Back to School: Autism and sharing information about the school day

back to schoolParents of children with autism generally have a hard time teaching their children to share information about their school day, as one of the core symptoms of autism is « difficulty with language and other forms of communication » according to the Boston Children’s Hospital’s website (www.childrenshospital.com).

talked to one mom of a seven year old. Names have been changed to protect their anonymity.  Susan talks to Autism Daily Newscast to explain how her son, David has experienced difficulties.

David attended a full-time ABA program last academic year and will be attending an international school in Paris, France this school year. Susan shares her personal method for helping her child share the experiences he has had during the day with her at night before he goes to bed. According to this mom getting into bed and going over the events of the day have helped her son learn to sequence, share information verbally with her, work out daily events that may have caused him anxiety.

Susan explains how what started as a sequencing exercise turned into a successful way to work on verbally sharing experiences from the day.

«  I wondered if I could find a way to connect David – his own experiences –  to sequencing. It was already a part of his bedtime routine to recap some of the events of his day, so I decided to try making this a more detailed re-telling. I asked David to tell me about the things he did that day starting with: “What did you do when you got up today?” We would work our way through until we ended at him, ready for sleep, in his bed. For an entire year, he asked for quite a lot of coaching from me (e.g., “Did you eat breakfast first or did you go play?”), so that he could give short, one or two word responses to each step of his day. It is, at times, a bit of a chore for me, but David seems to enjoy it and continues (3 years later!) to hop into bed with a cheerful, “Can you tell me about the things we did today?” each and every night. He doesn’t need my coaching anymore and in recent months, I have tried to take him a little deeper into his thinking: to ask him about his favourite part of the day, something that surprised him or something that disappointed him. It is during these little bedtime chats that David seems to work out parts of the day that might have caused him confusion or anxiety – and for him, that can be many. He has made his biggest confessions and apologies when it is just the two of us, talking about his day, in the quiet of his bedroom. It has become so much more than simply another way for him to practice sequencing. »

Fern Sussman, More Than Words Program Director at the Hanen Centre for Communication says:

« An enormous amount of learning can take place when children are involved in daily routines … things that parents do with their children every day. These daily events are so important because they provide opportunities for repetitive learning in a natural, enjoyable yet structured way. »