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From LDA Newsbriefs (May/June 2010) the Early Childhood Committee offers some strategies to use when a child appears “thrown” by changes to his routine.
It’s a good idea to be proactive when you see this coming. Very often a parent or teacher is aware of the activities that set off difficulties for a particular child.
They offer eight possible ways to make these moments less stressful, from Sandbox Learning (http://www.sandbox-learning.com).
- Set expectations by letting your child know what to expect. If you know school will be let out early, warn him that recess is happening before lunch today — just for today.
- When a new sequence is about to be introduced, provide support in advance. Give him a reminder of what’s going to happen — verbally, in writing or in a drawing.
- Let your child participate in planning! Give him the sense of ownership.
- When he’s handling something nicely, let him know right away. Tell him specifically what he did well: “Jimmy, good for you the way you lined up for recess before lunch!”
- Any time there’s about to be a change, let him know right away. As soon as possible.
- Doctors’ appointments might involve a delay in going in. Prepare by taking books or games he enjoys.
- Involve your child when shopping, driving or cooking. He can spot items, warn about traffic signs, or choose utensils for the table.
- Be consistent. Let him know expectations. Make sure he understands by asking him to say back to you what he heard you say, and what the consequences will be. Then follow through. (This is difficult to do, says the committee, but your child needs consistency.)
They also suggest a “Social Story” as a tool to help your child be ready for something new. Introduce Social Stories with an experience he’s already doing successfully. Here is one about recess:
After lunch we go to recess. Sometimes recess is on the playground. It is fun to play on the playground equipment. Everyone should play safely. When the whistle blows, that means it’s time to line up and go inside. I will try to line up as soon as the whistle blows. After I line up, I will try to stay in line. This will make my teacher happy.
The goal of a Social Story is to help your child understand a new situation and to provide an example of appropriate responses. It should be relatively short and specific and state expectations clearly.
You might write out the Social Story or draw it in pictures. You could rehearse it orally. Title the story with words that give the gist.
The developer of Social Stories is Carol Gray. Visit http://www.thegraycenter.org.
She suggests that as you develop your Social Story:
- Picture the goal.
- Gather the information — the where/when/who is involved/steps in sequence/what happens/why.
- Make the story fit the child, putting it in his words.
- State it in positive language.
- Make it literally accurate.
- Use language and vocabulary that has positive meaning for your child.
- You know your child; time it within his attention span.
sole source: LDA Newsbriefs May/June 2010 article by the Early Childhood Committee. http://www.ldaamerica.org
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