Back To School
When it comes to inclusive learning, Paula Kluth is a go-to expert in the education community. As a consultant, advocate, and author/co-author of over 15 books, Paula has a breadth of knowledge on how to provide inclusive opportunities for students with disabilities and how to create more engaging schooling experiences for all learners. We were fortunate enough to have Paula as one of our keynotes at the 2018 Milestones National Autism Conference where she shared key strategies to teachers and parents alike.
Learn more about Paula and hear how she thinks the classroom experience will change as our understanding of autism evolves.
First things first: What did you think of your experience at the Milestones Conference last month?
Paula: Very good! Really wonderful mix of folks at the conference. Parents, lot of paraprofessionals, therapists; that was a really nice departure from some conferences I’ve been to. Self-advocates, folks on the spectrum, families… just a really great blend of folks and I think it adds to the energy a lot.
Yes, Milestones works really hard to create a conference that serves professionals and parents simultaneously. What would you say are the benefits of that?
Paula: I think having a conference where you bring together a lot of different stakeholders is critical for on-the-job, if you will, development; in other words, you’re not just learning from the sessions but you’re learning as you’re attending and as you’re having a side conversation at lunch. We’re all providing each other, the professional development or the advocacy development or the social support for another parent or a parent to a teacher. I’m sure if you had these interviews with other attendees they would say, “the most important thing I learned was this other mom gave me an advocacy trick at lunch or at the coffee break.” When we have more stratification and separation in audiences, sometimes that’s necessary and appropriate. Unfortunately, you do miss those intersections, those happenstance moments and the “aha’s”. So it’s nice when you have these experiences where we are bringing together all those populations that we discussed. Self-advocates, folks on the spectrum, families, grandparents, doctors; it is really a way to learn incidentally and to learn alongside somebody else and maybe even start a community for yourself in a new way.
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As we approach the end of summer, it is time to start thinking about how to transition back to a school routine. Consider the following strategies when getting your kiddos ready for the new school year:
Resume old routines – Your child’s routines, especially their sleeping routine, may have changed quite a bit over the last couple months. Returning to a school sleep schedule can take several weeks or longer, depending on the child, so it is often best to begin transitioning towards the end of summer so your child is well-rested and used to an earlier bedtime during the first week of school.
-Incrementally move back to the desired bedtime – try putting your child to bed and waking them up 10 minutes earlier than the night before for a few days. Repeat until you ultimately reach your goal bedtime.
-Establish a soothing routine – running around outside, playing video games, and watching action movies right before bed can make it difficult to fall asleep. Instead, try reading a book, working on a puzzle, coloring a picture, or doing other relaxing activities. This could also provide a good opportunity to reintroduce a homework routine.
-Minimize meltdowns – meltdowns can happen more frequently when changing routines, especially routines related to sleep. If your child seems more fatigued throughout the day, adding a short nap, or changing from a high-intensity activity to a less demanding one, may help your child get through the day without an extra meltdown.
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Q: Just a few more weeks until school is back in session! What are your tips for helping parents to get their children ready?
A: You purchased new school clothes and got every item on the supply list. All set? Almost! Parents with children who have autism know that a few more preparations help the transition from summer to the classroom. Let’s review our back-to-school checklist for the child with autism:
Confirm the child’s placement
-What building, what room, what teacher?
-Have any of the arrangements changed over the summer? If so, you may have to do some footwork to make certain your child is receiving all necessary accommodations. Better done before school begins instead of everyone dealing with a surprise.
Visit the school and teacher before the first day
-Often, teachers are in their classrooms a week or two before school begins. Ask if you and your child can visit before the chaos of the first day.
-Visit even if the teacher is not available. Think of it as a visual support for your child.
-Take pictures of the school (playground, cafeteria, gym, classroom, etc.) and review them with your child daily before school begins.
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