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Unique School Readiness Program opens doors of learning for children with autism

The launch of SA’s only research-based school readiness program is expected to prepare some of the State’s most vulnerable youngsters for the rigours of the education system by teaching them the skills and coping mechanisms needed to successfully transition to a mainstream school.

Inclusive Directions Chief Executive Officer, Ms Jocelyn Graham, said the decision to make the School Readiness program a permanent offering for families came after the successful completion of two pilot programs in 2015, which saw all 15 participants successfully transition to school.

“This is the first of its kind within South Australia, as a targeted, comprehensive and accessible program for improving school readiness in children with autism, and sees parents and educators working together to ensure that each child has the skills to achieve a smooth transition into schooling,” Ms Graham said.

“A transition into school can be an emotional and stressful time for children and parents alike, but even more so for a child with autism – and the School Readiness program draws on extensive research to provide children with the practical and social skills necessary in a classroom environment,” she said.

“We know that about 80 percent of all children diagnosed with autism progress to a mainstream school at some point, but sadly the majority are not taught the skills and mechanisms to confidently cope – and that often leads to social isolation and bullying from peers.”

The Inclusive Directions School Readiness program draws on evidence-based research to help children learn about typical school rituals, including how to sit on the floor and at tables for lessons, care for self and property, working in groups, turn taking and responding to the teacher.

Nat Mason’s 5-year old daughter, Caly, was amongst the inaugural group of children to graduate from the School Readiness pilot, and says her daughter has successfully made the transition to a reception class at the Eastern Fleurieu School at Strathalbyn as a result.

“We were concerned about how Caly would cope in the group environment and structured approach of school, and knew she would have difficulty with basic tasks like joining in with other children, staying quiet on the mat and putting her bag away at the start of the day – so we were keen to ensure that she had all the support available for such a big move,” Ms Mason said.

“Participating in the Inclusive Directions School Readiness program has given us all a lot more confidence – especially Caly’s confidence in herself – and the opportunity to learn and practice a range of tasks encountered at school before she actually started has made the world of difference,” she said.

“Going to the program between two and four times every week for a 12-week period was a significant commitment for the entire family, but it was absolutely time well-spent and has made a massive difference in her being a happy and engaged student.”

For best results, participation should take place in the 3-12 months prior to a child’s commencement at school and involves about 108 hours of transition support. Formal evaluation of the 2015 pilot programs found that all of the participating children developed improved social skills and adaptive functioning, and parent satisfaction was exceptionally high.

The total cost of the 12-week program is $4900, and as a registered provider of support under the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the Inclusive Directions School Readiness Program can be fully-funded as part of a participants’ trans-Disciplinary package of supports.

To register interest for the program or to find out more, email InclusiveDirectionsClientSupport.sa@benevolent.org.au or call Inclusive Directions Flinders Therapy House on 08 7325 8600.

Posted by Inclusive Directions / Posted on 20 Mar
  • autism, Inclusive Directions, Inclusive Directions Flinders Therapy House, Jocelyn Graham, National Disability Insurance Scheme, NDIS, research-based, School Readiness Program
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