Blog #210~DS-ASD Preparing for Transitions
Many of the topics I write about are inspired from parents in dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD), support groups on Facebook. It’s natural to feel anxious when change come into our lives. School transitions in particular can result in behavior problems. These can include regression of previously learned skills, avoiding tasks and meltdowns. Behavior problems may come from a child not knowing what is coming next and feeling afraid. Putting supports in place before school starts this fall, will better prepare your child for successful school year.
There are three things that help ease transitions, these include predictability, structure and visuals. One of the themes that thread in my blogs is providing a blueprint for your child. Depending on their level of functioning, this can be written or in a visual form. If they can see it, they will understand it.
My son, Nick is 24 years old and has a dual diagnosis of DS-ASD. His verbal speech is limited, but his receptive language is strong. He uses visuals to navigate his routine and to communicate. This is in the form of PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) and also an AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) device. Another theme woven into my writing about DS-ASD is that behavior and communication go hand in hand. Many behaviors, both good and bad are an attempt to communicate something. If you can give your child the visual tools to express their wants and needs, they will be less frustrated.
Parents and educators should give a child with DS-ASD concrete visuals by creating a social story of the transition to a new classroom or school setting. Start with a building tour with your child and teacher, before school begins. Together with the support teacher/case manager, take pictures or a video of the classroom, gym, lockers, lunchroom and any other area that your child will utilize. In addition to the physical areas, include pictures of teachers and therapists that will be working with your child for the upcoming school year.
Here’s part of Nick’s Back to School Social Story, used to transition to high school….
Social stories and videos can enhance a positive transition. These should be reviewed daily for several weeks prior to school starting. They can be used both at home, school and for community outings. If there are any changes to a routine, this tool will be beneficial for a child with Down syndrome and autism. For example, one was used in high school when Nick’s quarterly P.E. activity changed from using the treadmill to swimming. Social stories are great when introducing a new activity to your child. In the past, I’ve made them for doctor/dentist visits, swimming lessons, bike camp, tennis class, vacations, and other special events. You can access many PECS visual from your support teacher/case manager and speech therapist. Google Images also has a ton of visuals available. Keep the wording concise and straight forward, when creating social stories.
As I mentioned earlier, providing the blueprint with social stories is one component. Another tool is to have a daily visual schedule that your child can use at school. This schedule will help your child know what is coming up and also what is expected of him or her. Work with your child’s support teacher/case worker to create a schedule that will be easy for your child to follow. Social stories and visual schedules will support your child with a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism, and should be written in their IEP (Individualized Education Plan).
Visual schedules are helpful at home and encourage the development of independent living skills……..
There are many apps available to create visual schedules…….
Preparing your child for transitions by using visual tools such as social stories, videos and schedules will help them better understand what their day will look like. It will also enable your child to know what is expected of them. The goal should be to give them that blueprint, which will lessen anxiety. When you take fear out of the equation, the child’s behavior will improve, along with their productivity.
That’s what is in my noggin this week!
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