With the start of the new school year, students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have entered into Kindergarten classrooms all over British Columbia. Beginning Kindergarten is an important milestone for all children and families, but this transition may present unique opportunities and challenges for children with ASD.
Many children with ASD are transitioning from a clinical Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) program into elementary school. The goals of ABA programs typically involve teaching foundational skills and behaviours that can be transferred, or generalized, into other settings like school. However, the school team should not expect an immediate transfer of skills and behaviours without careful planning. The team should acknowledge that the ABA program will likely not be replicated in the school setting and instead focus on specific elements from this program that may be feasible to implement in the classroom. Moreover, the team should acknowledge that staffing or adult support will change; the typical one-on-one instruction in an ABA program will become a classroom of 25 to 30 students with one or two adults.
Establishing a transition team can facilitate the student’s entry into Kindergarten. The school’s Kindergarten teacher or learning support teacher may visit the student in the clinical setting to examine current goals and instructional strategies. Similarly, the Board Certified Behaviour Analyst (BCBA) and Behaviour Interventionist working with the student in the ABA program should be welcomed into the school to observe the student’s transition and provide support. The student’s ABA program should be amalgamated with the general education curriculum as well as Individual Education Plan (IEP) goals. Above all, educational goals should be functional, meaningful, and applicable for school settings. Remember: quality over quantity. If the school team feels overwhelmed with an abundance of skills and behaviours to teach, consider choosing the fewest high-priority goals to work on at school. It’s more beneficial for the student to acquire, practice, and maintain core skills and behaviours than to receive infrequent instruction across many different areas.
Overall, schools and other service providers should embrace a collaborative approach and welcome input from those that know the student best. BCBAs and Behaviour Interventionists working in clinical settings have extensive knowledge in evidence based practices to manage behaviour and provide instruction. Teachers and school personnel have extensive knowledge in implementing individualized educational plans and goals in a classroom and school setting. Uniting perspectives will promote long-term success.