One goal of ABA is making a child socially appropriate in all settings, especially at school. Many functional and social goals can be achieved in a classroom setting, such as following instructions, increasing academic skills, communication with others, and social skills. For a child with autism, these goals may be difficult to achieve on their own. So, how do we generalize learned skills from a home setting to a classroom setting? One word, Support!
One way of getting support in a classroom is by having a shadow for your child at school. The shadow will meet your child at school and provide 1:1 support with all academic and social needs. This person will assist your child to help promote growth within specific skill deficits. These skills could be anything from following instructions to interacting with peers.
As a child progresses and is able to handle social and academic demands, the support of a shadow will fade out. To assure there is no social exclusion, the shadow has to make the child feel that the shadow is just an assistant in the classroom and not someone there just for him. The shadow will start focusing more on the other children in the classroom instead of just your child. Yet, the shadow will be close enough to help your child before he falls.
A good shadow…
- Gives a child freedom to just be themself by prompting when necessary and backing off when the child is doing well
- Pays attention to the child all day long and gets to learn the child’s different moods
- Collaborates with everyone on the child’s team including teachers, therapist and parents, to assure everyone is on the same page
- Has a positive and respectful personality
Things shadows should avoid…
- Being overbearing to the child
- Doing the child’s work for them instead of allowing the child to try on their own
- Makes a child feel different from his peers
- Undermines the teacher and the child’s entire team
- Breaches HIPAA regulations
Overall, the shadow is a great resource to help a child in a school environment. If your child is struggling and just needs that little bit of extra support, see if a shadow is for you. The shadow will work under close guidance of a professional in the field to assure your child’s success. Learn more about your options, this may be an opportunity to help further the development of your child’s future.