5. School Life

Settling down in school-Mother’s Perspective

(How I settled my child in school to a great extent)

The most difficult task that parents of children on the spectrum often face is to settle down their child in school. Being a mother of a 5 year old on the spectrum I am going through this journey. I am sharing all inputs basis my experience and what has worked for us.

  1. My son was in a mainstream school when he was 2.7.

The sooner the child is put in a school the easier it becomes for him to adjust (as our children are followers of routine and averse to change). The more we delay the more the child remains a stranger to this institution called school – which is a strong foundation for any child in his overall development.

  1. Time table

We have an individualized time table in school to engage him there.  It has been carefully planned keeping his sitting tolerance in mind. Sitting tolerance is increased in intervals initially starting from a short span and then gradually increasing to longer time.  The time table is a balanced routine of work time/play time/breaks as per his need. It is generally fixed so that it becomes a routine. Breaks have been divided into two types – within classroom and outside classroom break. Activities done in break are to relax him hence as per his choice like jigsaw puzzle, colouring etc  in classroom and outdoor activities like trampoline, climbing stairs, running, backward walking etc outside the classroom.

Start time End time Time table
8 a.m 8:15 a.m Come to school, greet teachers and friends, water/toilet – settle down
8:15 a.m 8:30 a.m Prayer and attendance
8:30 a.m 9 a.m Story and poem time
9 a.m 9:10 a.m BREAK IN CLASS – (activities like jig saw puzzle, colouring, deep pressure)
9:10 a.m 9:40 a.m Class work – list all activities done
9:40 a.m 9:50 a.m BREAK OUTSIDE THE CLASS – (activities like trampoline, play apparatus, climbing stairs, running, wheelbarrow, walk, catch/throw ball)
9:50 a.m 10:15 a.m Class work
10:15 a.m 10: 40 a.m Tiffin Break – food/water/toilet, socialize
10:40 a.m 11:10 a.m Class work

 

  1. Goals

We have individualized goals for his development balancing his school academics/goals and his own learning curve. Part of the vacations is utilized in advance to cover school academics

No Goal
1 Class Academics
2 Recognition of numbers 11 to 20 – flash cards
3 Days of the week
4 Months of the year
5 Community helpers
6 Association(what goes with what)
7 Opposites
8 Sight reading two letter words
9 Colouring within boundary
10 Sticker pasting in boundary
11 Recognition of small letter a,d,j,l,n,p,q and t
12 Telling 5 fruits
13 Telling 5 animals
14 Telling 5 vegetables
15 Telling 5 birds
16 Rhyming words
17 Addition – worksheet
18 Jigsaw puzzle
19 Break time activities
  1. Visual schedule and discipline cards

We follow a set of picture cards in school to let him know what to expect in school as his daily routine. Our children are anxious especially when they do not know what is coming up next or incase of unexpected change hence visual schedule is a powerful tool which reduces the anxiety.  Some of the discipline cards are shown below

Good sitting

Good Sitting

Study time

Study Time

  1. Shadow teacher

We engaged a shadow teacher for our child to give him that individual support. Utmost care has been taken said that she should not increase dependency instead transition him towards independence so that he can work independently after a couple of years.

We engaged our shadow teacher for nearly 2 months before she started handling him in school. She observed him and also how we handled him at home and understood our expectations.

What my son’s shadow teacher does

  1. She only gives instructions which he follows – instructs him to open his bag, take out his books, pencil box, put them back. Depending on his learning curve she identifies where to give full help, where to give little help and where no help is needed.  Where he is independent like writing numbers or eating tiffin he does it independently. She does hand holding only where he can’t do a specific task.
  2. She lets him play with other children as a part of socialization. Our children observe their peers and develop various emotions. My son enjoys other children seeing him make puzzles basically instilling a competitive nature.
  3. She gives me a daily report (what all he did in class) and if needed I seek clarity.
  4. I have monthly one on one session with my shadow teacher on his progress on given goals. She shares documented progress. We evaluate his progress and make changes as appropriate.
  1. Open to talk to the school

I am prepared to give/receive feedback on an ongoing basis.  The more I welcome feedback, the easier has been the process of development for my child.  Of course, one should not always only be on the receiving end. I am diplomatic with the school and analyse the root cause (in case of a negative feedback). I will share one example of negative feedback shared for my son and how we tackled the issue.

Issue – My son’s school had a habit of giving him chocolates whenever he cried to pacify him. My son who loved chocolates very well analysed that to get chocolates he needs to cry. It went to the extent that if chocolates were denied he would even hit and eventually the teacher would either give up or share a negative feedback with us.

Solution – We were already doing behavioral therapy at home where we had a routine for chocolates and give him when we wanted and sometimes when he asked but not always. Initially there were huge tantrums but I had to be strong and we finally overcame this issue at home. I spoke to his teachers and asked them to maintain the same in school and remain firm. In sometime my son understood that even hitting or crying was not giving him his desired chocolates. He slowly began to understand that in school, chocolates would be given only on birthdays and occasions and when the teacher felt like giving. He learnt to ask for variety of things and his communication was not restricted to chocolates alone (though it still remains his top favorite). I have tried to use rational judgment to resolve the issue in the best interest of everyone.

In addition to this school process we also follow the ones mentioned below at home

  1. Regular therapy

We follow

  1. Sensory Integration/Occupational Therapy
  2. Speech therapy
  3. Behavioral Therapy
  4. Neurodevelopmental Program
  5. Special Education
  1. Engagement at home with mother

I involve my son in most of the household  chores that I do like taking out clothes from the machine, hanging them to dry, giving me vegetables to cook, cleaning the table after food (basically whatever he can do which I have taught him). This develops a bonding with the mother which helps in engagement with anyone creating generalization which helps the child to work with anyone.

  1. Independent play

I engaged him with 3 or 4 different play activities he knew like radio button, pegs, shape sorter etc in my presence for short span of time (15 minutes) till he learnt to play with them independently in my absence too. I taught him newer games to increase his engagement level in a constructive manner.

Last but not the least – every improvement (no matter how small it may be is an improvement after all). We have to learn to rejoice and celebrate even small success.                           

Created by Barnana Chakraborti

Copyright © 2016 Barnana Chakraborti

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Life of a special one