The beginning of the kindergarten school year is insanity. I keep hearing from many Grade 1 teachers who have never taught K but who have ended up teaching a combined K/1 for the first time that they had NO idea how much we K teachers work on in terms of teaching the basic skills like lining up, sitting down, holding a pencil, manners, etc. After all, we just play all day, right?
But get this: we also have to teach these kids HOW to play. Many of these children are not used to having to share an adult/toys/friends with more than one or two people. Teachers need to provide the children with the tools to help them play cooperatively with their peers in a school/classroom environment. The end goal being that they will be able to solve their own issues with as little help from the teacher/adults as possible.
At the beginning of the year, I introduce the “Wheel of Choices”. We talk about tattle-taling and what constitutes a serious problem that requires immediate attention from the teacher. I teach the kids that they need to try three things from the Wheel before coming to me. “Three before me” becomes my mantra until they figure out that I won’t help them solve their problem until they’ve tried three different approaches. We also talk about which approaches work better for certain problems. For example, if a child is sticking his tongue out at you or copying you, it might be better to walk away or ignore them rather than to tell them to stop because sometimes telling someone to stop makes them want to do it more.
You can also alter the choices if you feel they don’t work for your kids. I added “Ignore” to the “Walk Away” section. I also removed “Apologize” and added “Peace Table” instead (it’s a table with a peace rock and steps to talking out problems with a peer).
For free play time, I use the Support Sharing System. I make it a rule that when a child wants to play with something that another child is using, he/she is not allowed to say no. Ever. He/she can answer one of three ways: “yes”, “in one minute” or “when I’m finished (3 mins)”. Then, the sand timers come out. It’s amazing how well this system works especially if you’ve got toys or a centre that they all want to play with. It not only helps them understand turn-taking but shows them that they will eventually get a turn and that they system is fair for everyone. It is also very simple and predictable which works well for all children, not just those with autism.
I usually have these posters printed, laminated and on display on a bulletin board along with other social stories, posters, etc. to help them with self -regulation. I use a butterfly clip and hang the visuals on a thumbtack so they can easily be taken off and put back onto the wall.