Back to School: How Hopebridge 360 Care Prepares Kids with Autism for the Classroom
August 03, 2021
August 03, 2021
By now, you’ve seen all the ads for back-to-school shopping that feature this year’s “must-have” backpacks, sneakers, water bottles, tie-dye sweatshirts, glue sticks, lunch boxes and more. Many parents feel overwhelmed when it comes to getting their kids ready for the classroom this fall, but for families of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), preparing for school has a whole other meaning.
“How will my child sit at a desk all day?
“Will my kid be able to pay attention and follow directions?”
“Will she fit in with the other kids?”
“How can I send my kid to school if he is not able to use the restroom on his own?”
These are just a few of the questions we hear from autism parents concerning their children starting preschool or kindergarten. To ease families’ fears – and the transition to the classroom – we approach school preparation from several angles throughout the 360 Care model at our Hopebridge Autism Therapy Centers.
Are you worried your child’s autism-related challenges will hold them back in school? Our mission is for kids with autism to find happiness and success across all aspects of life, so our programming can focus on building school-readiness skills, should that be one of the goals for your child.
Rather than a general “preschool prep” course, we personalize every aspect of our programs by tailoring them to the individual needs of your child. This includes combining one or more therapies – applied behavior analysis (ABA therapy), occupational therapy, speech therapy and feeding therapy – with other valuable resources like diagnostic services and parent training to launch your child off to school with success.
For instance, an 18-month-old toddler with developmental delays may first receive a diagnostic evaluation. Then, after receiving an autism diagnosis, ABA therapists could then work with them to decrease behaviors that impede on learning, while speech-language pathologists aid them in building early communication and social skills. Starting at a young age enables families to lay the groundwork for school by first focusing on key skills their kids will need before they can take on some of the other tasks required in the classroom.
As these children progress over time, or for those who join therapy at a later time and already have some of these foundational skills, the programming may begin to look more like what is seen in the classroom—minus the academics. For example, occupational therapy to learn to hold a pencil, feeding therapy to build tolerance around eating around others in the cafeteria, and ABA therapy to participate in group activities like circle time.
Hopebridge can work with your child on a wide range of tasks to prepare him or her for the classroom. While this list is not all-inclusive, some of the necessary school-ready skills needed include:
Care and learning with Hopebridge doesn’t have a cutoff date. Beyond preparing these future students for the classroom, our clinicians provide them – and their parents – with the tools they need to sustain their success long term.
To create a bridge between therapy and school, the Hopebridge 360 Care model could include ongoing therapy on a part-time basis. Our Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) can also help families prepare for the transition by aligning with the school to make sure the child’s needs are included in an IEP.
Even after our kiddos “graduate” from Hopebridge, other benefits of the program include a plan focused on setting up our children to thrive outside our walls. This could look like parent training check-ins, strategy sessions and other needs tailored to each family.
In addition to the traditional challenges of school, the pandemic brought in a new set of issues for many families touched by autism.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released new Covid-19 guidance for schools that supports in-person learning with face-coverings for everyone older than 2 years of age, regardless of vaccination status.
One way Hopebridge can assist in preparing for school is by helping your child “suit up” with a mask, if desired or required. Through desensitization tactics, tolerance-building practices and other programming, our clinicians have experience teaching children with autism to wear face masks, if needed.
Due to the pandemic, some preschools also no longer allow parents to walk their children to their classrooms in order to decrease potential exposure to the coronavirus. This seemingly simple task can sometimes pose more difficulties for children than expected, which Hopebridge takes into consideration and can help children adjust at our centers prior to starting school.
Want to hear first-hand how Hopebridge prepares children for the classroom? Read about the journey of one kiddo, Homer, here on our blog. His parents shared more about his transition to preschool to give hope to other families wondering if their children can have positive outcomes in school.
Whether daycare, preschool or elementary school, if preparing your child for school is one of your goals, we are here to support you. Fill out the form on our website to learn more about our multidisciplinary services and arrange evaluations at one of our centers across the nation.