Q: Dear Lisa,
My son has High functioning Autism and is in general education classes in public school. He will be going to Middle School next year and I was wondering how should I prepare the teachers for him, and him for the teachers? This will be different as he no longer has just one teacher but will have many. We have had our ARD and I know the school does so much but I’m nervous and wanted to know what I can do as his parent.
-Sharon Kaiser/Plano, TX
A: Dear Sharon,
I’m so glad to have this question. Too often, April or May rolls around and then we begin to have a conversation about transitioning to a new school in the following Fall Semester. By planning ahead, parents and teachers can alleviate the anxiety associated with such a big change and increase success from Day 1 of school. Of course, each person on the spectrum responds to and deals with change in their own way. By including your son in the process, you can make decisions that are tailored to his needs.
Possible activities to consider include the following:
- Determine the point of contact[s] at the new school
- Plan a visit to the new campus; coordinate with a small group of friends if possible
- Set up a Circle of Friends or buddy/social coach
- Provide a map of the new campus
- Build a schedule that includes student interests
- Build a schedule that will meet sensory needs
- Write a social story about the new campus and new staff. You can find a sample social story in video format at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qk0Nag4zvJk
- Consider beginning to switch several classrooms at the elementary campus to practice this new aspect of Middle School life in a safe environment
- Ensure the new staff have training in autism to build common understanding
- Ensure that visual supports are in place to prevent stress. Signs on the first week of school can help navigate a new environment [e.g. schedule, scripts, narratives, etc.]
- Discuss whether or not the student will benefit from a “Home Base”. A “Home Base” is a predetermined location for the student to regain composure or work through a problem.
- Develop a plan for communication between home and school
In addition, I strongly recommend creating a portfolio of your child’s strengths, needs and interests.
The Education (K-12) Blogs and Special Ed Q & A are written and maintained weekly by Lisa Rogers with Educating Diverse Learners. Lisa received her M.A. in Special Education with an endorsement in the area of individuals with severe disabilities. Mrs. Rogers has also created products that have been used throughout the state of Texas for training purposes. Through the Association for Texas Professional Educators [ATPE], Ms. Rogers has produced an online course that targets the importance of visual strategies for student with autism spectrum disorders and just released her highly anticipated book titled: Visual Supports for Visual Thinkers.