- Use visual or written schedules: Calendars help children predict what is coming up, especially if you cross off each day as it passes. Visual schedules for the day's routine, as well as a schedule for an activity, will help children be more confident in what they need to do. When it is holidays, count down on the calendar to when school starts again. Keep as much of the "school routine" at home as possible, or (as one parent suggested) start the routine a couple of weeks before school goes back.
- Clearly identify start and finish points: Use clocks, sounds, verbal and visual warnings to help children count up to starting points and count down to finishing. This applies to individual activities, a session or a new school term.
- Be organised: Use containers, checklists, flow-charts to help children be organised and know what is coming up next.
- Have rules: Display rules that clearly set out your expectations - but don't have too many. Avoid "don't" rules, but use statements that tell children what they should be doing.
- Use photos: Prepare children for important people they will meet or interact with through photos. You might also use video of new settings, people and/or activities.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Monday, March 14, 2011
So... I found after my last post that comments on my Facebook page indicate that if your child struggles to re-adjust to school after the holidays, you are not alone. One parent said that they had to help the children re-adjust every school holidays - not just after the long summer break.
There were also some strategies suggested by families to help their children adjust. They included:
- Playing schools during the school holidays.
- Starting the school routine a few weeks prior to school going back.
- Relaxation therapy prior to and at school - such as deep pressure therapy.
Different things will work for different children/youth. But it helps to understand the type of anxiety your child is feeling.
This is the label I have given to behaviour that comes out due to anxiety in a specific event. For example, something may happen in the classroom, at school or at home that may cause an immediate reaction. Parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders often talk about a child screaming or shutting down, chewing clothing, biting others, running away and/or hiding when something occurs to distress them.
Anxiety due to an ongoing activity or trigger
Other behaviours show that the anxiety is due to a repeated event. These behaviours may include moodiness, nightmares, wetting the bed, the need to cling to someone and so on. This usually indicates that there is an ongoing activity that is causing the child anxiety.
If a child is showing signs of constant, ongoing anxiety over a period of 6 months or more, it may be time to consult with a psychologist. Kanakos (2011) provides a brief overview of different types of anxiety disorders. These will need to be dealt with differently than the more transient anxieties mentioned above.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
I wanted to put a vote in for the "Ask Amanda" days - this occurred to me last night as I tossed and turned trying to work out how to help my daughter deal with anxiety. She has just started Year 1 and has had a number of wee accidents at school (none over the break) and she wakes up every night and insists on sleeping in our bed - both these behaviours have started with the new term hence I think they may be about her anxiety...would love any advice/tips or simply stories of similar experience...
You have just been invited to a new friend's home for dinner. It will be the first time you have been there.
First, you double check that you have the address right and you are given a description of the place. You might even get someone to drive you past just so you are confident you can get there.
Then you consult Google maps and get a set of written directions, a map and a street view of the place. You are getting even more confident.
On the night you have butterflies in your tummy, but that is expected. Another friend who knows the way offers to come with you. So now you barely worry at all.
With a little anxiety, you get in the car. But because you have someone you trust with you, and you have a written road map, and pictures representing the place, you manage to get there and enjoy the evening - and get home!
But then you don't get invited there for a while. Until one day, a few weeks down the track, you get invited again. Because you have been there before, you don't really worry. You just set off....
Getting there again
But last time you were driving at dusk, so now all the landmarks look different.
And while you thought you could remember all the turns, it turns out that you don't... and you forgot to bring the maps and instructions. And this time you are giving a lift to someone who "sort of" knows the way, but you don't know them well enough to trust them.
You do get there. But by the time you get there you are so anxious it is hard to relax and enjoy the company - all you can think of is having to drive home again.
But you don't really want to tell anyone because you feel like you should know what to do because you know you have done it before.
No, this isn't just a random story :). It is an analogy of how a child may feel as they transition back to school after the school holidays...
"Landmarks" change, "supports" are different or fewer. And the expectations are different. For children with developmental disabilities, add to this a difficulty with problem-solving and analysing your environment, and it is no wonder that the transition back to school after the holidays is a very anxious time.
So what can we do?
I will take a little time this month to talk about what can be done. But if anyone reading this blog has a story or some advice to offer, please post a comment here.