If you are the parent of a child with autism, you may be wondering if you should send your child to a preschool program or not. Every parent feels a little apprehensive at the notion of sending their baby off to interact in the world without them, but parents of autistic children may feel even more uneasy as they try to realistically assess their readiness. In order to alleviate your fears and set your child up for success, here are three tips for a smooth transition to formalized education.
Get Familiar With The Facility And Faculty
While a brief open house the week before classes begin may suffice for the non-autistic child, the autistic child can struggle with anxiety when confronted with new and unfamiliar places and faces. Arrange with the school to visit several times in the two weeks leading up to the first day. Show your child where he will eat, where the bathrooms are, the playground, and where the classroom is each time you visit. Ask if he can be assigned his cubby or locker and his desk or chair so he will know where he will put his things and where he will sit. Introduce him to his teacher and any other staff members he will have direct contact with. Then, when it's time for the open house, he will already be familiar with the place and will be more capable of dealing with all the new faces of his fellow classmates.
Use Visual Aids
When you visit the school, take photos of your child in each setting, like sitting at his desk, his coat hanging in his cubby, the teacher, and the playground, etc. Use the photographs to create a book for your child. Narrate the story to him, and allow him to "read" it back to you. You can also find preschool-related videos to watch with your child on YouTube.
Pack A Favorite Item
If your child has something that gives him a sense of security or that he turns to when he is feeling anxious, be sure to put it in his backpack. You could also include a small photo album with pictures of you and familiar things at home. This can have a calming effect on some children.
According to a recent study, children with autism showed significant gains in their social skills, communication skills, and fine motor skills by attending an early childhood education program. While you may feel nervous about sending your autistic child to preschool, chances are it will positively benefit him. To learn more, contact a school such as Wooden Shoe Pre-School & Pre-Kindergarten.