A Day in the Parent Child Training Programme
The Parent Child Training Programme (PCTP) follows a similar structure every day. Because most of the children enrolled in the programme are not currently attending any other school at that time, it is important to remember that this is their school day, and the parent is their teacher.
Additionally, since parent empowerment and training are the primary goals of the programme, the PCTP is a ‘hands on’ programme. After a period of initial training, the parent does the ‘one on one’ session with the child, and plans for and executes group activities.
This is the first activity each morning.
* The parent in charge asks the children and their parents to gather, and then leads the singing of the opening prayer.
* The children do sets of exercises next.
* The children are then shown the calendar and given a card with the day of the week written on it. They are then given an instruction to put it in the ‘day card’ box.
* Then the parent conducting the assembly takes attendance, calling every child’s name and having them either say “present” or raising their hands (for those not yet using speech).
* Then it is time to look at the ‘thing of the day’, which could be a toy or something interesting which will encourage the children to attend jointly to it.
* After assembly the children go to the play (transition) area while the parents set-up for one on one interaction time.
What is the child learning during assembly time?
Assembly time helps the children prepare themselves for the day. It introduces the concept of a structured school day and helps them to gather themselves before beginning their work.
• The exercises allow them to practice gross motor and imitation skills, and follow instructions.
• Days of the week: gives the practical knowledge of what day it is as well as information about the passage of time. Every day has a name, they follow a structured order (Tuesday ALWAYS comes after Monday) etc.
• Taking attendance helps them to acknowledge their classmates and notice whether everyone is at school or not. Attendance also teaches them to respond to their name being called.
• The ‘thing of the day’ encourages ‘joint attention’, waiting for their turn to play with the ‘thing of the day’ and giving back an interesting toy once their turn is over.
This is the time the parents have to work directly and personally with their own child. The parent and the child work separately from the others and complete the activities that the parent has planned prior to the session.
The activities are based on a tailor made programme devised by the trained therapist, keeping in mind the child’s strengths and current needs. It is essential that the parent has prepared all of the materials beforehand and knows what they will be doing. This creates structure and order for the child and reduces work related ambiguity and anxiety for the child.
What is the child learning during one-on-one time?
This is the time to focus primarily on communication, social and cognitive skills, although the programme will depend solely on each child’s individual strengths and immediate needs. Some of the areas that can be focused on are:
• Learning to sit and attend
• Following directions
• Fine motor skill activities: Screwing/unscrewing, Beading (in a sequence, can also teach pattern recognition, colour, size, etc), Colouring/Scribbling with a crayon, Matching/Sorting and other visual discrimination skills
• Pre-writing and writing skills.
• Other concepts such as colours, sequencing, matching
One-on-one time has to be fun for the child. The parent learns to come up with ways to make the teaching activities more enjoyable for the child. For example, when doing “put one, take one” why not have the items in a bucket/bowl of water… it’s fun for the child to watch the object splash, or feel the water on his/her hands, and it teaches the same things!
It is important for the parent to remember to start slow and avoid overwhelming the child by asking her/him to do more than s/he is motivated to, but, at the same time not to oversimplify things to the point where there is no motivation for him to try. If the child begins to seem frustrated, the parent would need to make things simpler and if he is bored, challenge him more.
FINE MOTOR/GROSS MOTOR SKILLS, GROUP ACTIVITIES
After one on one time the sitting or physical group activities are usually conducted. Parents prepare for the activities prior to arriving at school. The sitting group activity focuses on fine motor skills while the physical group activity focuses on gross motor skills. However, this may not always be so. One parent prepares and leads the activity (by roster) and each child takes turns to participate in the activity.
What is the child learning during the group activities?
• The activity for fine motor skills group usually takes place at a table and teaches fine motor skills through things like cutting, pasting, or folding.
• The activity for gross motor skills teaches gross motor skills through activities such as running, jumping, picking up, climbing, and bending.
• The children learn to wait for the other children’s turns to be finished before their own turn.
• The children learn that sometimes we do things alone and sometimes we do things in a group – this teaches important social interaction skills.
• Having a schedule where the child ticks his own name helps him self-regulate and control impulses.
Snack time usually takes place after the group activities of the day. Snack time gives the child a break from activities. The children all wash their hands, come to the snack area, sit at one particular place and eat a snack out of their own snack boxes.
What is the child learning during snack time?
Snack time is important because it gives the child time to relax and have something to eat. But even though it may seem like off time, the children are still learning necessary skills.
• This teaches appropriate eating habits such as washing hands before eating, eating only from your own plate/tiffin box (even when your neighbour’s snack is more interesting!), and eating whilst sitting in one place.
• Fine motor skills are practiced when the child opens his own tiffin box & feeds himself.
• The child learns self-help skills
During Music Time, the parent leading the group sings some songs and the closing song. The children, who can, join in the singing. The closing song signifies the end of the ‘work day’ for the children.
After music time the parent in charge announces that school is finished for the day and that they will see each other tomorrow (or Monday if there is a weekend coming up). Further, the parent also indicates if anything out of the ordinary, such as a holiday, is going on the next day. This limits the child’s confusion if he expects to come to school the next day and it is closed.
What is the child learning during music time?
• Playing instruments or clapping along with a song helps the children learn rhythm.
• The children who can learn to sing along, while the others sit and enjoy the music.
• Most children with autism respond amazingly well to music. Thus music time gives them a clear and enjoyable ending to the day.
During discussion time the children have a break and the parents get a chance to interact with a therapist who has observed all the sessions and gives feedback on what was done well, what could be improved upon, as well as on general behaviour issues. This is also a good time for mothers to raise any questions they have had whilst working with their children at home, or to discuss specific difficulties and successes they have had. A variety of other related concerns are also discussed during this time.