The transition to school each day can be one of the most troubling times for a child with autism. While there is certainly a great deal that can be done to support the bus ride, walking into the schoolhouse can be intimidating for a child on the spectrum. The noise, the crowds, the hurry up to get to class, and the anxiety of what is to come can set a student’s day down the wrong path quickly. Over the years I have been a strong promoter of creating effective check-ins for students with autism to ensure those moments and those moments that follow are as successful as possible.
Such a check-in can be done with a teacher, a para-educator, an SLP, an OT, a school psych, really with anyone who knows the student well. But because individuals on the spectrum juggle a number of deficits simultaneously, the check-in must be specific to them. Some will need a focus on practicing de-escalation techniques, some will need a focus on the daily schedule, some will need a focus on sensory input, and some will need a focus on a mixture of many components. Here is a great example of a third grader doing his morning check-in with his fantastic SLP.
Because the school team took the time the time to provide a check-in that was completely unique to the student, Orion was able to perform at a higher level with his peers. You may have noticed yet another example of utilizing the student’s highly restricted interest to assist in their learning. Yes, this check-in caused Orion to be ten minutes late for class each day, but the payoff was increased focus and compliance in the general education classroom.
Students with autism need more than for us to acknowledge their challenges, they need us to act on them and provide the supports needed to be successful in their day. Setting that tone for success starts from the moment they walk into the schoolhouse. However, unless you keep it up all that begins well may not end well. Some students will need multiple check-ins throughout the day in order to maintain a high level of performance. Whatever is required, get in front of challenging behaviors before they happen. Provide kids what they need early, provide it often, and watch them flourish.