Starting their school life in the unfamiliar environment of a mainstream school can be a traumatic experience for a child with autism. A sudden break in their normal routine, a barrage of new rules and a sea of strange new faces can lead to a world of trouble and embarrassment for an unprepared child.
In the course of our years of experience we’ve seen many of our children’s development halt, and even regress, as they struggle with the frustrations of coping with the intense societal pressure found in mainstream schools. Hence, we’ve put together a specialized class constructed with the dual purposes of not only preparing children with autism for the environment in mainstream schools; but also, to equip them with the essential social skills that would take them through school life and beyond.
What is it?
The Social & School Readiness Class is a class specially designed to help children with autism socialize and communicate effectively (both verbally and nonverbally), as well as to equip them with the skills necessary for a successful transition into mainstream schools.
Class Structure and Content
Focused and theme-specific
A different theme is introaduced to the children every week to reinforce important learning points. Examples of some of our themes are:
Emotions (Angry and Scared)–to teach the child how to identify these emotions and the appropriate ways to handle them.
Our Five Senses–to teach the child how to employ the senses to observe their surroundings to draw conclusions and solve problems.
Pets–a fun way to teach the children responsibility and empathy, as well as some fine motor skills as they learn how to care for the animals.
Fun and varied activities
Snacks and toilet
Art and crafts
Music and movement
What Makes Us Different?
Most classes available today target either school readiness or social skills. However, our experience has taught us that firstly, key social skills are essential for successful integration into mainstream schools; and secondly, that these social skills need to be taught effectively within the context of the specific needs and circumstances of our mainstream schools.
We simulate real world situations
Effective socialization isn’t just about one-size-fits-all theories but imparting the ability to socially navigate the different types of situations that can present themselves. In our Social and School Readiness Class we bring the children through different types of social situations that happens in mainstream schools and help the children to learn and grow in ways that help them to handle the set of “rules” in each situation.
Individualized attention in a group setting
One of our core beliefs is that because each individual child has his/her own unique needs, it is our responsibility to respect these differences and cater to each child with individualized attention and care. Thus, we keep our class sizes small (3 teachers to 6 students) and engineer individualized goals and situations for each child according to their needs and level of development.
As technical as it sounds, we take meticulous notes of each child’s behavior and progress so as to be able to build an accurate record of their development every step of the way.
What will your child get to learn?
Follow group/classroom rules and instructions
Children who are able to follow one-to-one instructions may still have difficulty following group instructions often found in classroom settings, as it is directed to an entire group instead of just themselves. This is why we’ve decided to conduct our lessons in small but well-monitored groups so as to allow the child to become accustomed to socialisation in group situations.
Your child will also be taught that different settings often come with different sets of often unspoken rules. For instance, when in a quiet place such as the library, one must talk softly to avoid disturbing others.
Converse and communicate with peers and teachers
Even if your child has learnt how to communicate effectively to his parents, communicating with teachers and peers present a whole new challenge that needs help in overcoming.
Your child will also be taught how to effectively communicate what they want to say, as well as gauging the appropriateness of a situation to talk, request for help and/or ask questions.
To avoid destructive feelings of isolation and loneliness, we believe that it is important to teach the children how to form friendships with other children.
Thus, rules of interactions such as learning to refrain from acting selfishly (such as, snatching objects from other children or insisting on only doing what they want to do), the importance of sharing and also, how to show consideration for other people.
Abide by rules of play
This includes lessons on how to initiate play, the importance of boundaries, game objectives and stages of play.
Learn through observation
Teachers in school often carry out demonstrations in order to teach a new skill or topic. Thus, we teach your child how to pay attention and learn through observation.
We will also teach the child how to be aware of his surroundings and how observation can sometimes lead to problem-solving.
Modify their behavior
This refers to rooting out inappropriate/antisocial behaviours and habits that they may have and instilling more appropriate and social behaviours.
Develop social and emotional awareness: identifying and expressing emotions
In order to help your child develop fundamental social skills, our lessons are engineered to help the child identify emotions and how they are expressed.
This in turn, helps the child to gradually get acquainted with sympathy and empathy, which are important building blocks for forming meaningful relationships.
Practice good table manners and hygiene
This includes learning social norms such as waiting for everyone to start eating, not making a mess, cleaning up if they create a mess, not snatching food and how to politely ask for more.
Understand and follow routines
It is essential that the child learns to understand and accept that there are routines to follow and hence, they may not always get to do what they want to do.
This makes it easier for the child to settle comfortably into the fixed class timetables of mainstream schools.
At the end of every session, the children will be asked to recollect the lessons that they have learnt.
This not only helps with retention of important learning points; but also, forms the basis for meaningful communication that builds relationships, as they learn how to share their experiences with people.
Follow written instructions
Worksheets, workbooks and homework with written instructions are an integral part of school life. Thus, we teach the children how to read and comprehend their worksheets.
Complete worksheets given to them
Once they understand their worksheets, students are expected to complete and hand in their work within a stipulated time frame.
This is an important concept that helps the child to learn and grow as a student.
Have a concept of self
Part of the maturation process of an individual is developing not just a sense of self but also, a healthy self-esteem and an awareness of the role they play in a group. Through activities and play, we will constantly reinforce these concepts to the children.
We teach the child simple techniques on how to exercise self-control and why it is important in social situations.
For instance, if something upsets them, instead of throwing a tantrum, it is better to find an appropriate time to calmly communicate their unhappiness to a friend or teacher.
Employ fine motor skills
We teach essential skills for school life, such as how to hold a writing implement, turn pages and type on a keyboard.
Employ gross motor skills
We also teach gross motor skills like how to safely use facilities such as slides and ball pits.
Utilise creative thinking and problem-solving skills
Through play and other fun activities, we teach the children how to think creatively, make simple analyses and find solutions.
Cool De Sac, centrally-located in Suntec City and accessible by train/bus/car, is a beautifully designed indoor playground that is spacious, cosy and entirely child-proofed. Here, your child can learn and play in comfortable surroundings where their safety and security is a top priority.
Play stations available in Cool De Sac:
Arts: where children can express their creativity with the array of materials provided.
Blocks: for budding engineers and other like-minded children.
Tree House: for children to explore their adventurous side in a safe environment.
Play Area: perfect for developing a child’s gross motor skills with slides and tunnels galore.
Tots: a place filled with quality toys for the very young.
Tweens: console games to entertain even the most easily bored tween.
Back Stage: the perfect platform for children who love the dramatic arts.
Safety and hygiene is the first priority in Cool De Sac, which is why we have chosen to conduct our sessions here.
Each child is tagged and only an adult with a matching coded wristband is allowed to leave the premises with the child. No child is allowed to wander out on his own and play areas are monitored by CCTVs at all times.
For hygiene purposes, temperature checks are conducted on every child before being allowed into play areas, where socks are compulsory. Furthermore, all staff on duty are trained in all safety precautions.
Details of the Class
Frequency: Once a week
Time: 3pm to 6pm
Date: Every Wednesday
Duration: 3 hours
Age group: 4 to 8 years old
Sign up process
The decision to enrol your child into a mainstream school is an important one. However, it shouldn’t be case of “sink-or-swim” where we throw our vulnerable children into the mix and hope for a good result. In order to ensure that it is a positive experience that will reap benefits for your child, preparation is key. This is why we’ve created the Social and School Readiness Class–because at Autism STEP, we’re here for your child, every step of the way.