Poster: blue background with red spoltches on the upper left and lower right. In the middle is a photo of a black middle school boy, smiling, with a green back pack shoulder strap and top of his school bag showing.
Classroom and Social

Increase Independence in SpEd: Arrival to School Routine

Increasing independence is the aim of all Special Education teachers and families. Why is it then, some adults continue to carry bags for students? Often they also go on to unpack more than the kids or young people do too! Read on to find some tips to help increase independence for students in Special Education.

Increase Independence: Set up the expectation for success

If students in Special Education attended a specialty Early Intervention Centre they will already be working on ways to increase independence. Sometimes though in the busyness of home and after extended breaks, some of the expectations and skills may slip.

Summer holidays are notorious for skills to lower or disappear in some cases. Long periods of Distance Learning will definitely have an impact. It’s hard to learn to pack, carry and unpack a bag if we are not allowed to go outside of the home. Setting up an expectation for home and school to allow the student to be as independent as possible will be required. Making the arrival routine a step toward a bigger IEP goal could help support learning opportunities. A social story prior to arriving including photos of the learning space can also be helpful.

Kindergarten aged white skinned boy standing, smiling, looking directly at camera dressed with a blue t shirt with collar and crean and green diamond tie on with a blue back pack school bag on shoulders. Showing independence carrying own bag. Ready for school.

Increase Independence: Tips to set up the environment

  • Make a task analysis: break into steps for those that need it as they begin to learn the task – most-to-least prompts for those requiring lots of support
  • Use least-to-most prompts for students who need minimal cues
  • Having a generic visual schedule for those who need the least cues – this could be as simple as a first/then or contain pictures of items to be packed/unpacked
  • Have clearly labeled places/containers/lockers, where lunchboxes, drink bottles, communication books, devices, bags will be placed
  • instruct the team to take their time while the student undertakes the tasks
  • offer specific praise during the teaching and other rewards personalised to the student as required
  • take data to demonstrate progress – a video for parents to show what their child is capable of can support them to step back if required
Preschool aged child with back to camera wearing a yellow parker and jeans. The child has blue back pack on their back showing independence in carrying own bag. They are in a country area with flat barren land, tall trees in background and a deserted country single lane road in the middle of the shot.

Learning a simple arrival routine supports independence

Completing an arrival routine is an important step for all Early Years and Special Education students. The reverse steps on leaving for the day is easily accomplished too. These are typically the beginning of learning to be independent. For more on arrival and dismissal routines check out this post by Angela Watson. Having an expectation that students will be successful and setting up the environment for success, will ensure students in Special Ed do not hit Middle School reliant on adults for basic tasks.

I wonder what else you do to support arrival and departure routines? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear.

Aroha, Ann

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