Starting school is an important milestone in any child and family’s life. For families of children with developmental delay or disability, transition to school requires additional thought, time, planning and support to make the process as smooth and as positive as possible.
You might be a:
Why do community organisations play an important role in the transition to school for young children with disabilities?
Any of all of the areas identified below are relevant to helping children adapt and adjust to starting school.
Community organisations can:
“ We have been going to our local library almost every week since Ari was 2. He used to get upset when we first started going, but over time it has become part of our routine which he enjoys. Jan, the librarian there knows him and is always friendly and welcoming to us. Now he is able to put books into the returns chute and choose new ones to borrow. Next school holidays we are going to try taking Ari to craft time at the library because some other kids from his school will be going too.”
Shanti, mother of Ari
What do families find helpful from community organisations?
How can community organisations support families around transition to school?
“Because we had such a nice experience with the local playgroup and preschool, this helped me to feel as though my daughter would cope with starting school. Some of the children from the playgroup also started at the same school as Heidi, which made her feel more relaxed.”
Marion, mother of Heidi
Making the child’s experience positive on an ongoing basis:
All children arrive at primary school with knowledge and experiences from growing up within the context of family, neighbourhood, service and community environments. Traditional concepts of school readiness have placed emphasis on a child's skills; however, preschool skill-based assessments of children's functioning have been shown to be poor predictors of subsequent school adjustment and achievement (La Paro & Pianta, 2001; Pianta & La Paro, 2003). More recent thinking about the transition to school recognises that "school readiness does not reside solely in the child, but reflects the environments in which children find themselves" (Kagan & Rigby, 2003, p. 13).
(Sayers, M et al Starting school: A pivotal life transition for children and their families Family Matters 2012 No. 90 p.45).
Community organisations play an important role in this community-wide approach to children’s transition to school and inclusion generally.
Research, as well as feedback from parents, carers and professionals across NSW, has identified some useful practices and potential barriers in the transition to school for children with disability.
“Effective transitions consider children’s and families’ identity and a sense of belonging in the new context and are supported when discontinuities (e.g. differences in curricula and teaching strategies, changes in relationships between children and adults, and changes in peer groups) are attended to and minimised.”
(The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health, p2).
The most successful transition to school programs occur through a collaborative team approach.
Most children who have identified disabilities or developmental delays prior to starting school will have early childhood intervention (ECI) professional/s involved.
Ask the family about the ECI professionals working with their child, and whether they are able to spend some time in your setting. This can help to build your capacity to support participation for children with disabilities or to link families with other support and assistance.
Support might be available from:
“We really wanted Anh to do some type of sport like his brothers do. We were a bit worried that he wouldn’t be able to do everything that he needed to, but our physiotherapist was able to talk with the coach of a soccer team and give him a few ideas. Anh was able to join in with the other kids. He might not kick the most goals, but he has a lot of fun and is part of the team!”
Van and Le, parents of Anh
Working with families, ask yourself:
When working in partnership, ask yourself:
When supporting the child’s participation, ask yourself:
Royal Children’s Hospital’s Centre for Community Child Health (2008) Rethinking the transition to school, Curriculum leadership, Vol.6, issue 34, click here to access this article online.
In recent years, the definition of school readiness has broadened.
School readiness use to mean, "Does the child have the skills needed for school?"
It now means is everybody “school ready”?
That is the:
This re-thinking of what school readiness is, results from an increased understanding of the importance of the early years of childhood, and the influences on a child’s development of their relationship with their:
Therefore, each of these environments has a responsibility to be “school ready”.
It is the connections and collaboration between family, community, services and schools which underpin successful transition to school for young children with disabilities.
‘Ready families’ refers to the child’s family situation and home environment.
Families play a crucial role in their child’s development, preparation for school and their ongoing learning.
Parents usually have the best understanding of their child’s:
They can use this knowledge to work in partnership with professionals, to decide on priorities in preparing their child for school.
However, families need not feel that all responsibility is on them to “get their child ready” for school or that they need to do everything at once.
Information, practical and emotional support and training is available to assist with making the transition to school as smooth as possible.
This may include information about the range of school options relevant to their child, planning for transition to school and how to advocate for their child.
‘Ready Services’ refers to access to programs that influence child development and teach skills which are useful in the school environment. Ready services work in partnership with the family, other services involved in the child’s care, and the new school.
‘Ready communities’ refers to the resources and supports available to families with young children.
Examples of community resources may include:
‘Ready Schools’ describes critical elements of schools that influence child development and school success.
A “ready” inclusive school setting is one where the setting has been designed and adapted to provide the best possible education for all of its children (Cologon, 2013).
The resources of individual schools are important aspects of the school’s readiness.
These resources include: