Easily transitioning a child with ASD from preschool to kindergarten
Researchers interview educators in Ghana and identify key steps to smoothly transitioning a child with ASD into kindergarten
What was the context of the study?
All children face transitions during their life. These transitions present challenges in themselves, however the challenges can be aggravated if the child has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Due to the nature of ASD, the child may struggle with communication, building friendships, and distress with the change. In the last decade, Ghana has implemented special education programs, but they are still a new addition. Early interventions and appropriate transitioning in the child’s formative years lead to a better ability to adapt when faced with academic challenges. Smooth transitions are a result of the strategies implemented by educators. Denkyirah & Agbeke set out to identify effective strategies to promote smooth vertical transitions (pre-school to kindergarten).
What methods were used for the study?
275 total preschool teachers participated in the study. 210 were from the USA and had at least received an associate degree in early childhood education. There were 65 educators from Ghana who had earned a diploma from a teaching university in Ghana in early childhood development. All of the participants were required to have experience with a child diagnosed with ASD. The educators had to answer an open-ended survey called Elements for Transition to Kindergarten. The topics covered by the survey included the following: (1) Timing for planning and preparation; (2) Sharing information with family; (3) Discussing placement with family; (4) Helping family find school and community resources; (5) Preparing the child for changes in placement and services; (6) Preparing receiving school and teachers; (7) Relationship between sending and receiving schools; (8) Assistive technology; (9) Home visit; and (10) Parent training.
What did the study find?
Overall, the educators from the USA and Ghana answered similarly. There was a slight difference, as the American educators ranked assistive technology and parent training as more important than their Ghanaian counterparts. This is likely due to differences in the socioeconomic statuses of the countries, as Americans have greater access to technology. Additionally, parents in Ghana may be less involved in their child's education due to the stigma and cultural superstitions around ASD in Africa. The findings can be summed up in six points. (1) It is crucial to establish programs for effective collaboration between the parents and educator. (2) Educators should initiate the transition for the child at least 6 months prior to the child moving forward to kindergarten. (3) There must be effective communication with the parents, so they understand their role in the transition. (4) Preschool teachers should supply information to parents about different kindergarten programs, so the parents can find the best fit for the child. (5) Parents should be informed about community programs, and support groups by the educator, so that they can seek additional help based on the child’s needs. (6) Communication with the future kindergarten teacher is crucial to help the educator prepare for the student. Regular follow ups with the educator should be planned in order to create a conducive environment for the child's learning, and integration into the program.
What were the conclusions of the study?
Developing and developed countries report similar needs for smooth transition of children with ASD. Foundational to a smooth transition is communication and planning. The transition to kindergarten is crucial in child’s life with ASD and it is a pivotal point for future academic performance. Thus, it is important to conduct more research to understand interventions that can be incorporated into the transition.
Denkyirah, A., Agbeke, W. (July 2010). Strategies for transitioning preschoolers with autism spectrum disorder to kindergarten. Early Childhood Education Journal, 38, 265-270. doi:10.1007/s10643-010-0407-z