this year. If the teacher doesn't have this planned out yet, you can visit your State or Province's Department/Ministry of Education website; curriculum can be either downloaded or ordered. In Ontario, you can download the curriculum (by subject or by grade) at http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/grades.html, or click on "Publications" to have them send the books to you at no cost. You will need to order each subject. Having the curriculum at hand allows you to pre-teach, making school a little more predictable.
3. Drive the bus route a few times to practise. Many school boards send around a bus route list. Drive the whole route, including having your child get into the car where he/she will be catching the bus. Borrow a few neighbourhood kids to make it a little more realistic. If your child is younger, he/she may carry a picture of the school bus along this ride to generalise a little easier.
4. Write a social story about what to expect, acknowledging feelings of anxiety, and providing some illustrated examples for reducing anxiety throughout the day (deep breathing, square breathing, Tony Attwood's toolbox, etc). Visit www.fullspectrumlearning.ca/resources.html for some examples. Try to include real photos of the school in the story, and script out the major transitions throughout the day - arrival, getting to the classroom, going to the washroom, lunch, recess, and return hom. Read the story daily, and talk about what might happen. If there are specific anxieties, write social stories for those as well.
5. See if you can arrange for an earlier or later start time on the first few days. Sometimes, the commotion of the first few days, especially at arrival time, can be overwhelming. At the very least, try to arrange a quiet spot for your child to wait as soon as he gets there to avoid some of the chaos.
What have you done to ease school transition and create success? Please click on our forums above to share your ideas, or post a comment to this blog!
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It is with regret that we salute the passing or Dr. Ivar Lovaas. His work has changed our lives, and affected so many children, and his footprint on the field of autism remains his legacy.
The Association for Behaviour Analysis comments:
At 6 PM on August the 2nd, 2010, Professor Emeritus O. Ivar Løvaas, Ph.D., passed away quietly after a long battle with illness. He was surrounded by his closest family. There will be an official memorial service at the University of California, Los Angeles later this month." Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh, Executive Director, Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Inc.
Unfortunately, Løvaas had had Alzheimer's for the last few years. He was recovering from surgery for a broken hip and got an infection that caused his death.
Few have had Løvaas' impact on the field of behavior analysis, demonstrating the power of behavior analysis to so significantly improve the quality of life of so many people. Little in behavior analysis, or in psychology, has had the real impact of the behavioral interventions he started and that have been replicated and expanded upon by so many other behavior analysts. H e showed that if you're willing to do what it takes, up to 40 hours per week of intensive training for at least a couple years, you can help young children with autism greatly improve their lives. And this has almost as powerful an effect on the lives of the children's families. And also on the lives of the tutors and behavior analysts who have the privilege of using behavior analysis to help those children and their families. The field of behavior analysis and the Association for Behavior Analysis International owe a great debt to Ivar Løvaas, his students, and the many researchers and practitioners who have followed his path and who have branched off on related paths of their own.
Association for Behavior Analysis International
Ivar Lovaas was a psychology professor at the University of California at Los Angeles. Dr. Lovaas began working with older children with autism in the same decade that Skinner wrote his now famous, Science and Human Behavior text in 1953. Lovaas began to apply the experimental behaviour analysis developed by Skinner to people with autism. Unfortunately, Lovaas achieved limited success at first. However, he refocused his efforts on children under the age of 5, placed the implementation of treatment in the child’s own home and increased the intensity (a measurement of the amount of “therapy time”) to about 40 hours weekly. In one of Lovaas’ studies, 47% of the children in the study (9 children) made remarkable progress to the point of becoming “recovered”, while a further 42% (8 children) made significant improvements. Even still, however, 11% made little to no gains. Lovaas wrote a user friendly manual, Teaching Developmentally Disabled Children: The Me Book in 1981. In 2002, Lovaas wrote, Teaching Individuals With Developmental Delays: Basic Intervention Techniques . Lovaas has published more than 70 publications throughout his career.
Casey Burgess has a B.Sc.in Psychology, an M.A. in Education (Curriculum and Instruction), and a Ph.D. in progress in Education (Cognition and Learning). She has 20 years experience with direct service, curriculum development, workshop facilitation, and supervisory experience supporting children who have Autism Spectrum Disorders, and their families. She currently frames her work using a developmental, relationship-based, self-regulation lens.