A day in the life: Sandy’s schedule adjustments to navigate the new school yearAugust 27, 2020
Over the last six months, the coronavirus outbreak has forced so many of us to devise a new structure in our days, schedules and even in our society. Finding new ways to adapt might be easy for some, but for many people with autism, a routine is essential. Disrupted routines can cause major disruptions to their well-being – just ask fourth grade teacher and proud autism self-advocate Sandy Uppal.
“There’s nothing worse for a child on the spectrum than not knowing what their day will involve. For instance, if a parent decides to go shopping unexpectedly, even that slight change in plans could cause their child to have a meltdown. In school, we like to use visual supports like Picture Exchange Communication (PEC) System boards, also known as a First-Then Boards, to help children know exactly what their day will involve.”
A First-Then Board is a visual tool that is based on the principle that a person's motivation to complete a less preferred activity is increased when it is followed by a more preferred activity.
Sandy, 29, is currently a teacher at Victoria Park Academy in Sandwell, England. She became a teacher because she wanted to make a difference in the lives of children, particularly those who might be struggling to find their way and looking towards teachers to help them reach their full potential. So when her own schedule got turned upside down during the pandemic, she relied on the time management skills she had learned through the years.
Below is a breakdown of Sandy’s daily schedule for the upcoming school year and the many changes she – and her students – will face when they return to the classroom.
Although Sandy will be teaching her students in person when the new school year begins, as she did pre-pandemic, there will be several changes that she and students must adjust to, such as:
- Collecting children in the morning and after school. This year, each grade level has a different entrance to maintain social distancing.
- Seating arrangements for kids is now in a straight line, where before children were sitting opposite one another.
- Children are given their own stationery and whiteboard in personal trays.
- A single area is allocated to each grade for activities outside of the classroom. For example, Grade 4 can only use the top playground.
- Meal times are staggered to promote social distancing.
- Concrete resources for lessons will not be used to reduce risk of spreading the virus.
Despite the changes brought upon by the pandemic, Sandy has taken the last two weeks to prepare her classroom and mentally prepare herself for a new year that will surely bring even more unexpected changes. But in the end, she’s thrilled she’ll soon be back doing what she loves.
“I’m feeling excited to finally have some sort of normality and routine again. However, there is a part of me that feels anxious with adjusting to all the new changes even from the use of the staffroom. It feels like a lot of information overload at the moment but knowing I will finally see the children again keeps me going.”