Now that we are full flung into another school year I wanted to bring up the topic of scheduling the classroom for your ASD child. Routine is so much a part of what comforts our children that it is one of the major accommodations that our childen need in school. So the question is how to ensure that they are well organized and well scheduled in school? That of course is what the special education teacher is supposed to accomplish, but the reality is that not all of our childen have a special education teacher or case manager. Autism is such a huge spectrum disability, with the least affected of our childen being overlooked, that we have to understand how to get the school to help them and make sure that they have what they need on our own.
So how would this work in the classroom? Each classroom teacher has a lesson plan that has been worked out and accepted by the principal of their school. It must be in compliance with state regulations of curriculum. They know way ahead of time what they are planning to teach and when. This is a god send for us. Also the teachers also know when certain activites, such as art, music, gym, recess, lunch, library are scheduled for the week. Every day is also timed precisly (well with some leeway) to include history, geography, writing, math. science and/or civics. Talk to the teacher, have the teacher help you to write out schedules for your child of what will happen everyday. Put it in a chart that they could keep on their desk and check off each activity as it gets accomplished. Since most days are very similiar in the younger years, a new schedule doesn’t even have to be written for every day, sometimes you may even be able to just print off copies of older versions.
Actually, collegeman used to have a chart with the times even included because he was so rigid in his need to schedule. It did present some problems however, because if the time was readjusted he would get anxious, but if given enough notice then it did pass without incident. Eventually he did learn to use a schedule without the times and by the end of elementary he was fine without a personal schedule. Of course he then entered middle school and every child was given a class schedule because they moved classrooms.
Interestingly I have seen teachers take this scheduling in elementary school to a new level and provide a schedule board for the entire class. They have a felt calendar (or they use the white board and write it themselves) that includes the daily schedule so every child has the comfort of knowing what to expect that day. It helps the class run really smoothly. Knowing what to expect is important for all children, especially those little ones entering the work-a-day school world that they are not used to. It’s no less important than the "kindergarten school bus day" that helps the average kindergartener learn to be comfortable on that big yellow bus.
Of course, this does not mean your child might not need his own copy at his desk. Sometimes our children are very tactile and holding the schedule in their hands may actually be a big part of their comfort.
There is one big caveat to remember: if there is going to be an assembly or maybe even a "surprise" fire drill/lock down drill, the school should inform you the day before so you can prepare your child for this big change. I know the "surprise" part of the drill is supposed to be a surpirse, but as I said before, highschoolboy and collegeman never told anyone about the impending drills. Otherwise the school needs to make real adjustments, accommodations, for our children when they have these drills. Unfortunately these drills which without a doubt saves lives can be very overwhelming for our children.
I have found that scheduling our children’s days and when they know what to expect when goes along way in alleviating their anxiety. Scheduling helps them to transition to the next subject and gives them the comfort they need to be successful in the school environment.
For more information or ideas about school and your children please review these previous posts. This list, of course, is not exhaustive of my past musings, it’s just a place to begin :
Homework, May 27, 2009
Scheduling Homework and the Urge to Battle Zombie Mutants,July 7, 2009
Helping Your Child:
Transitioning/Work/School/Camp, June 2, 2009
Social Stories: Behavioral Lessons, June 28, 2009
Speech Delay, Echolalia, Pragmatic Issues, Word Retrieval: Speech in the Time of Autism, August 2, 2009
Understanding Your Child:
Obsessions, June 14, 2009
Until next time,