It’s time for buying school supplies, stocking up on our kiddos favorite foods for lunches and getting ready for Back To School! But it can be a very stressful time for parents of children with sensory issues, and very stressful on our kids. My son Mateo is 5 and has Autism as well as many sensory challenges. He had his first full week of full day Kindergarten at a Main Stream Charter school. That’s right, I said FULL DAY! So of course I have been a complete stress case for months.
We have been prepping since last year with his new school. The Special Ed Coordinator came and visited his ABA Home Program and his preschool. We had 3 meetings before the school year even started and developed a plan. I wanted everyone ready to make his transition as smooth as possible.
All new kids, new teacher, new campus….talk about sensory overload! Mateo and his whole team (we like to call them his entourage) met with his Kindergarten teacher the day before school. Mateo was able to feel his way around the room and even sit in his desk. With the help of his Aide and the teacher, we chose a quiet spot in the room that is ONLY for Mateo, where he can unwind and regulate himself. We went over the cues to look for before a meltdown. And we all crossed our fingers for the first day!
The first day was a short day and Mateo was nervous most of the day. He even wrote his name backwards and hardly moved from his desk. Very out of the norm for him.
The second day was easier, he began to relax and be himself, he found a friend at recess. He was having tons of fun and no meltdowns. It went on that way for pretty much the first week. I know Mateo well enough to know, it’s not always going to be that easy for him. He did his usual coping and would roll around on the floor a few times during circle time. The teacher let’s him walk around a bit when he needs to or even do jumping jacks in the corner. He did a lot of echolalia, and would repeat her. So she is actually making it part of the learning and having Echo-time where the kids repeat her. Am I amazed by her? Yes I am! She doesn’t have any background in special needs, but is doing everything she can to provide a good learning environment for Mateo and all of his classmates.
The second week of school he had his first big meltdown. His Aide had to walk him out of the room. The honeymoon was over. But they worked really hard to get him calmed down and quickly integrated him back into the class.
This week the teacher and Special Ed Coordinator are reading a story about differences and going to have a discussion with the students about acceptance and understanding. The other kids are curious about Mateo. They watch him stimming and will sometimes copy him, not to be mean, but I think they are truly interested in why he is doing what he’s doing and want to give it a try too.
I think there are many reasons why he has had such a successful transition into a new school and into Kindergarten.
- We have had a lot of communication with the school staff, and with Mateo by setting him up with clear expectations.
- We prepped and planned for months with the school staff to try to set him up for success.
- We were able to have his previous Aide come with him for the first month so he had a familiar face by his side, it wasn’t easy but we fought for it!
- His teacher sat him next to a very good peer to follow which is great because so much of how Mateo learns is by watching his peers.
- His school is all about routine and consistency, so Mateo always knows what’s happening next.
- His teacher has the same goals for Mateo as any other child in his class, but she makes adjustments for his sensory needs when she needs to.
I have so much hope for his first year in elementary school and his academic future! He has shown us how much he can accomplish and how he really is ready for Kindergarten in a main-stream setting.
I hope that all of you have a great start to the school year too!