I thought National Autism Resources had some good visual strategies and tips in this article...
Here are a few preparations you can make to help autistic students start school well.
- Post a classroom schedule as well as an individual schedule that the student can refer to throughout the day. Knowing what to expect will decrease anxiety and increase independence.
- For the first day of school have a seating chart ready before the student with autism arrives. Have a plan in place to help them identify and find their seat.
- Often students with autism have a difficult time understanding personal space. Define personal space by drawing masking tape outlines on the floor. Make sure there is plenty of room between desks.
- If possible talk to last year’s teacher. What worked well for the child last year? Was the child seated in front of the class, in the back, or side of the class?
- When deciding where your special student will sit be aware of noise. Many students with autism process normal sound as too loud or quiet. It can be difficult for these students to filter out background noise. Have the autistic student sit away from the hallway, pencil sharpener or water fountain. Have on hand ear muffs or ear plugs.
- Keep in mind who will sit next to the student with autism. Is there a child in your class who is especially helpful, kind, or compassionate? If so let them sit next to the student with autism.
- Develop a specific daily routine and stick with it. Children with autism need and want routine, and likely will be calmer in a well-structured environment. Have a home or classroom schedule for the start of the day and stick with it.
- Change the environment rather than the child. If there are factors in the child's environment that are disturbing him, make sure they are removed or replaced by something that the child finds reassuring. For example, many kids with autism are bothered by florescent lights, so if your house or classroom has such a light source, use light filters.
- Use yoga poses and breathing exercises. A number of schools have yoga programs for autistic students. Yoga programs around the country find that kids are soothed by the routine of the class, the fun of positions such as "downward dog" and the opportunity to get in touch with their bodies by breathing tranquilly and sitting quietly without feeling they are being punished for misbehavior.
- Play music. Although sound disturbs some children with autism, it can prove soothing for others. In general, music is calming for people of any age, including newborns. So try classical or folk music at low volume to see if your child or the child in your care responds favorably.
- Provide deep, calming pressure. Temple Grandin theorizes that the firmness of a weighted vests or a weighted blanket on the body may calm and relax kids on the spectrum.
For more helpful tips visit Autism 101 for Teachers.
Starting School: A Sample Social Story
I'm going back to school.
I will be in _______ grade this year with a different teacher, classroom and friends.
My new teacher's name is ______________.
My new teacher has a nice classroom with many books to read and I am looking forward to looking at all of them.
I will see some of my old friends who helped me last year and there will be some new people helping me this year.
I will see some of my old classmates and there will be some new kids in my class. I will get to make some new friends.
I can't wait to start school again in my new classroom with my new teacher and all my new friends. It's going to be so much fun!!