Planning for School Intake
Update: school funding is undergoing a significant change. Applications for funding is no longer on a child by child basis, unless you are in an independent school. It remains important to collaborate and to share information to help the school staff fully support your child’s growth.
I have to go to a school meeting for my son re: support as he enters kindergarten. I’m really worried about how to get my son the help he needs. How do I prepare?(Paraphrasing a request for help in our Facebook group.) **********************************************************
The first thing to remember is that it’s the school’s job to create and carry out a plan for your child to be successful in school, both academically and socially. You and the school team will be working together, and your job is to help them understand your child and his needs. You will also continue to communicate with the staff as he enters school, to let them know of any changes or problems, and also to let them know what is going right from your point of view. Everybody works better with encouragement!
When you go for the intake meeting, the school staff will want to get to know your child, his strengths and his needs. They will use this information as they plan, and also to apply for funding. There are a couple of different kinds of grants for kids who need special support. Block funding (Level 1) is a general amount provided for resource support. Individual children may also qualify for additional funding, depending on their level of disability, and individual applications have to be made for these grants. They are defined by level – 2 or 3. You can read more about that here.
Quite frankly, children with autism need to be quite badly affected with their disability to qualify for Level 3 funding. (The exception to this is kids in the ABA program, who automatically get Level 3.) Level 3 kids may need medical support, or present a danger to themselves or others. Even to get Level 2, the school staff has to submit an application indicating the need for 1:1 support. This might include things like lack of communication, emotional disregulation, toileting needs, running away, and so on. Unfortunately, the way the system is set up, it’s necessary to make a child look as challenged as possible on the application, which is hard reading for parents. Knowing this in advance makes it a bit easier to take with a grain of salt.
Whatever level of funding your child receives, the school is responsible to provide an appropriate and inclusive program for your child. The support may or may not come from a 1:1 EA, and in fact, it may be a good thing to not always have the same person supporting your child. It is very important for the classroom teacher to develop a relationship with your child as well. Remember the goal is for increasing independence.
What this means for your intake meeting is that any information you can share about difficulties your child is likely to encounter at school is helpful for the funding application process. It also helps them to plan for a successful year.
But of course, you need to share your child’s strengths as well. Every child needs to feel successful, and your child’s teacher will want to know ways to incorporate your child’s abilities and interests into her program. For example, if he’s into Thomas the Train engine or water play, perhaps a train centre or water table would be a possibility. If he already knows his numbers, perhaps he can be a “helper” at calendar time.
Every year will be different. Each teacher has their own style, and our children can benefit by learning to adapt to new situations. There’s a middle ground between “overwhelming” and “safe.” You don’t want your child so protected that he has no adapting and learning to do; but of course no one wants him to be stressed out. That’s an obstacle to learning and well-being.
Our own school experiences with our two children have been very good, and I would say a big part of that has been built on mutual respect and collaboration. I know that our staff wants to do their best for our kids, and will…and I’m willing to go ask questions when there’s a problem, knowing that no one means to make mistakes. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it. Our kids are growing and learning, and are generally happy, and that’s the main thing.