Back to School 2020: Preparing for the unknown
Usually we are sharing some sort of "back-to-school" blog post around this time. Sadly, as we all know, back to school 2020 is going to look a little different this year (we have a fun song for that)! With so many unknowns, how can we properly prepare kids and teens to get ready for the school year? In this post we'll share some tips that might help for a smooth transition.
Social stories are great tools for preparing for new situations, but right now there is not really a one-size-fits-all plan or story that may work for everyone. No problem, just try making your own social story with your child about your plan!
Here are some tips for making a story at home:
Use preferred art materials
Keep it short and simple!
Include only positive language and behaviors you want to encourage - For example, rather than "I will not hit and scream" try "I will have safe hands and a quiet voice"
With so many unknowns about the future, it is important to be a flexible thinker! This can be a challenging thing for anybody, and we might struggle to flex when we are attached to a plan. Here are some things you can do to help promote flexibility:
We love writing and using songs about psycho-educational topics to help make learning fun! A favorite for these unprecedented times has been our song "Can't Control" from our Coping Tools Workbook which comes with an aweseome, interactive worksheet to help you practice the skill!
You can also preview a clip of the song, and practice focusing on the things we can control with our IGTV video.
Taking intentional time for deep breathing and rest can be a preventative measure to decrease stress levels to better handle facing a challenging situation, like a change in plans!
Part of Yoga philosophy is the thought that moving our body affects us on a deeper level than just our physical being.
By practicing literally being flexible in our bodies, we might be able to be more flexible cognitively!
Masks and Safety
As your community opens up, there will probably be safety requirements to be back in school or other public places. Try these tools to help stay safe!
1. Mask Social Stories
I love the stories made by Autism Little Learners! These social stories do a great job including and explaining the "why" behind all of these changes and why it is important to social distance and wear a mask.
Fully explaining the "why" to kids and teens helps them understand the situation and they will be more likely to follow through.
2. Superhero Mask Song
Check out our Face Mask Song: Be a Superhero on our Youtube
You can also download a free PDF story to go along with the song!
3. Practice Mask Wearing
Check out this video from our FaceBook Live for lots of activities to have fun practicing wearing a mask!
4. Use Hand Sanitizer!
Washing hands of course is best when possible, but for when we can't get to a sink, you can use our original song to remember to use hand sanitizer!
Starting the school year might mean new classes and groups of people! For teachers and therapists trying to help students get to know each other, try these activities:
For in-person programs:
Wear a photo of yourself without your mask/protective gear
You can also take a photo or video of yourself on your phone/iPad to share with the group. Encourage students to bring in a picture or video of themselves too, and show their class.
Social distance "mirror" dancing
Take turns having a leader dance to music and the rest of the group has to follow and "mirror" their moves to the music. Break into pairs and take turns mirroring each other, while keeping appropriate physical distancing.
This game can be a great ice breaker because little verbal communication is needed while still paying attention to new friends. This game involves using the mirror neurons in our brains too which can help us connect to another person even while not seeing their whole face!
Our song "Follow a Friend, Move!" from our Move. Sing. Breath. album has built in prompts, and is a great one for kids and teens to play this game with!
For virtual programs:
Chrome Music Lab questions game - We love using the Chrome Music Lab Song Maker in virtual sessions!
Make an original song with your new group by having students take turns asking each other questions. Once they've asked the questions and learned some new things about their group members, they can choose a color to add to the song maker in Chrome Music Lab!
Show and Tell
Try this classic activity to make being at home for school fun. Have a 20 foot long snake as a pet and can't bring it to school? No problem for online show and tell!
Fun variation, have your group members find something specific then share it with the group. We have a fun "over the rainbow" game for this activity!
Music, art, movement, and mindfulness are going to be the most important tools in the transition back to school. Through these practices, kids and teens get the opportunity to freely express and process all their complicated emotions while engaging in coping and self soothing.
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