It happens to all of us at one time or another. You get that call from the office telling you that your new student has arrived. "What new student?", you ask. You check your calendar thinking like you may have forgotten something. No, you have not.
You greet your new guy (or girl) with a warm smile. He seems a bit apprehensive, but he smiles back at you. You think, "This will be okay. He looks darling." So, you grab the stack of paperwork that was dropped off - his IEP, psychological report, assessments, and behavior plan. BEHAVIOR PLAN?
Many times when our new students come to us from other schools, the reports can be downright intimidating. It can be difficult to wade through the information and attach it to your new student. I have received reports of chair throwers, biters, runners, and oodles of non-compliance issues. It was hard not to form a negative first impression, but when those behaviors never surfaced (and I mean after the honeymoon period), I realized there may have been causes or triggers to those behaviors in his old environment. Hear me clearly, I am not blaming any other teacher or assistant, but whatever it was, that
behavior seemed to have disappear.
My point to this is, please don't believe everything you read. Yes, sometimes even IEP's and written reports can be a bit tainted by opinion, or the way that person is viewing the incident or behavior. It shouldn't be like this, but in reality it does happen. Welcome the new child, just as if he was entering your classroom on the first day of school. Introduce him to your students and familiarize him with your classroom routines and expectations. Make his first day, your first day. Play some of the same games you did with your class. Take your class on another tour of the school and have them tell him something about the class, Specials class, or even the cafeteria. Review class trips, homework policy, and anything and everything that you did for your other kids. The more comfortable the new child feels, the better chance he has of forging successful relationships with both you and his classmates. Kids with autism may need visuals and prompting to engage in any of the above activities, so be prepared at all times with visual cards for behavior, social skills, and to inspire responses. With all of this in place, the chances of a productive learning year are on your side!
How have you handled the arrival of a new student? Did you receive notice that he/she would be arriving? Did you have a chance to speak with the parents? Please share your experiences and suggestions, for this is a situation you may surely find yourself in during your career.
Here are a few freebies to help you along the way!
Autism Calm Body Cards
First/Then Board with Visuals
Autism Educators, Inc.