Wednesday, August 29, 2012
The transition to school plan- part 1- The Overview
MissG is not a suitable candidate for a special Autism class (even if there were places available in one close enough for us to access!) as she is very intelligent and is verbal, so we have enrolled her in the local public school that our other kids have attended. I love this school, and MasterL did very, very well there, thanks to the efforts and support of the superb staff there. It is still a stressful transition, though.
The change from a preschool environment with 20 kids and 4 staff in a relaxed environment where the routine is flexible and can be bent to the needs of the kids, to a classroom with at least 20 kids, one teacher and the need for conformity, will certainly stretch MissG's social and sensory abilities. The stress of the situation has been increased recently by the changes made by our state government to the way they are funding support for children with extra needs in schools (and when I say 'changes in funding', I mean 'decreases in funding and making the lesser amounts available harder to access'). Even though MissG has had full time support at preschool and has progressed well with that support, she is not "disabled enough" to meet the requirements for any individual funding to go towards her support at school. The Principal of the school and I have talked at length about this, and we have filled in the paper work to apply to be considered for funding, but it is not looking hopeful.
Regardless of the funding situation I know the staff at the school and The Principal, and I know they will do their utmost for MissG. In fact they already are!
I thought it would be beneficial for me, and for some of you Readers, to keep a record of the things we have done and are doing to help with the transition to school for MissG. I will make sure to label any posts on this topic "transition to school" so if you want to follow the topic through you can use the search bar at the top right of the home page to find all the entries.
Here is what we have done so far:
1. From the time we knew MissG is Autistic and that she would be attending The School we have made a point of having her at school as much as possible, even when it may have been more convenient to leave her at home.
This has included
- attending playgroup weekly at the Community Hub on the school grounds to help her get to know other kids in the school community
- bringing her into the playground every morning and every afternoon at drop off and pick up times and making a point of talking about the schools expectations of behaviour in the playground as well as the unspoken expectations (like that you have to be careful not to walk through other kids ball games), and encouraging her to talk to various staff members around the school as we wander around
- taking her into the classrooms with me when I go to help with reading groups in K's class so she can get an idea of the way you are expected to behave in the classroom
- taking her with me into the office when I go and talk to the staff there so she knows the ladies who are there and who will be likely to care for her if she is hurt or sick
- going for visits to The Principal's office to help her get to know him and so that his office is not an unknown and scary place
- bringing her to all school events possible like Book Parades and Sports Carnivals so she sees school at it's busiest and noisiest
2. We have had lots of assessments done. MissG has been assessed by a Speech Pathologist and an Occupational Therapist and the results of those assessments have been made available to The Principal. This will help him and The Kindergarten Teacher next year know better what to expect from the point of view of other Professionals, and give them information about some strategies they have used successfully when working with her. MissG also sees a Psychologist who will work closely with the school as MissG begins the year next year, providing them with Professional Support and ideas and tips on how to handle anything "tricky" that may come up. All these assessments and therapy sessions cost money. We are fortunate enough to have access to some assistance from our Federal Government to pay for some of these things, but I'll be honest and say it has still cost us a lot!
3. We have enlisted the help of a Family Support Worker who meets with me regularly to talk through any concern I have and be of support to me and Hubby when we need it. Recently she helped us organise a Case Conference at which we met with everyone who has been involved in MissG's therapies and everyone who will be working with her next year. It was fantastic to have them all in one room to meet each other and share ideas about how the school will best be able to meet her needs. Hubby and I left feeling truly encouraged at the provision of some amazingly dedicated and compassionate people involved in our little girls life. As a group of parents and caregivers we were able to put in place a plan of what needs to happen over the next few months with tasks being offered to be done by various members of the group.
Here is what will be happening over the next few months:
The School runs a transition program for all students entering Kindergarten, and MissG will attend that. She will also be taken for extra transition visits both by myself and by an Itinerant Support Worker who has been working with her at Preschool. During The School's organised transition visits MissG will be expected to participate as part of the larger group. In the visits with the IS Worker and myself she will be in a one on one support setting.
MissG and I will be meeting with The Psychologist regularly over the next few moths for the purpose of working on issues around social situations and to help give MissG at least the theory side of some of the skills she will need during a school day. The Psychologist will be able to use the knowledge she has of MissG and her needs to help The Kindergarten Teacher know how best to support MissG, and she has offered to help set up a calm down space and other appropriate environment modifications. We will also be developing a kit of social stories to use both now and when school starts.
It might be useful for some Readers to know that in some areas you will find programs run by community groups that provide extra transition support for Autistic Children. In our area the program is called "Kids on the move". MissG's IS Worker helped us apply for that program. Unfortunately there were 60 applications from High Needs Autistic Children received, and funds available to accept only 10 of them. MissG was placed at 5th on the waiting list. It makes me sad that there are so many children who would benefit from this little bit of extra help and our Government just doesn't see the importance of providing for that need. Anyway, it is worth asking around at places like Early Intervention Centres or your Community Health Centre to see what they know about this sort of program.
That gets you pretty much up to date on what we are doing for MissG's school transition. I'll let you know when there is more progress to report. I hope some of you find this information helpful in developing your own plans. Please do ask questions if I've left anything unclear.