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.
Numeracy relates to numbers and measurements. It is the ability to understand information presented in mathematical terms and being comfortable with the aspects of mathematics that enable people to cope with the practical demands of everyday life.
Many schools will have staggered starts for kindergarten children. This usually means that kindergarten children start on a different day to other students. In some schools, kindergarten students may start with shorter days in the first week of school.
You may wish to think about how your child might react in their first week/s at school and whether a gradual start may be helpful for your child.
Best Start Assessments
At some schools, kindergarten children will do an assessment on one of their first days at school. In NSW this is called Best Start.
The NSW Best Start initiative is intended to ensure that all students are on the right track in their literacy and numeracy learning by Year 3. The Best Start Kindergarten Assessment is designed to provide teachers’ with knowledge of where each child’s literacy and numeracy skills are at the beginning of kindergarten. This is so they can plan teaching and learning around children’s needs.
All children have the opportunity to participate. Teachers of students with confirmed disabilities get additional support to build a profile of the child. This helps them to plan quality learning programs for these students.
Click here to view specific information about how the assessment may be adapted for children with identified disabilitiy or additional needs.
What is likely to happen at school in the first week
In many kindergarten classrooms, the initial week will involve:
Expectations and classroom rules such as the 5 L’s of listening (legs still, hands in your lap, lips closed, look at the teacher and listen with your ears) may be taught in group lessons with visual support.
Click here for a link to a video about what happens in mainstream kindergarten including children showing and talking about their school day.
What will my child be taught at school?
Teachers in all NSW schools are required to teach a range of subject areas which are also known as Key Learning Areas or KLAs. These KLAs incorporate the national curriculum.
The 6 Key Learning Areas taught in NSW schools are:
• english (also referred to as literacy)
• mathematics (also referred to as numeracy)
• science and technology
• human society and its environment (HSIE)
• creative arts (including visual and performing arts such as drama and music)
• personal development, health and physical education (PDHPE)
Click here for ideas on preparing your child for school.
How your child might behave after school in the early days
The school routine differs from early childhood education and care settings and home, in terms of structure, routine and expectations.
This means that most children will be very tired at the end of the school day. It is quite common for children to show or act out their tiredness and emotions when they return to the security of their own home and family. This can occur even when their day at school has gone relatively smoothly.
Many families report that limiting their expectations and commitments after school in the first year is helpful. See also calming activities for before and after school.
“In our first year at school, I made an extra effort to build a good communication system with my daughter’s teacher. She said email would work well for her. I felt it was important to acknowledge and thank my daughter’s teacher when she let me know about what was happening at school. It really worked both ways. She would ask what was working for us at home and I would learn what did and didn’t work at school.”
Priya, mother of Shreya
Communication involves at least two active communicators
Remember that communication needs to go two ways. Respectful communication involves both people listening to each other and also having a chance to be heard as they share their thoughts, experiences and ideas.
Communicate openly and honestly
When communicating about your child, it is important to start with their strengths and what they can do. It can also be helpful to share any needs in a solution focussed way for example: “We have found that Jamie responds well to visual communication. When he sees a direction presented visually, he seems to understand it better than when we just say it to him.”
The teacher’s role:
It is important to have realistic expectations of teachers and understand that their time will be limited.
Ask the teacher what might work best in terms of regular ongoing communication with you.
Availability and preferred communication methods may vary from one teacher to another.
Phone calls can be used as a communication tool in order to:
Email can be used as a communication tool in order to:
Short conversations face to face before or after school:
Pre-arranged meetings with the teacher:
By planning ahead you can all be prepared for the meeting and it is more likely to be productive.
Provide positive feedback to staff:
Becoming involved in the school community:
Share ideas and come up with solutions together:
If concerns arise:
If you raise concerns or questions clearly and without blame or criticism, people will usually respond more positively. It may also be important to think about which concerns are a priority and whether it is the right time to raise them.
In Australia, it is a requirement for all education providers including schools to comply with the Disability Standards for Education (2005). These standards clearly state the need for all educational institutions to consult with the student or an associate of the student (e.g. parent, carer, or advocate) regarding how a disability affects the student's ability to access education or training. Consultation is also required when determining what individualisation of teaching will be made to support the child’s access to programs.
