Moving between different stages of life, such as school and college is especially hard if you find change difficult. This can include starting or moving to a new school.
Preparing for a change of school
- Planned visits and phased entry: visit the school several times with your child before they start. Meet and take photos of any key people who will be involved in their transition.
- Use visual supports: these can help your child to understand what will be happening and reinforce verbal communication.
- Use social stories: short descriptions of a particular situation, event or activity, which includes specific information about what to expect in that situation and why, could help your child know what to expect in the new school.
- When the change is taking place keep familiar things close to your child and make sure you communicate clearly with them.
Transitions are a time when a child who may have struggled to get focused on an activity must suddenly shift focus, process new instructions, and motor plan the movements he needs to change activities like going from 'free choice' play time to getting coats and lining up to go outside. Such a transition can be particularly hard for a child with sensory issues, who may become overwhelmed by the hustle, bustle, and noise of children moving around or those who use this time for sensory seeking like crashing into other children or banging into furniture. Here are a few tips:
- Review the timetable of activities verbally and visually, using a picture schedule so children know what to expect and can anticipate the sequence of activities.
- During tidy up time, assign a concrete two-step task using simple directions, such as 'Take all of the pencils and put them in this container.' Allow a sensitive child to do a task on the side lines, such as placing books on a trolley on the edge of an activity.
- If children need to form a line, consider putting a long piece of coloured electrical tape on the carpet and asking children to stand on the tape. A child who cannot tolerate casual touch should either stand at the front or back of the line.
- Transitions are a great time to incorporate movement activities. Children could stand up to reach for the sky and bend down for the earth, do ''Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes'', etc. Give calming proprioceptive input by having children do wheelbarrow walks, take alternating giant steps and small steps, or various animal walks. Anything that involves using big muscles is great- carrying a pile of books, pushing a table, pulling on something, etc.
- For a child who seems to be ignoring instructions, position yourself within the child's field of vision, and place a hand firmly but gently on their shoulder to give the child a tactile cue that it is time to shift attention.
- Some children struggle to process visual and verbal information simultaneously. Reconsider the requirement for a child to make eye contact while you are speaking to them.
Useful websites and resources:
Raising a Sensory Smart Child by Lindsey Biel and Nancy Peske