Transitioning to school, your child’s first year at school

As a parent of a child with autism, ADHD, or developmental delay, the transition from early intervention to the first year of school is a significant milestone that can evoke a mix of excitement and anxiety. Early intervention therapies such as behaviour therapy, speech, and occupational therapy have been crucial in laying the foundation for your child’s development.

Now, as the school gates open, it’s essential to consider how to navigate this new chapter successfully.

Early intervention with your child’s behavioural and allied health team (often led by a key worker), plays a pivotal role in preparing children for school. These therapies focus on developing essential skills, such as communication, social interaction, and emotional regulation. The progress achieved during early intervention autism therapies lay the groundwork for a smoother transition to a school environment.

As the first day of school approaches, parents can work closely with their key worker, allied health team, and their school to create a comprehensive plan tailored to their child’s needs.

This will likely involve:

Transition planning meetings: It is good for these meetings to involve all key players in your child’s early intervention journey, the parents, and school staff. During these meetings you will discuss strategies that have proven effective in the early intervention setting and explore how they can be integrated or adapted for the school environment.

Collaboration with teachers: Encourage collaboration between the Key Worker and your child’s teachers. Sharing insights into the child’s learning style, communication preferences, and effective reinforcement strategies can contribute to a positive school experience.

Developing and adapting new and previously used strategies to address individualised needs: Recognise and address any individualised needs your child may have. Work with the key worker and the educational team to develop strategies that accommodate your child’s unique strengths and challenges, ensuring a tailored approach to support their successful integration into the school setting.

Some methods that are commonly utilised as a result of collaboration between your child’s home and school support teams include:

Social stories and visual supports: Collaborate with the key worker to create social stories and visual supports that illustrate the school routine, including arrival, classroom activities, and transitions. These tools can help your child better understand and anticipate the upcoming changes.

Gradual introduction: Often your school will arrange visits to the school for your child beforehand, in order to gradually introduce them to the new environment in a low stress manner. This can help alleviate anxiety and build familiarity with the surroundings before.

Communication with school staff: Creation of consistent methods and avenues for communication between the home and educational environments allows you to share information about your child’s strengths, challenges, and successful strategies, as well as any new developments at home with the school staff. Establishing open lines of communication fosters a supportive partnership between the two environments.

Once your child has their first day of school, it is important to remember that the journey doesn’t end there; it’s an ongoing process that requires continued collaboration between parents, school staff, your child’s allied health team, and any at-home supports that may be in place. In order to sustain the early success that you may have had in transitioning your child into school, here are some common elements that you should consider maintaining with your school and home support teams:

Ongoing communication: It is important to maintain regular communication between the home and school environments to discuss your child’s progress, challenges, and any emerging needs. This ongoing dialogue ensures that strategies can be adjusted as necessary to address evolving circumstances. Make sure to maintain the initially established modes of communication between teams to ensure continued support and progress are made. Initially it may prove beneficial to maintain periodic (quarterly or sooner) check-in meetings between the school and home support teams to mutually support your child’s continued development. As your child’s confidence and learning in their school environment grows, these check-in meetings will be thinned out to match up with the typical parent-teacher meeting and IEP review schedules.

School-based support sessions: In your coordination between home and school settings, your child’s team may explore the possibility of having the key worker, the behaviour therapist, or other members of the allied health team conduct support sessions within the school setting. If this is determined to be relevant it is important to maintain a focus on capacity building. This means building the school’s capacity to support the child in their learning, and on building the child’s capacity to learn from the resources and staff typically present in their school. These sessions can involve observing the child in the classroom, adapting existing strategies and introducing new ones to address the unique demands of the school setting, providing feedback to teachers (when asked for), and implementing targeted interventions as needed.

Delivery of child-specific training: Your key worker may also be able to provide specific trainings to school staff regarding learning strategies or technologies that your child has learned to use at home. These trainings can help promote the generalisation of skills learned in therapy to the school environment. If your child has an augmentative and alternative communication device or other adaptive technology as a part of their day-to-day support, a training delivered by the key worker or the supporting allied health specialist deliver could prove immensely beneficial to easing your child’s transition to school.

At the end of the day, the transition from early intervention to the first year of school is a significant step that requires careful planning and collaboration. The work needed to properly support this transition often needs to start three to six months in advance of your child’s first day of school. The parents, your child’s early intervention home therapy team, and school staff all play vital roles in ensuring a smooth and successful transition.

By leveraging the expertise of your early intervention team, creating tailored plans, and fostering open communication, families can navigate this milestone with confidence. Remember, the journey is ongoing, and with a supportive network in place, your child can thrive in their first year at school and beyond.

Published On : January 25, 2024

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