You need to look at the enrolment of a child on the autistic spectrum as a three step process. Completing the enrolment form is only one small part of these steps. The three steps includes; Step 1 Preparing the environment and review the educators practices, Step 2 Preparing for the transition from home to the centre, Step 3 Building relationships with families. Let’s look at these steps in more detail.
Step 1 Preparing the environment and review the educators practices
- How does your room look and feel for an autistic child? All educators need to critically reflect upon the room and outdoor play area. This involves closely examining all aspects of events and experiences from the autistics child’s perspective.
- Educators need to ensure the room routine flexible to meet the needs of the child.
- Nominated Supervisors need to ensure educators understand Autism & how children on the autism spectrum process information.
Step 2 Preparing for the transition from home to the centre
- Create social stories with the parents. Ensure they include the child preparing for their day in the morning at home, their trip to the centre in the car and what the child’s first day looks like.
- Ensure the room is not overstimulating. When the child settles in you can progressively add more to the physical environment.
- Work with the parents and professionals in your local area to discover if you need other resources to meet the child’s needs
Step 3 Building relationships with families
- Get to know the family, their situation, goals, challenges and achievements. Again, critically reflect and try and see from the parent’s perspective.
- Give families a visual matrix to complete for their child.
- Find out what services the child is attending and gain written permission for the service to liaise with specialist and inclusion support services.
- Allow for a gradual transition. The child and parent/ carer may attend the service for 2 – 4 hour visits for 2 weeks leading up to their first day of care.
Change, can be overwhelming for people on the autistic spectrum. We need to remember the everyday hustle and bustle that most people view as ‘normal’, is difficult for children on the spectrum. With this in mind, children need to a part of the transition preparation so the change is not a surprise for them. Don’t forget you are not alone and there are many services in your community and state/territory to help you identify and develop a range of support strategies that can make the transition process smooth and successful for your new children on the autistic spectrum.
Inclusion Support Goal Steps
We can use ‘Inclusion support goals’ when working with children with Autism. These goals should be made up of real life situations and routines where the child is displaying challenging behaviours. You choose, plan, practice and evaluate using the challenges that children are facing on daily basis.
Start slowly, begin with very small steps, celebrate and build on each achievement and don’t give up.
Step 1 Choose an everyday event or part of a room routine which the child is finding challenging, exhibiting behaviours or that you feel will support the child’s inclusion ie transition from home to the centre or participating in small group activities.
Step 2 Plan with the families, other professionals and if possible the child the steps they need for the goal. Start simple – no more than three steps at a time. Later you can build upon these steps and include more.
Step 3 Prepare all educators and ensure that everyone s consistently implements the plan. If everyone is not following the same practice it won’t work and becomes confusing for the child.
Step 4 Practice the plan. Make sure it includes preferred language, checklist and visuals/photos so the child can readjust when needed, have some space and have the option to communicate using verbal or non-verbal communication. For example, when a child needs a break from group activities they can bring the visual that represents quiet time or can say “Quiet time now”.
Step 5 Reflect on the work goals with the child, family and educators after they have been implemented and have practised it a few times. Offer support and add another step to the work goal. Try to see it from the child’s perspective and evaluate its success.
If the behaviour is serving a purpose, we cannot take it away, but we can replace it.