As term draws to an end, SATs are finished for year six students and increasing amounts of ‘fun’ gets added to the timetable, children who cope well when routines and structure are put in place often start to struggle. So how can we ensure that our well meaning attempts at fun don’t result in distress rather than pleasure?
Calendars can be a vital part in our armoury, especially at this time of year. Make sure major evens like school trips, sports days and transition days are clearly marked on there. This will help your child prepare for them in advance. It will also ensure that they don’t go to school expecting one of these events when it isn’t happening and will make sure they feel more in control when it does.
I know I talk about schedules a lot, but the reason I talk about them a lot is that they really are incredibly important. In this instance I use both long term and short term schedules in school. At the beginning of each week I give students an overarching schedule for the week. A rough outline of what each day contains, and especially any changes that will be involved. On the day itself I write a list of the day’s activities on our schedule board so everyone knows what to expect.
For children and young people who need more structure in their day a visual timetable can be a great solution. It can be used either to carry with them or left on their desk, and can show the day as a whole or can be broken down into within lesson activities. If students have been set an open ended project for example, it can be used to break down the steps: Decide A Topic: Research: Decide A Title: Check With Teacher: Begin Project: Check In With Teacher: Finish Project
Try To Leave Some Structure In Place
Where possible try to leave some of your normal structure in place. Even during the last week of term I stick to our usual timetable in the mornings. That normality makes it easier for my students to come in through the door. In the afternoons I then introduce more open ended projects and fun activities such as outdoor learning. It’s the blend of the two that make it successful. We are recognising the end of term with a more relaxed approach but still keeping the structure in place.
Provide Opportunities For Time Out
Fun work is by its very nature noisier than normal lessons, for children and young people who have sensory sensitivities that can be hard to handle. Ensure you provide quiet areas where young people can go to regroup themselves and have alternatives of calmer activities available, especially in the case of group work projects. It’s important to recognise the energy spent during these activities will be far greater for autistic children than for their neurotypical peers and to understand that what you perceive as fun may cause them more anxiety rather than less.
Have A Box Of Preferred Activities Available
It can be really hard for a young person to leave an activity that they want to take part in. But as teachers sometimes we notice their tension building before they do. For those children who can be reluctant to take time out – or who see it as a punishment of some kind – having a box of preferred and ideally special interest related activities for them to access can make a big difference to their willingness to take some time away from the group without seeing it as a negative.
It is highly likely that children and young people will need more time than usual to decompress after days where there has been less structure at school. Account for this in your planning, and ensure rather than having activities which are back to back with school time is given to relax. Relaxation will look different to different families, but can include things like spending time playing video games, resting with a book, chilling in front of a favourite film or running in the park.
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