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How Children with Autism Can Better Prepare for Primary School

Being introduced to primary school life can be overwhelming for any child — all the more so when it comes to children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). And while early intervention programmes can equip children on the autism spectrum with the skill sets required to tackle mainstream primary school curriculums, making the transition itself from an early intervention centre to a primary school environment can still be extremely challenging.

The new environment and routine entailed will likely bring about high levels of stress and anxiety in change-resistant children with ASD. However, there are ways through which parents of children on the autism spectrum can better help their child prepare for the drastic transition from kindergartens or early intervention centres to primary schools in Singapore:

Develop a Curated Transition Plan

Transition plans consist of goals, strategies, and activities that are specifically designed to help children with ASD to successfully adjust to new routines and integrate into a different environment. The best transition plans require good communication with both your child’s kindergarten or early intervention centre and the primary school they are to attend — the former for insights that will help you develop a more comprehensive transition plan, and the latter for ensuring that there is a shared understanding of your child’s goals and needs and active application of the developed transition plan.

A transition plan for a child with ASD entering primary school should include the following elements:

  • A detailed profile of your child’s strengths, interests, likes, and dislikes

  • Current medical and therapy needs

  • Up-to-date health, medical and therapy reports

  • Your child’s explicit learning needs

  • Specific and measurable learning goals for your child

  • Specific and measurable social goals for your child

  • Any curriculum adjustments your child may need

  • Strategies and resources to develop your child’s adaptive skills

  • Strategies and resources to meet your child’s developmental and learning needs

  • Strategies and resources to help your child cope when they are upset

  • Strategies and resources to support your child’s overall wellbeing

  • Strategic roadmap on how to help your child reach their learning and social goals

  • Pictures of the school, classroom, and teachers your child will be exposed to

  • Appointments for your child to meet teachers and support staff before school starts

  • Extended orientation programmes that allow your child to get to know the school better

  • A visual schedule for your child to be aware of their daily schedule from home to school

Practise Common School Routines

It is also a good idea to practise common school routines at home before your child with ASD starts primary school proper. This can help children on the autism spectrum feel more accustomed to what is required of them in primary school and, more importantly, helps you uncover any potential problems that may arise beforehand and find suitable solutions to them while making necessary amendments to your child’s transition plan.

Common primary school routines you should get your child with ASD to practise at home include:

  • Getting dressed in their school uniforms, including their socks and shoes

  • Taking off their school uniforms when they return home from a day at school

  • Travelling to school the way you intend them to, be it by foot, car, or public transport

  • Following a visual timetable akin to that provided to students by their primary school

  • Asking simple questions such as where the toilet is or where they can find their teacher

  • Waking up at the designated time they need to in order to prepare for their day at school

  • Sitting still on the floor of a parade square and at a desk similar to those provided at school

  • Eating their meals at a crowded canteen, preferably with other children around them

  • Packing their school bags for each school day according to the subjects being taught that day

Establish Familiarity with School Environment

Lastly, if possible, try to arrange several visits for your child to familiarise themselves with the primary school they are to attend before the academic year begins. A gradual approach works best in this regard.

First, walk or drive past the school on a regular basis; this helps children on the autism spectrum ease into acknowledging the school as part of their everyday routine. Next, let your child visit the school compound out of hours, such that they can get acquainted with the equipment and environment that they will be exposed to once the school year begins. Once they are relatively comfortable with the above, start introducing them to the teachers that will teach them and any support staff that will be helping them integrate into primary school life. Visit the classrooms, canteen, and other areas which they will frequent on a daily basis.

You can also use social stories or visual storybooks about school and give your child with ASD a countdown calendar to when the school year begins, such that they can better manage their anxiety.

Enrol with MindChamps Allied Care Early Intervention Centres

MindChamps Allied Care commits to providing the best integrated child therapy services for overcoming developmental gaps experienced by children in Singapore. Our therapists and teachers work closely with families to support the development of all our enrolled children, with primary school transitioning being but one of the many milestones we work with parents to cover.

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