How to Get Your Autistic Child Ready for Kindergarten
The transition between preschool and kindergarten can feel daunting to both parents and children, especially so for parents of a neurodivergent child. You might be thinking, is my kid ready for kindergarten? The ABA experts here at MeBe have put together some recommendations of things you can do to prepare both you and your child for kindergarten.
Meet With Your Child’s School
Whether your child attended a traditional preschool or early intervention ABA therapy, a kindergarten IEP is likely necessary to obtain prior to your child starting kindergarten. An IEP, or Individualized Education Program, is a specialized education plan that outlines specific goals, resources, or services a student needs to succeed in school.
Every school handles the process of obtaining an IEP differently, though generally speaking, the steps follow like this:
- Receive a referral from your child’s current provider
- Contact your school’s special education director
- An assessment is conducted to determine if your child is eligible for an IEP based on IDEA- Individuals With Disabilities Education Act
- The IEP is developed and deployed
For more information about IEPs, check out the recorded MeBe Learning webinar “The Ins and Outs of IEPs” on the MeBe Family YouTube channel.
How ABA can Help Prepare Your Child
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a therapy based on the science of learning and behavior, and it helps us understand how behavior works, how behavior is affected by the environment, and how learning takes place. ABA therapy at MeBe can happen both in one of our learning centers or from the comfort of your own home. Our clinical team is dedicated to helping your child prepare for all aspects of their lives.
The MeBe ABA School Readiness Program is specifically designed to help your child prepare for traditional school environments. Our learning centers mimic a typical classroom schedule that includes circle time, recess, arts and crafts, table time and social play. While ABA sessions do not focus on the academic side of things, they do work on preparing your child for appropriate classroom and social behaviors.
Assessing School Readiness
ABA can also help you determine whether or not your child is ready to enroll in kindergarten. There are a few assessment tools that your BCBA Clinical Supervisor might use to evaluate your child’s school readiness. One assessment tool is the VB-MAPP Transition Assessment. There are 18 assessment areas to help identify a child’s progress and to ensure that they have acquired the skills necessary for learning in a less restrictive educational environment. This assessment tool can provide a measurable way for a child’s IEP team to make decisions and set priorities in order to meet the child’s educational needs.
Another assessment tool that is often used is called Socially Savvy. The Socially Savvy Assessment helps evaluate social skills for preschool and early elementary school aged children in a variety of areas including joint attending, social play, self-regulation, social/emotional skills, social language, classroom/group behavior, and nonverbal social language.
A few examples from Socially Savvy Assessment of include:
- Repeats own behavior or action with a toy to maintain social interaction
- Points to objects and makes eye contact to show interest
- Engages in parallel play for 5-10 minutes with peers
- Plays cooperatively with a peer (for example, builds the same block structure) for 5-10 minute.
- Takes turns during as part of a structured group game
- Invites peers to play in a preferred activity
- Accepts an invitation to play an activity of a peer’s choice
- Coping skills for dealing with losing a game
- Follows changes in play ideas of others during open-ended or pretend play with peers
- Appropriately handles denied requests
- Follows classroom rules, routines, and instructions and demonstrates flexibility with changes to the routine
- Advocates for self (“I didn’t get one,” “I can’t see,” “Please move”)
- Recognizes emotions in others and self
- Responds to and initiates greetings and partings
- Answers and asks social questions to others
If your child is currently receiving ABA therapy, then your BCBA Clinical Supervisor can use these assessment tools to evaluate your child’s readiness for kindergarten, and develop a plan to address any areas of concern. If you are not receiving ABA therapy yet but have concerns about your child’s development, then contact your child’s primary care physician to discuss a developmental evaluation for your child.
Setting up for Success
Ready for kindergarten? Great! Here are a few tips to help your child prepare for success in kindergarten. For more back-to-school tips, check out our Tips to Help Kids Transition Back to School.
Using Social Stories
Social Stories are a great way to visually depict what your child is likely to experience when they start kindergarten. The purpose of sharing Social Stories with your child is to help familiarize them with the social settings and routines of a typical kindergarten classroom. Examples of social stories exist online, on YouTube, or can even be made from scratch.
For instance, as a parent or caregiver, you can request to take pictures of the school, classroom, playground, and even your child’s teacher and work them into a social story format. In the weeks leading up to the start of kindergarten, you and your child can read this social story which will further prepare them for the daily routines of a kindergartener.
Build Academic Knowledge
Additionally, you may consider working on basic academic skills with your child leading up to kindergarten. You can help your child explore numbers, letters, and colors through age-appropriate activities, games, or workbooks. This will help them become familiar with some of the academic topics that they will learn in their kindergarten classroom.
Kindergarten is the first step of many in your child’s educational journey, and as parents or caregivers, we want that step to go as smoothly as possible. Just remember that learning comes in many shapes and sizes so help your child figure out what fits their goals best.
MeBe ABA Services
To learn more about ABA therapy, watch the MeBe ABA: 101 video series, available in English and Spanish.
If you’re ready to learn more about Applied Behavior Analysis, Speech and Language Pathology, Occupational Therapy, or Feeding Therapy services at MeBe, contact us today.
For helpful tips from the MeBe therapy team, check out @mebefamily on Instagram and Facebook and visit the MeBe Family YouTube channel.