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Reflections Magazine : Reflections Issue 59 Winter 2015
17 REFLECTIONS • GOWRIE AUSTRALIA • WINTER 2015 - ISSUE 59 The decision to maintain a natural environment inside, in the wake of primary coloured decor at other centres, created a peaceful and homelike environment that reduced the likelihood of overstimulation. Heath received extra support at preschool and child care. This was presented to me as a possibility by the staff and it felt like a gift, one less thing I had to research for myself. Of course this provided Heath with the wonderful benefit of having someone to assist him in regulating his emotions and providing scaffolding around play with others. Early discussions around transition to school began in the year before Heath started school. Heath attended the Early Learning Centre (ELC) at the feeder school for one morning a week in Terms 3 and 4 to enable him to become familiar with the geography of the school and meet some other children who might be in his class in the following year. These discussions were initiated by the Gowrie team, in conjunction with the transition educator from Autism SA. It was helpful for Heath to attend the new learning environment while maintaining the security of his association with Gowrie. He was just beginning to form some friendships so it didn't feel like a good idea to uproot him altogether and start anew. It was also helpful for me to get to know the new staff whilst still being supported by familiar staff. In addition to the usual two transition visits to school, Heath visited his future classroom with his support worker from the feeder ELC and observed the children. A book about his new classroom and pictures of the school environment were produced so that we could read it together and talk about things such as where the toilets were, where to seek help at lunch time, safe boundaries, etc. Visits were also made during recess time to show Heath what sorts of activities he could do during these periods of free play. Extra meetings were required to establish what the school expectations were and how we could assist Heath and the teaching staff to meet those expectations. Alternative visuals and fidget supports were provided that were aligned with the school's Steiner philosophy of natural materials. Other aspects of Steiner methods were discussed, for example, the tradition of oral story telling and metaphor and whether this was appropriate for a child on the spectrum. Time was made available for Heath to explore and become familiar with the new environment when it was not in use. Staff from Gowrie attended these meetings to advocate and to provide information about Heath and share strategies that had been successful in the preschool setting. Recorded examples of supporting Heath through some strong feelings were supplied to the future teaching staff. Throughout our experiences at Gowrie and in the last 8 weeks that Heath has successfully commenced school, I have taken my lead from that initial conversation and tried to foster an attitude of "how can we support each other"? It is beneficial in so many ways. It paves the way to mutual understanding whilst acknowledging that the situation has challenges, but they can be faced together and without judgement.
Reflections Issue 58 Autumn 2015
Reflections Issue 60 Spring 2015