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Tabitha Kirby, MA, BCBA
Expert Name: Tabitha Kirby, MA, BCBA
Expert Title: MA, BCBA
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Short Bio: Tabitha Kirby received her bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s degree in special education with specialization in Applied Behavior Analysis from The Ohio State University. As an expert in the field of behavior analysis, Tabitha has worked in various clinical, school, and community settings. As a consultant for families of individuals with Autism, Tabitha led and implemented a variety of home-based programs. She has extensive knowledge and experience in creating special education curriculum and training programs to provide superior educational outcomes for children with special needs around the globe.

3 Tips For Transitioning Kids with Special Needs From Summer to School

It is very important that a parent or a teacher working with a child with special needs demonstrate patience as the child transitions from a summer schedule to a school program. Remember that the first few days or weeks will be a challenging period for both you and the child, regardless of whether you are a parent, teacher, or even a bus driver.  In order to prepare for this eventuality, parents and teachers should spend the time to plan, including identifying ways to help the child, during this period to smoothly transition into this new environment. 
Here are three tips to incorporate into the School Transition Plan:   
       1.  Keep in mind that continuing to use the tools or methods used successfully during summer may be the key to the child’s success during the transition period.  For example, if a picture schedule was used successfully during the summer, you should continue to use Picture Schedules during the school year. For children with Autism or special needs, Visual Supports, including Visual Schedules are very helpful tools in bringing structure to seemingly unstructured settings or time periods. Although school programs are more structured than most summer schedules, the same methods and tools can be used to successfully transition a child from summer to school.   
2.  Think back to last school year. Maybe there were techniques that worked well during transitions and reduced behaviors at the end of the school year. If so, these techniques should be implemented immediately at the beginning of the school year.  This is especially true for any behavior plans which were used successfully during the previous school year.   
3.  Social Stories are great tools to help a child during any transition periods. Social Stories that use the child’s current situation can be used to teach and reinforce the skills the child needs to be successful. By adding the teacher, classroom and names of classmates as part of the story,  the Social Story will provide the necessary reinforcement of “rules” and schedules to familiarize the child with this change in his or her life. 
There are endless possibilities and tools that are available to help a child transition smoothly into a new school year. Regardless of the methods you use, make sure that the child is receiving a large amount of reinforcement at school and at home when he or she exhibits appropriate behaviors. In some cases, reinforcement alone can give your child enough motivation to transition while keeping appropriate behaviors. 
For other great ideas on increasing skills and decreasing behaviors, check out our ABA Online Training Course.

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