You get to learn lots of acronoyms when you have a special needs child and the IEP can be a parent’s ongoing stressful source of aggravation or the ever changing Individual Education Plan that its suppose to be.
Johnny has been doing very at school and has intergrated easily into his JK classroom but because he is a happy boy who loves school it is not always apparent how much of a sensory seeker he is or when he gets distracted by things like sounds, objects etc. In order for him to have lots of learning opportunities and to reduce the anxiety we knew he had we wanted his sensory needs to be addressed and to talk about what behaviours he exhibits when he is under sensory stress. We decided to ask for a meeting with all the folks that work with Johnny and discuss our concerns and goals that we had for him and how we felt that he couuld move forward with some changes. The Principal, JK teacher, ECE teacher, SLP, Autism Support Teacher, Special Needs Coordinator the school board and Johnny’s teacher from his private school all attended.
Before Christmas, the Autism Support Teacher called me to let know that he collobrated with the JK classroom teacher and this is what they came up with:
1) A new Communication Book based on the example that was used by Johnny’s summer camp. It’s nice to read that Johnny “had a great day today” but when your child is non-verbal what does that mean? Did he try to talk today? Did he spontaneously try to play with a friend? Did he need prompting to do a task? We track everything he does in order to build upon successes so we need more information that could be easily gathered by the EA everyday and shared with his private school as well.
2) A Sensory Diet will be started for Johnny. By giving Johnny little bits of the sensory activities during the whole time he is at school instead of one or two activities by themselves it will help him stay focused, less anxious, less distracted, and not overly elevated or under aroused. Johnny doesn’t meltdown very much but instead if he needs something to feel better he goes and seeks it. He’ll try to get a hug, put his hands in water or sand, ask for play doh etc which is pretty amazing for being on the spectrum. If you deny him a few minutes doing any of these things you increase his anxiety or risk having him get very distracted.
4) JK Teacher found an unused sand table that no one was using and its now called “Johnny’s sensory table”. It is stored in a supply room and every morning it is Johnny’s job with a helper to go and get it and push it down the hall and bring it into the classroom. This way he will get his propreceptive feedback and then sit down for circle time. In the new year the JK Teacher added a social communication piece to this and has Johnny choose one of his classmates every morning to help him and try and learn to say their names.
4) Johnny LOVES bins and the sensory table has some bins in it that meet his different sensory needs. One bin will has moon sand, another beans and rice, spinning toys, blocks, cars and trucks, and lights etc. They change and adapt the items as they see how he responds. Johnny uses his choice board that has PEC’s on it to choose which bin/activity he wants to play with and sometimes he says what he wants.
5) Fidget toys are being introduced during circle time because busy hands keep him focused and paying attention and not reaching out to the other children and distracting them because he is seeking touch and interaction.
6) One of the teachers has a large cushion with a gel cushion inside and she’s brought it for Johnny to sit on while he’s in circle so he has to work his muscles etc to attend better during circle. I never knew before that its hard work to just sit in one spot and keep your body in one position. It’s no wonder that in order to “wake ourselves up” or energize ourselves when we are doing desk/computer work we get up and move around a bit. I’ve seen Johnny siting at the table eating his meal and for apparently no reason suddenly fall out of his chair in a clumsy movement.
7) They got a medicine ball with a handle for him to bounce on which he loves to do. This helps his vestibular sense equalize itself and the sensation can last for several hours and help him be more alert and more aware of where his body is in a space and not be so clumsy.
8) They have made Johnny an “Attendance Monitor” and he’s responsible for taking the record to the office every day with a helper. This way he gets to go for a little walk every day and then be ready to attend to the next activity. By bringing a friend along it changes from just being a “job” and a sensory activity to a social moment which is huge for anyone on the Autism Spectrum. His JK teacher thought of this 🙂
9) They are going to get Johnny “self opening” scissors to help him with his gross motor cutting skills. They are also going to get a bunch of paint sample chips from the paint stores for Johnny to use to practice on because the samples are stiffer then regular paper, small for little hands to hold and the paint gives easy lines to follow.
Have the changes worked? The daily log of has shown us that most of the time Johnny is having a great time at school and focusing on the teacher and the tasks. The best part is he is spontaneously asking to do things and vocalizing a lot more at school that the other children are noticing the change too. Time to bask in our success and then move on to advocating for a formal Occupational Therapist’s Assessment in the classroom to find out what is it with the gym class that bothers him some days yet he loves other times.