Are you taking your child on vacation before school starts up? Is your child anxious about this new experience? Here are some suggestions to help lessen your child’s anxiety and make this a great family vacation.
1) Write a Social Story™ to help your child understand where you are going, what you will be doing and what the "expected behaviors" will be to help increase your child's understanding of this new situation. Add real pictures of your vacation destination to the story to give your child visuals of the vacation spot and vacation activities.
2) Go online with your child and browse websites about your vacation destination.
3) Write a daily schedule with your child to help him better understand the structure and activities of each day.
4) Come up with "flexible challenges" to help your child overcome uncomfortable situations.
5) Let your child know solutions to possible problems that may come up during your trip. Have a plan in case a problem arises to help lessen your child’s anxiety. For example, if your child has issues with waiting in line, plan to use a wrist watch as a visual cue to help your child know how long the wait will be.
Social StoryTM is a registered trademark of Carol Gray.
1) Start taking your child to her school to play on the playground in the next coming weeks. This will help your child become either reacquainted with her old school or start to become acquainted with her new school.
2) Put a calendar in your child’s room or on the refrigerator and start crossing off each day until school begins.
3) If your child is very anxious about the upcoming school year, call your child’s school and ask the principal if you could bring your child in for weekly visits to see the inside of the school.
4) Make sure you go to the teacher’s open house to visit your child’s classroom and hopefully meet your child’s teachers and classmates. If your teacher is not having an open house, request one!
5) During the open house, take your digital camera and take pictures of your child’s teachers, principal, secretary, etc. Also, take pictures of various locations in the school such as your child’s classroom, cafeteria, playground, art room, library, etc. When you get home make a “Back to School Book” with your child. Use the real pictures and write what each picture is – your child can help you do this.
Is your child anxious about going back to school? This is the second Tip in a 2-part series to help lessen your child’s anxiety and make your child's return to school a positive experience. 2) Write a Social Story™ about going back to school. Use the pictures you took from the Open House to insert into the story. Here is an example of a story: Vacation was so much fun! I really enjoyed going to ____________ . School begins on __________ . I am going into the ____________ grade. My teacher knows all about me and can't wait to meet me. Her name is _____________ . I might know some friends in my class, but I will also make new friends. I can't wait for ___________ (library, gym, reading... whatever your child enjoys). It's good to go to school, because I get to learn and play with my friends. Social StoryTM is a registered Trademark of Carol Gray.
1) Make going to buy your child’s school supplies a fun activity:
Is your child anxious about going back to school? This is the second Tip in a 2-part series to help lessen your child’s anxiety and make your child's return to school a positive experience. 2) Write a Social Story™ about going back to school. Use the pictures you took from the Open House to insert into the story. Here is an example of a story: Vacation was so much fun! I really enjoyed going to ____________ . School begins on __________ . I am going into the ____________ grade. My teacher knows all about me and can't wait to meet me. Her name is _____________ . I might know some friends in my class, but I will also make new friends. I can't wait for ___________ (library, gym, reading... whatever your child enjoys). It's good to go to school, because I get to learn and play with my friends.
2) Write a Social Story™ about going back to school. Use the pictures you took from the Open House to insert into the story. Here is an example of a story:
Vacation was so much fun! I really enjoyed going to ____________ . School begins on __________ . I am going into the ____________ grade. My teacher knows all about me and can't wait to meet me. Her name is _____________ . I might know some friends in my class, but I will also make new friends. I can't wait for ___________ (library, gym, reading... whatever your child enjoys). It's good to go to school, because I get to learn and play with my friends.
Social StoryTM is a registered Trademark of Carol Gray.
School is about to start as is the homework! Getting back into a homework routine is very important for your child as is establishing a homework routine for a child who is just entering elementary school. Help reduce your child’s anxiety and yours by following some of these tips:
1) Set a time that is consistent every day. Make sure the time works for you and your child. Some parents like to get homework out of the way as soon as their child gets home while other children need to unwind from their busy school day and complete homework after dinner.
2) Make sure your child does his homework in the same location each day. Have a quiet area for your child with limited distractions (away from siblings, television, etc.). Making sure the area has everything your child needs: pencil, eraser, calculator, crayons, markers, ruler, etc. will help eliminate distractions.
3) If your child has a lot of anxiety about homework, talk with your child’s teacher about coming up with a homework plan. Example: start out with one homework assignment for a week or until complete success has been mastered and then gradually increase homework. If your child completes homework successfully, offer small rewards for a great job! Your child’s teacher could work with you and your child on receiving rewards. Maybe a “homework pass” could be earned for a week of great homework!
