I'm pretty excited about this! I have to say, this idea stemmed from a meeting with my OT (who is amazing) on Friday afternoon. We sat down to discuss the results of an assessment which had been sent home to parents in the beginning of the year regarding daily living and self help skills. Honestly, some of the parent ratings REALLY surprised me!
I know that after 12 years in the field of special education teaching students with autism, I should not be alarmed by a lack of naturally occurring generalization across settings and people, but after working with many of the students in my current class for the past 4 years and seeing how independent they have become, I was shocked to see low ratings in some of the areas where they truly excel in school.
This highlighted for me the need to increase the amount of communication, collaboration & training that I do with parents regarding ways to transfer skills to home. I wanted to share two ways I will begin to address this, in addition to (as always) providing parents with the opportunity for home visits, in which I conduct observations then provide individual training (for the student and family) & support.
1. This year we are introducing more regular & formal Parent Training's. I am excited to begin this and I'm now pretty certain of my first topic (implementing hygiene & self care schedules in the home)! These trainings will be for small groups of parents who have similar training needs. For this first one, I anticipate that MANY of my kids' families would benefit, so I may either invite them all in for one training or do 2 half day trainings and split parents into 2 groups depending on the type of response I get when I reach out.
2. This week, I am beginning to send home "Take Homes." These documents will serve to provide parents with detailed information based upon recent observations, changes in program, changes in behavior, etc.
My plan is to describe what led to sending this document home (e.g., During our recent community based instruction outing to the mall, I accompanied your student on the escalator and noticed this is a big challenge for him. (Student) was very hesitant to get on and off of the escalator and his delays nearly resulted in an injury. He was very anxious during the short trip on the escalator and was holding a staff member's hand for comfort. From my observation, his fear was related to the movement of the floor/stairs, not specifically the heights.)
Next, I want to provide some information about what to do in the home environment in order to support the student. If I am informing the parent of a newly mastered skill, I would explain how, when and where the skill can be used, what it looks like when the student performs the skill (what parents should expect to see), and what types of materials & other supports are needed to help the student perform the skill at home. Any additional guidelines & actual materials will be sent home on the day that the Take Home is sent home. If I am continuing with the example above, I would instead tell the parent what steps they can take to increase the student's comfort with using an escalator. This may include having the student watch slow motion videos of how to get on and off of an escalator, reading a social story, incorporating a model (one family member goes on first, he gets to watch, then goes on with a second support person), using reinforcement (naturalistic reinforcement would be best here... using an escalator to get to the food court or a highly preferred section of the store).
Once these are sent home I plan to give the families a week or so to review the material, then will reach out to discuss if they would like to come in for training or feel they need more information/support to help their child.
Here is a view of what the form will look like initially... I'm sure it'll change as I begin using it!:
We all know that life skills are the most important skills we can teach to independence. AND that the student's actual home environment is the most important place for them to demonstrate that independence! I wish I had begun to do more of this sooner but am very hopeful that I'm moving in the right direction.
I hope some of these ideas are helpful for your students as well!