You’ve worked on good routines and procedures for weeks now… and in the blink of Holiday Vacation, all your hard work will be undone. Here are some ideas for helping students overcome holiday in Autism Units.
Front-loading Holiday Vacation
It is hard to have your routine interrupted. Some students can’t wait to go on vacation and will transition back without issue. Then there are the others. The ones that leave you like a bachelor hopping a plane to Vegas and come back like a character in The Hangover. They return and it’s like the first day of school all over. You have to start from scratch with reteaching routines and procedures.
So what can you do to make it better?
Start with a little front-loading. Before your students leave for holiday, talk about what will happen before they leave, while on break, and when they come back. That will look different for different students, but the idea is the same. As you ebb closer to the last day before break, you will want to remind student with more structure what the routines are…. As opposed to going all loosey goosey with holiday parties, extra sweets, and ‘Fun Friday’ EVERYDAY!
It’s okay to be a little Grinch-like. Keeping that routine and procedures in place makes it clear what the expectations are in your classroom. That is not to say you cannot have any fun at all, but those fun activities should still stink of the ‘norm’ and run with the same transitions, behavior tools (like visual schedules, rule cards, or first-then cards). That way you never lose the procedures you worked so hard to set up and put in motion.
What Happens on Break Doesn’t STAY on Break!
When I go on break, I forget the day. I lose all concepts of time. And I eat at all kinds of weird times (sleeping in does that). When school starts back up again and the alarm goes off on the first day, it’s shocking. The rest of the day I am a straight up extra from The Walking Dead.
Thinking about school again, even just a little bit, keeps the anchor connected to school. If you can, send home a little something to. Here is a great little FREE Holiday Journal for your students to use that allows them to countdown to back-to-school, document their holiday, and use a calendar. Great way to keep tethered to school and, hopefully, make the return that much easier. Don’t forget to download the journal by clicking HERE!
Partner With Parents
We all love to have the conversation the first few days back that starts with “What did YOU do for holiday?” Problem is, not all students can respond traditionally. How does that look for students with echolalia, extensive wait times, or nonverbal students? So make this conversation a real conversation. Ask parents to send back two or three pictures. Suggest parents email you a short 30-second video of a moment from their vacation. Parents can even record “homework” of a 20-second audio answer to the often repeated question so a student can verbally ‘answer’. All of these will help to make the return all inclusive.
When I train on Literacy in Autism Units, we talk about remnant books. That would be a great strategy to do here so you can really know what went on over vacation.
You may also want to talk to parents about sticking to a routine as much as possible. Approximating the school year bedtimes, dinner times, and electronic time will make it easier on everyone when school starts back. If a student is up all night, plugged in all day, and eating whatever whenever, the return to school can be a nightmare for everyone! Whisper that into a parent’s ear (include the screeching sounds of protest on the first morning back as they try to load their kiddo on the bus) and maybe they will realize this is for the best.
Either way, don’t forget to tap your parents and collaborate!
Yeah, when it comes to helping students overcome holiday in Autism Units, sometimes it’s the staff that needs recovery! You may want to plan a time over the first week back to meet as a team, talk about student behavior plans, as well as data collection and lesson plans.
Making sure your team is all on the same page may make the first days back more happy and less hangover.
So there you have it… a few simple things you can do to help holiday not reset your routines and procedures.