Daily school life involves numerous transitions for which all children need support to manage. For children with additional needs, school transition can be a time of heightened stress and worry. All children benefit from having positive relationships and feeling a sense of belonging at their school or early childhood service, and these positive experiences are especially important for children with additional needs.
Families can support children with additional needs to manage school transition in a number of ways:
Build strengths step by step
Focus on your child’s capabilities by breaking down tasks at home into simple steps. It’s helpful to talk to your child’s teacher about how this builds confidence for your child, and how it might be applied in the classroom.
Be prepared and provide clear communication
Change and transition can lead to feelings of stress as there is an element of unknown involved. For children with additional needs, this can be particularly challenging. Preparing children for transitions through early, clear communication helps children to feel prepared to manage change. Build confidence by talking to your child about their new school and what to expect. Make time for you and your child to walk through the new school, familiarising yourselves with the routes your child might take moving around the school and meeting your child’s teacher(s). Ask your child’s teacher(s) to talk about what a typical day at school might involve, and what to expect in the first few weeks of school.
Families cannot meet the complex needs of children with additional needs alone. Children with additional needs benefit from collaborative involvement between families, schools and health professionals to help ensure the best outcomes for their development and mental health. If you have existing relationships with health professionals, use them to engage your child’s new school to talk through your child’s needs, and what they need to do to support your child. Try to maintain an on-going dialogue with your child’s school to support them to best support your child.
Help your child’s school to create a positive school community
When children feel connected and a sense of belonging they are more likely to learn and have fun. Helping your child’s school to develop a culture of belonging and inclusion is especially important for children with additional needs. This involves educating your child’s school about your child’s particular requirements, so the teacher can tailor teaching practices accordingly. Take the time to get involved in your child’s school, by volunteering in class, or helping at the school fete. Encourage friendships with other children at school, to help strengthen the ties to your school community and help your child settle into their new school.