Many families may find that their children both with and without a disability, become quite tired by the end of the school day. For some children this may result in them sleeping and eating better. Others may have difficulty winding down. They may become easily emotional and over-tired which may affect how they adjust and behave at school and home.
“Down time” after school is important especially during the early days of attending school. Many families try not to arrange formal after school activities especially for the first term or so while their child is adjusting to the new routine of going to school each day.
Children may benefit from some calming activities before and after school. This can help them to be in a calm and alert state ready for learning and playing at school and relaxing at home. You may like to plan some time for some calming activities in your morning and after school routine.
It may be helpful to use visual schedules to show your child when calming activities will happen in their routine.
Click here to view an example of a visual schedule for after school routine.
Remember: What is calming for one child may be different to what is calming for another child.
Try a range of activities to find the ones that work for your child. Physical activity such as bouncing on a trampoline, riding a scooter or bicycle can help to release nervous energy and help a child to relax.
*Monitor your child’s response to particular games or programs, as some may have a more exciting effect than a calming one. It is generally not recommended for children to have “screen time” in the hour prior to bed time, as this can impact on children’s capacity to fall asleep.
Breathing activities - taking deep breaths in and out. Use fun activities, such as blowing:
Deep pressure touch activities such as:
Tactile sensory play such as:
Rocking or swinging in a:
Starting school and adjusting to the new routine may elicit a range of emotions for parents too.
When parents are able to show their children how they manage their own stress, this in turn helps children to learn how to regulate their emotions and calm themselves.
It is hard to help your child calm themselves when your own stress levels are high, so it may be important to work out what supports might be helpful to help you remain calm.
See supporting myself and my family which includes information about well-being and self-care for parents and carers.
“Our whole family are very involved in the whole school. This helps us get to know other children and the staff. I know I can’t rely on the teacher to do everything, because of all of her responsibilities so we can help with some things as a family. I couldn’t imagine not being involved. We’ve always been very involved. I also had regular meetings with his teacher which helps the teacher to be reminded of what he needs help with.”
Peter, father of Mitchell
Different parents will be able to be involved in their child’s education and the school community in a range of ways based on their:
Sometimes, grandparents or other family members are able to help. Even a small amount of time can have benefits for your own child as well as for the school community more generally.
Even parents with little spare time can be involved in the following ways:
This is a valuable opportunity to share your priorities and your knowledge of your child and adapt the goals in their IEP as your child develops and changes.
These meetings may only be held a couple of times a year, so it is important to:
“Because the school was more curriculum focussed, I would ask what they were doing in class and then say we could work towards this at home too. I let the teacher know I was there to support what needed to happen to help my child learn.”
Hyun Jae, mother of Kwan
Ask your child’s teacher how you can be involved. This can help you to match your own skills, interests and availability to the needs of the school. If you aren’t able to help, maybe grandparents or other family members can. Children love knowing that their family is involved in their school.
You could also volunteer to:
“Getting involved in the school was really important. It gives you a nice presence in the school and allows you to give back.”
Karen, mother of Jason
“I think the relationships are the most important thing. Being aware that there often is not funding allocated for each child, but knowing that you can advocate anyway. Expecting that things might go smoothly for a while and then you may need to revisit certain strategies or change strategies.”
Lisa, mother of Jake
Even with the best planning, there may be times when challenges or issues arise which require additional thought, discussion and input from different team members.
You can discuss concerns and come up with solutions with the school by:
Here is an outline to help you to assess the reasons for problems, tackle challenges and come up with possible solutions.
It may help to consider the issue at hand in relation to this "SOLUTION" acronym:
Start with what is happening now
Observe and outline what is working and what could be adapted
Listen to all involved and get some different perspectives
Understand the problem and be realistic about what can be changed
Tactics and strategies
Invent and implement a plan to monitor change and progress
Outcome – set an achievable goal or outcome
Now and next
There are times for all children when things do not go so smoothly at school.
Times which may be more difficult for some children than others include:
When a challenge occurs, it is important not to panic, and lose hope. If you work with your team to think of new ideas and strategies to try the situation may improve.
The developing a positive relationship with the school, trouble-shooting guide, and advocacy skills sections may provide you with information to assist at these times. Also look at common challenges and strategies.
What if I am worried that this school isn’t working out for my child?
Before making big decisions such as changing schools: