Autism/ADHD – Planning Ahead Works! Back to School – Day One

Yesterday my 8 year old son went back to school.  Here’s the strategy we used:

ONE WEEK BEFORE SCHOOL STARTED…

A week ago my son and I developed his behavior goals for home and school for 3rd grade.  He created his DRC (daily report card), in his handwriting with his artwork.  We made 10 copies and I put them in an envelope addressed to his new Teacher.  The plan is that his new Teacher would be responsible to complete the DRC at the end of each school day, and sign it.  He would then bring the completed DRC home to me and earn points for goals met.  The classroom behaviors that we agreed that he would target this first semester were “complaining,” “interrupting” and being “argumentative.”  My son and I then worked on measurable quantities and rewards.  We also added “good sportsmanship” as a daily goal, where he would treat his classmates with fairness and kindness.

For home, his target behavior goals also included “being respectful,” “good sportsmanship,” “following rules” and “acceptable behavior” as he engaged with his siblings.   We started to make out his daily visual schedule that would eventually go on his bedroom wall.   We talked about him “taking charge” of some activities and “self-managing.”   On his visual schedule, we listed items like “Make sure homework folder is in backpack – with Mom’s signature,” and “Daily Chore” (he is in charge of recycling the water bottles)  that he would self-manage.  I then created a social story for him, which included examples of self-managing, listing activities he can take care of on his own without “checking in” with Mom.  We were both pleased with our efforts.

TWO DAYS BEFORE SCHOOL STARTED…

I called his Teacher, introduced myself and gave her the option of a face-to-face sit down.   We agreed to talk on the phone as she already knew of me from my communication/interaction with the school last year.  I reviewed our expectations and transition plans for my son, along with items on his IEP I felt she should be familiar with, on the first day of school.  I discussed the DRC with her and our rationale for the goals.  I encouraged her to email me as soon as she felt she wanted to make additions to it so we can revise.  I informed her to expect the package from me with 10 copies of the DRC and she can make additional copies as they were needed in class.  I also told her that I would be requesting an IEP date, as soon as school begins so as a Team we could identify ways the school can continue to support my son within the new school year.  I shared with her that social opportunities and support are important for him at this time of his development and that is an area I wished to address and collaborate with the school during the upcoming IEP meeting.  I once again told her that any input she can provide would be very much appreciated.   I took her email address and informed her that I would be sending copies of his daily schedule list and social stories so she can get a better understanding of our expectations at school and how he is being supported at home.

I also called the Office and spoke to the Administrator. I reviewed my son’s needs and asked if we could assign a “go to” person in the office and during lunch time, on the play-ground, with whom he would be able to “check-in” if he was experiencing any anxiety.   We established those persons and I relayed the names to my son.

ONE DAY BEFORE SCHOOL STARTED…

The big day before The BIG DAY!  I felt it was important to make today stress-free for my son.  It was a day filled with fun and excitement!  I took him to get his new haircut.  We went shopping so he could pick out some special items he would be using at school (small items like funny erasers, etc.)  Then we went to pick out his BIG prize that he had earned for completing and doing so well at STP Camp.  He picked out a new game for his Nintendo DS!  We went swimming, one of his all-time favorite activity, then had lunch with Grandma.  We came home and he played his new game for two hours; his second all-time favorite activity!

Later that evening, he followed his nighttime routine reflected on his visual schedule, which included reading his social stories for his school day tomorrow, then, it was off to bed!

SCHOOL STARTED TODAY!…

My Son got up and followed his routine.  He was checking in with me when he needed to and everything was going well.  Right before we were all loaded into the car, I went to review his schedule.  Not one item was checked off.  I called him over and asked “Why are there no check marks on your schedule?” He gave me a look of supreme exasperation and replied, “Imemorized it, Mom!   I do not need to put check marks.  I got it all right, didn’t I?”  I complimented him on his the great job he did this morning!  Then I gently explained to him the benefits of placing the check marks and asked him to do me a huge favor and check off the items he had already completed!

At pick up time, he came bouncing toward the car…  “4 out of 5 yeses on my DRC, Mom!  I earn my privilege today!”   My response was a resounding, “Yippee!   Don’t we love STP!!!”  When I asked him what he missed, he told me that his teacher got after him for interruptions.  He said, “Mom, I asked her to change my seat.  She had me sitting next to a girl who talks a lot! ”

DAY #2 AT SCHOOL…

Today when I picked him up, he came bopping toward me yelling, “5 out of 5 yeses on my DRC!”  “Shall I do the happy dance?” I squealed.  He looked around at all the kids getting picked up and the Teachers at the gate; gave me this conspiratorial look and said, “Let’s just keep that between us.”  The journey has begun…

“Anticipating the A’s” and getting ahead of the potential set-backs, make a world of difference for our kids.  Working as a TEAM in concert with the school and his Teacher is vital.  There is much harmony when we are all singing from the same music sheet!  These efforts also set our kiddos up for success and reduce negative behaviors in the classroom and at home!   Parents… it is imperative that we take the lead –  we are Empowered! Until next time…