How does school shadowing help a child with ASD succeed in school?
What is school shadowing?
School shadowing is an important component of the treatment process. It is the process of accompanying a student through their general education program, in order to gain insight into the student’s experience within a school setting and to be a support to the student in that environment. For a child with ASD, a therapist/aide who is sent to be the shadow should be trained in the basic principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).
It is crucial that the shadow have the appropriate skills required to be a suitable help for the student. The shadow should be completely dedicated to helping the student become as independent as possible. The shadow has the responsibility of supporting the student with the skill sets that they have already gained while also helping them with acquiring new skills and abilities.
Who is qualified to be a shadow?
A shadow is a trained ABA therapist or Behavior Analyst who is dedicated to providing a student with the required level of support necessary for him/her to be successful in the general education system.
A shadow is a member of the student’s therapy team and closely understands his/her needs and has the skills to bolster classroom participation and social interactions in order to make the school day as productive as possible.
A shadow will have frequent interactions with classroom teachers to supporting curriculum modification that work to support the student’s learning style. The shadow may also teach certain lessons before or after it has been taught in class in order to ensure that the student has grasped all of the new information.
A shadow is adept at providing just the right amount of support for the student to be successful, and withdrawing when support is no longer required, in order to encourage the student to be independent. Support can be gradually reduced over time through strategic prompting and fading techniques.
The ultimate goal of the shadow is to ensure that the student child is able to fully and successfully participate in school without shadow support.
How a shadow helps your child become independent
One of the main goals for a school shadow is to help the student become so independent that he/she will be able to function on their own in the classroom and school, without the support of a shadow. The key purpose behind assisting the student is to help them become as self-reliant as they can in a general education environment.
Getting the student to become independent in the classroom will require the shadow to perform a series of actions. For example, the shadow should guide the student in understanding habitual activities that take place in the classroom. The shadow should also ensure that the student follows standard class behavior and protocol. Whether it is learning where to sit or where to place their bag or various other dos and don'ts, they must learn how the class typically operates.
An experienced and qualified shadow, with proper supervision from a Behavior Analyst or Learning Support/Inclusion Specialist will know how much support to give to the student. Using careful judgment, such individuals need to decide what degree of support the student requires in various class activities. They must help the student operate and perform class functions the same way as other students. Once the student is able to do this, the shadow should withdraw and monitor the student while they are engaged in their work, while closely observing the situation.
If there are circumstances where the student requires more assistance with specific activities, then it is the task of the shadow to decide what degree of support is appropriate for such activities.
While there may be a certain level of hand holding required during the initial stages, the ultimate goal for the shadow should be to help the student become independent with learning.
When the shadow sees that the student is able to function independently, he/she must reduce the degree of prompting. Non-invasive prompts such as simple signals can be used and then gradually withdrawn until the student requires no prompting at all.
An important role of the shadow is to support the student in advancing in their development. They must help the student become self-reliant by applying relevant interventions (social and behavioral), when required.
The shadow should also see to it that any communication endeavors by other students reach the student and are also directed toward him/her.
The shadow must also ensure effective communication happens between the teacher and the student, and help the student imbibe the teacher’s approach of teaching.
While the shadow helps the student perform various functions, it is essential that they also collate their observations.
It should be noted that for school shadowing to be advantageous for the student, it should be approached as a cohesive effort - from the shadow, the teacher, and the parents. Above all, everyone involved should prioritize the student’s specific needs first, and personalize the approach accordingly.