4) Homework should be at your child’s independent level!
5) If accommodations and adaptations are being made to your child’s curriculum, these accommodations and adaptations should be made to your child’s homework. Ask for explanation on homework items that come home that you are unclear on how to explain to your child.
6) If your child’s teacher is using teaching aids to help your child learn a concept, make sure those aids are also sent home for your child to use.
7) If homework is taking too long, use a timer. Once you figure out how long an assignment generally takes your child, set a timer and make the expectation that the assignment needs to be finished in the time set.
I have learned through my years of teaching that the
school bus can be problematic the first couple weeks of school until all the
kinks are worked out. In the meantime,
here are some suggestions for your child:
sure you go over the school bus rules with your child. Write them down or use
pictures and post the rules for your child. Go over these rules daily until
your child knows exactly what is expected of him.
your child’s teacher and the school bus driver to go over the school bus rules
with your child.
3. If your child is riding the bus for over an hour to school and back again, this could be very stressful for your child. Here are some suggestions.
- Write down daily for the first week of school exactly when your child is picked up and dropped off. Ask your child’s teacher when your child arrived at school and at what time the bus picked your child up at the end of the day. Keep track of these times to discuss with transportation.
- Call transportation and ask if there is any way to decrease this time on the bus. (Many times it takes the driver a week or longer to figure out the schedule and then the time on the bus for your child will decrease.)
- If after a week or so the time is still long and there is no solution in sight, discuss the issue with your child’s teacher and your child’s special education supervisor and / or school principal.
4. Make sure your child has toys or books on the bus to keep him busy. You can ask the bus driver to keep these toys on the bus (if it is the same bus in the morning and afternoon) so they are not a problem in school. If your child needs to take the toys/books into school, let the teacher know so she can put them away immediately so they are not problematic for the school day.
- I have found that the most effective way for changes to be made with bus issues is by having the teacher, the parent and the special education supervisor and/or school principal call to discuss the problematic amount of time on the school bus with transportation.
5. Ask the bus driver to give your child an assigned seat so she knows where she will be sitting everyday on the bus.
Well the school year has started (and hopefully it has been successful for all of your children), and yes, the dreaded fire alarm will be sounding off soon! What can you do for your child to help lessen his anxiety of the fire drill?
1) First, make sure your child’s teacher knows exactly when each fire drill will occur during the school year. Ask her for the schedule.
2) Have your child’s teacher go over the fire drill rules with your child so he knows what is expected. A social story can be written to explain fire drill procedures to your child (reasons why fire drills are performed / what the procedure is for the school building / what their expected behaviors should be / what would happen if they did not have expected fire drill behaviors).
3) The day of the fire drill, make sure the rules are discussed, practice exactly what is expected of the children, and model for the children. Have a “pretend” fire drill for the entire class so everyone knows exactly what is expected of them. When writing the “rules”, you can write them out in a task analysis form with pictures.
4) If the child is extremely afraid of the fire drill, have the child go outside before the alarm goes off. The child can watch the other children come out of the building and see what the process is for the school building.
5) Each month, gradually increase your expectations of the child who is extremely afraid of the drill / sound of alarm. For example, for the second fire drill, have the child stand by the door to go outside with headphones on his ears. Once the alarm goes off, the child can immediately exit the building. (Make sure you are discussing the fire drill on a weekly basis and role play / model if needed.)
6) The next month, the child can stand by the door to go outside without his headphones on his head.
7) Each month the child can stand a bit further from the door in hopes of getting him to the classroom and walking out with his classmates.
I had a student that was so terrified of the fire drill that
we had to take extreme baby steps during the school year. By following the steps above, he became
successful with the fire drill. During the later months of the school year,
when he was showing great progress, as a motivator, I let him walk with the custodian
during the fire drill (the custodian had important jobs during the drill, which
this student thought were great) – this was of course done with the principal’s
permission. The next month, he walked
with the principal during the fire drill to make sure all the children / staff
members were in the correct areas. The
last month of school, this student was able to independently complete the fire
drill by himself with no warning when the drill was going to occur.
a. If you are traveling by plane, prepare your child by explaining the process of the airport. Show him / her pictures online of an airport if your child has never been to one before. You could even take a trip to the airport, prior to your real trip, to show your child what will take place during the your time at the airport. (Show your child the ticket counter, how people are standing in lines, how security works and where the gates are. You can watch airplanes land and take off.) At home, role-play the process of going through security and going onto the airplane. When you arrive to the airport (or you can call ahead of time), let the airport staff know that you are traveling with a child with special needs and your family may require assistance (preboarding, not waiting in lines, etc.). Airport personnel will make accommodations for your child.
