Spectrum Warriors: Life Through The Autism Spectrum

Making It Visible: Inclusion in the Early Years – Conference Summary Part 3 of 4

 As part of our continued coverage of the Inclusion in the Early Years Conference in NB in late 2014, here’s post three of four by attendee, Kayla Wilcox. Kayla Wilcox

Having just transitioned MJ and the monkey to kindergarten, Sabrina and I were very interested in Kayla’s write up on this.  We think it’s a very informative summary and if you are transitioning children this coming fall, it is well worth a read.

For a refresher of Part 1, an overview of the conference – click here
And  you can read part 2, a summary of the Communication: Building Bridges to Children” here.

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EB will be attending Kindergarten fall of 2015, which is why my second workshop choice was the Transition for Inclusion presentation by Kristi Peterson (NBACL Early Learning Inclusion Facilitator) and Lise MacNaughton (Interventionist and Family and Early Childhood Educator). I learned that transitions are changes that can build self confidence, a sense of pride, help children feel happy, and are learning opportunities, if they are done correctly. If transitions are rushed, they can induce stress, isolation, and make children feel incompetent. Transitions are easier for some than others. Even as adults we may notice that we find transitions stressful. Think about the last time you moved or the last time you started a new job. By thinking about what transitions in our life have been difficult and how we managed them, we can gain insight into how to help our children.

When transitioning children into early learning and childcare, or into primary school, we need to have a plan which should be formulated with key players (teachers, directors, principals, education assistants). That plan will make a marked difference in helping children feel secure in their new environment. Additionally, taking your child to visit the school before she attends will go a long way to helping her feel comfortable. If she can meet her teacher and be able to visualize where she will be going, it will decrease her stress.

Something that many early childhood educators use that I feel would also be useful for parents is ABC charts. These charts document the Antecedent (A) – What specific activity occurred before challenging behaviour?; the Behaviour (B) – What specifically did the person do or say?; and the Consequence (C) – What happened as a result of the challenging behaviour? ABC charts can be used for positive or negative behaviours so we can determine what works or doesn’t work. As parents, especially those of you who are juggling a few children, we may find ourselves reacting to a behaviour in the moment. Sally bit Johnny, end point, dish out consequence. We don’t always have time to consider the sequence of events that happened before the incident, if we were even able to observe them at all. However, the behaviour is only a small part of the story. If it’s a behaviour we want to prevent, we need to take note of what caused it to help prevent it from happening again. Sally is likely not an angry child who simply felt like biting Johnny. Perhaps Johnny had a toy she wanted to play with and she did not have the skills to communicate that.

I also took note of Ms. Peterson’s advice on varying activities. She suggested that we break activities down into low, medium, and high-level activities. We can ensure a smoother transition from one activity to the next if we don’t go from a high level activity to a low one, such as recess to a nap. Kids need to be eased into transitions. Giving them advanced notice of a transition will help as well.

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Reading this was helpful to me after the fact, since the transition for MJ was done in a very similar manner. We transitioned her slowly, she started part-time, a few hours a day and we gradually increased her to full time by October. We were able to extend her intervention worker as they normally exit at the end of September, but we needed to be able to phase her out only after MJ was comfortable in school. The last part of the transition was layering in the bus. We still only bus her to daycare after school and I drive her in the morning, because a late bus in the morning can throw off the entire day.

The other thing we did was set up several visits to the school in the Spring so she could get comfortable. In fact, our teacher even went so far as to create a video for her that gave her a tour of the school and some of the people she might meet. The video included showing her the bathroom, the water fountain and so forth. We watched this each time prior to an orientation or a visit and countless times over the summer. It was the best tool in our toolbox. Each time MJ walked into that school, she was confident about where she was going and where things were, it completely erased one element of her anxiety and it helped immensely. You can read more about our transition and other tips here.

-Rebecca

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