Reaching out with new autism-friendly learning resource 

A welcome resource helps children on the autism spectrum prepare for a return to school in September
Reaching out with new autism-friendly learning resource 

Bridge Back to School — An autism-friendly learning resource for summer 2020, launched by SuperValu and autism charity AsIAm, was developed in association with Mary Immaculate College. Picture: Stock image 

A new learning resource has been launched to help children with high support needs prepare this summer for return to school in September.

Bridge Back to School – An Autism-Friendly Learning Resource for Summer 2020, launched by SuperValu and autism charity AsIAm, was developed with Mary Immaculate College.

AsIAm CEO Adam Harris says returning to school after a long absence will be challenging for all children, but particularly for those on the autism spectrum. “For some children, routine and structure in their day are really important. Over the past months, we’ve seen the complete removal of that.

“And coinciding with this, we’ve seen a loss of support for children who relied on additional teaching-time, SNA input and maybe some professional home support. It has all taken a toll,” says Harris, adding that compounding the challenge is the fact that kids will return to school – but not as they know it. 

“The classroom will look different, the number of children in it will be different – there’ll be different rules.”  

Some children on the spectrum found lockdown less stressful than normal school life – transitioning back won’t be easy for them either. “They haven’t had the daily pressure of going out to school, the demands, the interactions with other kids. All of a sudden they’re going to have to do this again. It won’t be easy.” 

AsIAm knows of many children who are afraid of the virus. “They spend lots of time washing their hands. They’re very worried about rules and making sure everyone’s following them. Again, returning to school will be challenging.” 

Harris recommends parents use August to reconnect their child to some key skills they’ll need for the school return: social, self-regulation and communication skills. It would be great, he says, if teachers could communicate ahead with parents of kids on the spectrum to find out where the child’s at and what strategies have worked over the summer. It would also help if teachers sent out in advance pictures of what the classroom will look like, as well as remind children of the ‘rules for now’ and how the school-day will proceed.

The resource creators identified the most challenging elements of the current ever-changing circumstances that autistic students might find difficult to navigate. Bridge Back to School offers support in these areas and focuses on: sensory integration, preparing for new school year, dealing with worry/anxiety, explaining the ‘new normal’, social skills, self-regulation, use of visuals and clear communication.

Access Bridge Back to School: exa.mn/AutismFriendlyShopping. Resource booklets have also been distributed to SuperValu stores nationwide.

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