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Going to school is a big transition for any child. Throw in special needs concerns, and you potentially have a whole new set of struggles. My son is 4 this year, and as of now, he will be going to 2 different preschools. One on Tuesday and Thursday with therapists and special ed teachers and the other on Wednesday and Friday in a typical preschool classroom. We scheduled it this way for a reason. First, I wanted him to get at least 15-20 hours of school/therapy a week, and this gets us to 18 hours including all of his home therapy. Second, I want him to learn a variety of skills from a variety of children. The only hang up is that it takes Brady a couple weeks to “warm up” and get into the routine of each school, so we will stagger his start dates.
There are a variety of ways we can help the teachers and Brady to be successful in the transition, as well as the entire school year. Picture schedules are a great way to achieve this. I love the BeeVisual line of pictures. They have a CD of images that you can print that has almost every activity your child would encounter on a typical day, including centers, coloring, letters, going to therapy, going to the library, snack time and many more. I highly recommend this system. And the best part? It’s a fraction of what the boardmaker software is for PECS (Picture Exchange Communication Schedule).
Another tool that can help comes in the form of toys. (You didn’t think I’d leave toys out did you?!) We love the Fisher Price See Yourself Kid Tough Camera. Brady can go around the classroom and take pictures of his friends and activities, videos of how the kids do centers and then watch them at home to become more familiar with his class. When they say Kid Tough, they mean it. Our camera is 18 months old and has been thrown against concrete, walls, even put in a sink full of water, and it still works like new. Now I would not advise submerging it in water, and it did take 2 days to dry out, but the fact that it stood up to that was impressive. It makes it totally worth the price tag of $69.99
There are books that can help as well. I’m planning on giving the school a copy of My Friend Has Autism, by Amanda Doering Tourville, a book for children to help explain why Brady might be a little different than the other children, but just as much fun! There are many books out there as more people are becoming more familiar with Autism. In the words of Temple Grandin, “Different, not Less,” this book helps younger children to understand.
We are hoping Brady has a very successful year ahead of him. I’m sure I will be talking more about our preschool adventures and ways we can help Brady along the way in my future articles. If you have a child with special needs in school, what tips do you have for others?