If your child has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, you're going to want to be selective about the preschool where you enroll him or her. One of the most common symptoms of autism spectrum disorder is impaired social skills, including trouble with standard social cues, limited eye contact and obsessive or repetitive behaviors. With the right preschool choice, though, your child will feel safe and supported while getting the necessary developmental instruction to overcome some of these struggles.
Evaluate the Toys
One of the things to consider is the types of toys you find in the preschool room. Kids with spectrum disorders typically like toys that are bright, colorful and engaging. Since spectrum disorders often coexist with other sensory conditions, this is an important part of engaging your child. Toys like trampolines, balls, bubbles and sensory tables are great for this type of play.
Consider the Engagement
Social interaction and engagement with other kids can be challenging for kids on the spectrum. Without the same understanding of social cues, expectations and body language, it's a bit like navigating a foreign country without speaking the language. Look for a preschool that offers supportive engagement. It usually requires preschool classrooms with at least one teacher's helper, but these classes are great for teaching social fundamentals. The assistants will work with the children who struggle socially, helping them to understand sharing, reciprocal play and communication.
Look for Play Zones
Since children on the spectrum often fixate on specific toys or types of objects, your child may be unfamiliar with other types of toys. Look for a preschool room that offers play mats with different types of play zones. When a preschool room is broken up into zones, it allows kids the freedom to move from station to station, experiencing many different things. One of the best things about play zones like this is that they usually also include picture-based instructions that show kids how to interact with things that they might not otherwise be familiar with. This can help your child, who will likely need visual prompting, to understand how to use these new toys.
In addition to considering these features, you'll also want to bring your child to the classroom. While this is helpful even for kids who do not have a spectrum disorder, it is nearly essential for kids on the spectrum. The idea of starting an entire day of school in an unfamiliar environment with a teacher they've never met can spark meltdowns and sensory processing problems. Bring your child to the classroom and allow him or her to meet the teacher and explore the room. This eases the anxiety of the unknown on the first day.
For more information, contact Family Ties Child Center or a similar location.