b. If you are traveling a long distance by car, prepare your child for the trip by writing a social story about how the trip will work (the length of trip, who will drive, where everyone will sit in the car, when breaks will occur and what your child can do during the car ride). Make sure all your child’s favorite possessions are close by to keep him / her entertained. Portable DVD players can perform miracles if your child likes to watch movies.2) Thanksgiving in your home:
a. If Thanksgiving will take place in your home, prepare your child for the day. Give your child a schedule for the day’s events. Write down what will take place that day and who will be coming to your home. If your child is not familiar with the family and friends coming over, prepare him / her by looking at photo albums. Let your child know that Grandmom may be loud or Aunt Sally may try to kiss and hug even though your child may not like it.
b. Make sure your child knows where he /she can go if he / she gets overwhelmed with the day’s events. Have a quiet area for your child that is off limits to all other guests and family members.
c. Have your child help set the table or make some of the dinner to get involved in the day’s festivities.
d. If your child has food aversions, make sure he / she knows what he /she can have to eat. You can work on flexibility by having your child choose one new food that he / she doesn’t care for but will be willing to try!
e. Prepare your guests (if they are not familiar with your child) the dos and don’ts of the day (such as: don’t wear strong perfumes if your child has smell sensitivities, don’t give your child hugs/kisses if your child does not like to be touched, etc.).
f. Let your child know how long he/she will be expected to sit at the table (since it may be a long dinner).3) Thanksgiving at another person’s home:
a. Prior to Thanksgiving Day, phone your host to discuss the day’s events, who will be attending the dinner, what types of food will be served, if the family has any animals and where those animals will be during the day and if there is a quiet area for your child to go to if needed.
b. Explain to your hosts what they may see or not see during the day from your child. If there will be guests unfamiliar with autism, either you or your hosts could discuss this with them prior to Thanksgiving.
c. Once you arrive, check out the house to see if there will be any problematic areas (toy room), etc.
d. Find the quiet area and make sure it will work for your child. If not, find a new one and let your child know where this is.
e. Take your child around the house so he / she knows where everything will be (quiet area, bathrooms, bedrooms, game room, etc.).
f. Bring your own food if your child is on a special diet or if you know that your child will not be fond of what the host is making.
g. Follow the same techniques used as above (Thanksgiving in your home).
1) Prepare a holiday schedule for your child so he / she knows what each day will encompass.
2) Plan structured activities and events each day, and make sure you try to keep your child on a schedule. This will be helpful when transitioning back to school in the New Year.
3) Avoid canceling regular activities. Try to maintain as much of the normal routine as possible if you are staying home.
4) Make an effort to have your child go to bed and wake up the same time each day.
5) If visitors or family members are staying with you, do not let them take your child’s room.
6) If you are going on long trips, give your child a “mini schedule” for the day:
Car, McDonalds, Gas Station, Mom Mom’s house
7) Set up a schedule for the location you are going to be staying allowing your child to know what will take place each day.
8) Show your child where he or she will be sleeping and where a quiet area is for a retreat.
9) When family and friends are visiting your home, make sure your child knows where he or she can escape to when needed.
10) Educate your guests about your child.
a. Explain the difficulties your child may have during dinner, to decorations or to noise.
b. Let your guests know how your child is learning to handle these difficult times.
c. Explain about dietary challenges.
d. Use this time to enrich your family’s and friend’s knowledge about autism.
11) When family visits your home, let your child know who will be visiting. Show your child pictures of the visitors so he or she can become familiar with them prior to their visit.
12) Come up with holiday rules for those children who do well with knowing exactly what is expected of them.
13) Write a social story explaining what the holidays will look like, who will attend, and what the expectations are for your child. Use pictures from last year in the story.
14) Help your child interact with guests by:
a. Writing a script with your child about how to greet guests who come to visit (role-play the script)
b. Teaching your child how to shake hands with guests as they arrive (practice, practice, practice)
c. Coming up with topics that your child can talk about with guests
d. Allowing your child to have a task when guests arrive (such as: taking guests’ coats and putting them on a bed)
15) Practice opening presents with your child if he or she has difficulty with this.
a. Make sure you wrap presents that you know your child would probably not like so you can role-play how to handle the situation when Grandpop gives your child a present he or she may not care for.
b. Take fine motor issues into account. Place items in a gift bag if pulling off wrapping paper is too difficult.