After a summer of hard work put in by devoted ABA providers and learners, school has officially started. Practitioners have gone above and beyond to use the information at hand to best prepare learners for the 2020-21 school year. Though the progress made will certainly make the transition back to in-person school easier, neurodiverse learners face a tough road nonetheless. The work must continue -- particularly as it relates to planning for the year's inevitable (and unpredictable) changes and flux in routines that are to come.
Below, we’ve listed 4 strategies practitioners can use to help learners cope with, and better manage, the uncertainty of the school year ahead.
1. Ensure a parent/educator communication plan is in place.
This is a must when it come to planning for the unknown. If communication expectations and strategies are in place, parents and teachers can work together to find an answer. Don’t forget, this will be a challenging year for educators, too. A communication plan sets expectations and minimizes the potential of information slipping through the cracks.
2. Maintain a visual schedule.
This can mitigate the uncertainty of the current climate as well as keep learners abreast of any potential changes in routine, helping them know what to expect. Visual schedules can range from simple blocks of color and pictures to more detailed calendars, depending on the learner’s age, abilities, and needs.
3. Remind parents stay on top of district changes.
This year is bound to be rife with change. Remind parents to stay on top of district plans, starting with the current ones. What will happen if their child must quarantine? Will school transition to remote learning as it did last year, and if so, what will that look like? Knowing answers to questions like these and remaining abreast of district changes will alleviate the need to scramble for answers in the moment.
4. Focus on mental health.
Now is the time to increase services, support and resources around social-emotional well-being. There are so many types of therapy available – from art therapy, which may be a great fit for learners who have a hard time expressing their feelings, to music therapy, which has been found to reduce stress and neutralize negative emotions.
A closing note.
The anxiety of not knowing what lies ahead can be extremely stressful for neurodiverse learners, who rely heavily on structure and routine. Incorporating coping strategies to use when changes occur; preparing for unpredictability; and equipping parents with resources and tips to use at home into your ABA therapy, are all great ways to help make this school year a success!