In our last post, we outlined the process to help you prepare you and your child for kindergarten. This time, we’ll take a look at what you can expect once school starts.
At most schools, there is a gradual entry process that occurs for kindergarten students at the beginning of September. This means that the length of the school day will be gradually increased over a period of time until children are attending full days. In some schools, this may last for a week, in others it might be two weeks or even a bit more. Your child’s school will provide a calendar of what days and times your child will be attending at the start of the year. If you are not sure how your child will adjust to the gradual entry process, talk to the school and make a plan for how you can work together in your child’s best interest.
We often recommend making decisions based on your child’s progress and comfort with gradual entry – a criterion-based method- , instead of a time-based method. For example, your child may attend for 2 hours until they are able to do this without signs of distress across 3 consecutive days. This is contrasted with a time-based method, where we might say they will attend for 2 hours for 2 weeks, then increase to 3 hours. In the first method, we are waiting for the child to demonstrate readiness to increase the duration of their day at school, versus in the latter we are choosing an arbitrary timeline that may or may not align with the child’s needs.
Funding and Supports
In British Columbia, The Ministry of Education has created a list of categories of funding that the school receives based on an individual’s diagnosis. This differs across provinces, so look into the specifics for where you are located. For those with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, a designation of Category G is assigned and your child’s school will receive $22,280 that will go towards support for your child. This may include support from an Educational Assistant, and/or Learning Support Teacher, and/or other district-wide supports. The New Westminster school district has a succinct explanation of the special education guidelines which can be found here. The school team will be most knowledgeable about the services and supports that can be provided to your child.
Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
An Individualized Education Plan, or an IEP, will be created for your child with input from yourself, your home team, and the school team. An IEP meeting will typically occur in the fall that outlines your child’s plan for the year. This is considered a working document, in that it can be added to or changed at any time throughout the year. To help provide input into the IEP, your child’s Behaviour Analyst (or someone from your child’s home team) may want to observe your child in their class. This can often be arranged with the school team with enough notice. You are encouraged to invite your child’s home team to attend the IEP meeting where you can both provide information on how your child is doing at home. Depending on the school your child attends, the school team may meet one or two more times in the year to review the IEP goals, update your child’s progress and add any new goals to work on. It’s best to talk to the school team about the frequency of these meetings so that you know what to expect. If the school does not meet to review the IEP goals, they will be reviewed by the school team and a progress report will be included at the same time as your child’s report card.
At UP Early Intervention, we specialize in services for young children, typically before they enter kindergarten. Once children are approaching their kindergarten transition, we encourage families to begin to connect with other service providers who can support school consultation. This might be a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst (BCBA) that you contract with privately or through another agency that serves school-aged children. Our front desk maintains a referral list that we can share with you upon request, and your child’s clinician can provide more resources and discuss your particular situation to determine what supports may be best for you heading into kindergarten.
In our next post, we will talk about how you can include your child in their learning. If you’re looking for resources and support on how to navigate your child’s first year in school, here are a few places to look:
Act Community Training: IEPs – Why They Still Matter
Act Community Training: Iterating ABA Methods in Schools
Chapter Five: Individual Education Plans (IEPs) – Inclusion BC