When you have a child with autism, introducing them to any new environment can be challenging, but when the change is really big, like a new daycare or education center, you have to plan the move very carefully. While you want your child to integrate with peers and teachers successfully, you don't want to throw so much at them that they can't process it all. Here are 10 helpful ways to find just the right child care center for your autistic child and to really make it a success.
1. Look For Referrals And Support From Other Families Of Autistic Children
Check with your local state and federal government agencies that may be able to point you in the right direction in terms of finding an educational center specifically for a mildly-autistic child or if more direct or one-on-one supervision is needed. Also, check in your area for parental support groups, to find people who have already completed the search process you're about to undertake. Such a group may also benefit your family in general, such as for social events, informative exchanges and meetings that help parents make the smart decisions that help everyone in the family succeed.
2. Ask About The Experience Of Direct-Care Staff
It's important that any care or educational center you bring your autistic child to has well-trained, experienced staff on hand. Because you want the right kind of guidance in any situation that could arise, staff should be thoroughly educated on how to calmly and often creatively direct a child to task. Although autism presents its own set of unique challenges, you still want your child to feel just like everybody else in the classroom setting, not singled out in any way and that is most likely going to happen if the staff has been sufficiently trained.
3. Speak With The Director At Every Potential Child Care Center
You don't want to talk exclusively to employees of a potential center that aren't in the position of authority, because your family may have special circumstances arising in the future. Sit down with the director(s) and be totally honest about your child's skill level, interests, behaviors and other relevant information. After you've spilled your beans, ask them to do the same, specifically in how they handle the different challenges that all kinds of kids present them with. Make sure you'll be able to act in the way you're comfortable with in regards to programs your child is involved with, including, but not limited to visiting the center unannounced or on an as-needed basis.
4. Bring Your Child On Tours When The Center Is Closed
Without the crazy hustle and bustle of a group of screaming kids, a child care center may be more inviting to your autistic child. At least for the initial visit, keep it quiet and calm, especially if your child is easily upset or prone to sensory overload. Schedule plenty of time, so you can both tour the grounds, including any area your child is likely to frequent if they attend. The familiarity built will help the later transitions, along with making getting around a lot easier.
5. Make Sure You Can Participate In Your Child's Daily Experience
Whether you need to create an individual lesson plan for your child yourself or oversee the teacher's plans, make sure no one is going to object to this and that any instructor your child works with will be able to execute your strategies. While this shouldn't be an earth-shattering adaptation for any child care center, they may have certain rules or protocols you need to go through and it's important to be aware of them as early as possible.
6. See That A Regular Routine Is Kept Up
Most child care centers do pretty much the same things everyday, but it's good to be sure, especially if your child doesn't do well with surprises. Ask what for a copy of the schedule and keep it up on your fridge, to make things easier on your family.
7. Inform Staff About Your Child's Individual Learning Style
No matter how your child learns best, chances are good that the staff will be able to accommodate that individual style and maybe even help them to evolve in other ways. Let the teachers know what you've discovered, but get their feedback, too, so that all efforts are coordinated for the benefit of your child.
8. Specify What Rewards Work Best
If your child is accustomed to a certain form of praise or reward, let the staff know this, too, so that uniformity can be maintained across all learning environments.
9. Encourage Social Growth
Depending on you and your child's preferences, consider getting involved with other kids and families whom your child expresses an interest in, either in the form of play-dates or some other type of social setting.
10. Stay Involved With Your Child's Teachers
Being accessible to staff will help your child succeed, especially in the beginning when everyone is getting to know each other. Above and beyond your direct input, the most caring staff will want to create individual plans that foster growth and nurture your child's personality, so stay immersed in the process, even after the newness wears off.
A successful introduction to any new environment can make a world of difference to your autistic child. They'll be able to adapt and eventually, thrive, at the child care center you choose, because you selected it with such careful consideration, knowing it could provide the special care needed, without making your child feel too differently from everyone else. In fact, this could be the start of something very big for you and your child, with an enormous future payoff. For more information, contact establishments like Learning Tree Schools.