Back to School -- Get Off to a Great Start

By Laura Ferguson, M.Ed., BCBA


School time is upon us once again and it is time to get our children back on schedule. No more late nights and unstructured days. As we get closer to August and the start of school we think about the changes we will have to make and how difficult this will be for a child on the autism spectrum.

When we think about the differences between the summer days and the start of school, we realize just how unstructured our summer days have been. No scheduled times to eat, no limited time on computers or games, and we definitely were not made to sit and concentrate for long periods of time. This transition scared all of us as children and it certainly scared our parents. For parents of children on the autism spectrum we think of how just little changes to schedules and routines throw them off and increase inappropriate behaviors.  What can parents do to better prepare their students on the spectrum?

One way we can help individuals on the spectrum adjust to upcoming changes is to prepare them for these changes in advance. A great way to do this is by using visual supports.

Visual supports are often used in classrooms to support individuals on the autism spectrum. We see these supports in the form of schedules, signs, labels, written directions and pictures. Since these supports are effective in the classroom, it may be beneficial to begin to use these in the home as well. A schedule can help plan parts of the day, the full day, or individual activities during the day. A schedule can be put together using pictures or words outlining activities and events throughout the day. This can help the child generalize following routines across environments, as well as helping them remain on task and complete tasks. When using the schedule parents can change out activities and projects to help the child increase time on task. This will help the student when transitioning back into the classroom.

Since individuals on the spectrum often have limited opportunities to practice behaviors, video modeling is another tool that parents can put in place. Video modeling involves videotaping the target child engaging in identified behaviors and then having them watch the video and model what they have seen. This can be used to help students exhibit appropriate behaviors when at school, or transitioning to school. For example, you can video the child getting on the backpack, taking out their folder, etc. or video the child walking in line. These behaviors will need to be taught, so teaching these skills in advance will be beneficial for the transition to school.

The beginning of the school year is stressful for everyone, so we need to start teaching target behaviors throughout the summer in order to prepare the children for the upcoming year.

Have a great school year everyone!!


Laura Ferguson is a certified behavior analyst and a Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center. She provides direct training and technical assistance to education staff, social and community personnel, counselors, job coaches and families.



KY Autism Training Center Summer 2013 Newsletter August 2013