Tips for Preparing Kids with ASD for Starting School

Monday, October 1 2018

It’s the 4th term of school already! Preparation for school should be individualised to each child’s learning style. The following are areas on which you can focus your school preparation process.

kids starting school stock photo

As our children are approaching 5-6 years of age, it is that time parents and Learning For Life Autism Centre are looking at preparing them for the next important stage of their lives: attending school.

So what do we need to do before our little ones attend school? Preparation is the key.

The following are some areas L4Life focuses on developing in preparation for school that are individualised to each child and their learning style:

Social skills so they are able to engage with their peers within the classroom and playground.

Language and communication to be able to appropriately communicate wants and needs to teachers and peers.

Literacy to develop their ability to learn in the classroom. Some areas we focus on are the pre-academics such as, letter recognition, name recognition, matching, tracing, drawing, colouring, writing, typing and some reading skills.

Numeracy to start to develop an understanding and recognition of numbers and mathematical concepts. This can include number recognition, counting, sorting, quantity matching, patterns and sequences, exposure to worksheets.

Self-help skills to help develop the child’s independence. This can include skills of dressing, opening lunchboxes, packing or locating own bag. We can even help with preparing them in wearing school uniforms, as early practice may be helpful for some children.

For some children, visual schedules and social stories can be useful in letting children know what to expect at school and throughout their day, so early exposure and practice can be beneficial.

A lot of classrooms have a visual schedule of the day including classes, play times, and home time. Practicing this before going to school prepares the child to understand the concept, and builds their independence and tolerance of non-preferred activities. Additional practice of sitting on a mat and listening to a story with siblings can also be beneficial (and reinforcing to the child’s siblings).

Social stories can be based around a range of routines and experiences so children can understand the expectations. Some examples include: ‘what to do at recess’, ‘listening to my teacher’, and ‘asking a question in class’.

Some extra things you can do to prepare your child for the transition to school is to organise a time to meet with the teacher in the classroom so they can build rapport, and the child can explore the space so they feel safer and more prepared. You can also take your child to the school playground so they can explore the grounds and practice playing on the different equipment, so they feel more confident when they start school. It is important to ask the school if there is a specific zone for prep students, as most schools separate the playground into zones for different ages, so it is important to practice understanding the boundaries, and playing in the area that is designated to them.

Each child will be at a different stage of readiness, and will have different strengths, so their programs and preparation for school will be focused on their individual needs.

Written by Jodi Harris, Learning for Life Program Supervisor and Emma Davies, Learning for Life School Behavioural Support Supervisor.