A few weeks ago I was asked to be part of a workshop for parents of special needs children specifically Autism regarding the transition from preschool to kindergarden at Johnny’s former preschool. I wrote about it here http://wp.me/p1KVmo-1xT and here http://wp.me/p1KVmo-1y5
I’ve had a few questions over the last 2 years about this on my blog and I thought as IEP season is upon us (for the newly initiated and everyone else…the Individual Education Plan) could share what we did for Johnny in the kindgerarten years.
Johnny is 6 years old now and is in Grade 1 at a public elementary school. He was diagnosed as being Autistic in January 2011 and was non-verbal at the time due to Childhood Apraxia of Speech. He now speaks in well thought out sentences but has articulation challenges.
Johnny’s placements in his first 3 years of school are:
- JK and SK Regular Classroom with Indirect Support
- Grade 1 Special Education Class with Partial Integration
When we were planning the transition from preschool to kindergarten, we had two different school boards that we could choose from. One IPRC’d Johnny (Individual Placement Review Committee) for Diagnostic Kindergarten even though their professionals felt that he would be more beneficial for him to be in regular classroom for Peer to Peer modelling. If we wanted Johnny placed in a a regular classroom, the Vice Principal from the catchement school told me that Johnny would begin kindergarten spending 1-2 hours a day for a few days a week to transition him into the classroom and the availability of her “ONE” Educational Support Person was very limited. The other school board offerend inclusion and not a special education classroom but a regular classroom with an Educational Support person as much as possible. We felt let’s try inclusion in kindergarten years and then we can always change for grade 1 if its not working and if Johnny’s needs changes.
How did Johnny’s days look? Johnny’s JK/SK years were half-day in an all day program with Educational support (EA). EA’s were positioned with him the entire time at school except for Library. The school was able to do this because he was only there for half day and school resources could be juggled. This helped Johnny immensely to learn the classroom routines and try to handle the intense visual environment of kindergarten. We decided that staying ALL DAY in kindergarten was too much for him and to instead help him work up to all day so he could handle Grade 1 expectations.
Johnny’s JK Year morning’s were spent at his school but then he would travel to a specialized private school for Adapted Kindergarten where he would learn to have lunch with the distractions of other children and be in an afternoon class with other autistic children.
Johnny’s SK Year Mornings were spent at his school but then he would have a mix of targeted activities that we tailored to his needs.
- 2 afternoons at Social Communication Group
- 1 afternoon that had one hour of OT to work on fine motor and sensory integration
- 1 afternoon that had one hour of PROMPT Speech Therapy
- 1 afternoon free time with his sister and Mommy
Saturday mornings at a Snozelin Pool
We decided to break his needs down and instead of focusing just on AUTISM.
- specific speech therapy because of Apraxia
- sensory integration because school is intense = OT
- practice time re: social communication = social communication class/group
This approached really worked for Johnny because he knew he only had to hold it together and try as hard as he could from 8:30 to 11:30 then he would get a change of environment. Then the afternoon programming would help him gain skills to manage the morning school expectations and set him up for success.
- Communication Book for EA or teacher to fill out every day to collect data
- IEP regular meetings to update and change it
- Try and schedule meetings way ahead especially if “team” members are going to be present. It gets hard to get them all in one room and before you know it months slip by.
- Sensory Component: sensory diet if needed
- Fine and Gross Motor Skills lots of support
- Research and find out what kind of equipment your child will need to naviate the classroom i.e. sensory table, ipad with specialized apps weighted vest
- See what kind of Speech and OT therapy are available from the school board
- Go To Special Education Monthly Meetings to meet Chief’s of departments and talk about your child’s needs. Many parents don’t do this and yet this has become a huge part of our advocating success for our son Johnny is no longer just a name but a little boy who they feel they are now part of his journey.
- You have to really keep on top of all the things promised to your child. Keep a calendar, make phone calls and email. Its okay to be bothersome you are doing it for your child. Just remember put a smile on your face and ask. They seems to move at snails pace and are satisfied that this is appropriate and there are doing well because this is the world of the public education system. This is hard because it often does not feel at “real world pace.”
Try and get outside therapists, social groups and school team of professionals to all be on the same page. This is not easy because outside help usually works at a different speed and might have a better sense of your child.
If your child is in the regular kindergarten, you have ONE YEAR with that teacher then you move on to the next. Remember that and remind yourself of this. So try and have a good relationship with that teacher and but remember that kindergarten has one teacher and one ECE. There are also others that will be working closely with your child. SLP’s, Special Ed teachers, OT’s, and most importantly EA’s. Get to know them, share with them because they will in the end spend more time with your child then the classroom teacher. She is dividing her time between many more children but these professionals are only there for your child.
Last of all, it will be an uphill fight but its worth because you know your child best which means you are the best advocate for your child. What worked for Johnny is for Johnny and might not be the right fit for another child. Good luck:)