The transition to school is one of the first big events in a child’s life. It is equally terrifying as it is exciting for you and your child. For children with autism change can be particularly challenging. Many autistic children rely on routine to cope with everyday demands.
Once you have chosen your child’s school and secured a place it is time to think about transition. The earlier you start to work on transitioning to school the better.
Is my child school ready?
The difference between a 4 year old born in September and August is massive when you start school. You will see a big difference in the abilities of children starting school. School ready also means different things to different people, some are more concerned with literacy and numeracy whilst others focus on behaviour. In most cases you want a child to do the following when they start school:
- .Have good fine motor skills (i.e. cutting with scissors / able to build with Lego).
- Able to share and take turns with others.
- Able to ask and communicate when they need help.
- Can sit still and pay attention.
- Can go to the toilet themselves.
- Can dress themselves – put coat and shoes on.
- Can feed themselves (able to open lunch box / water bottle independently).
- Can recognise their own name.
Don’t panic my autistic 6 year old cannot do many of these things. It is also important to remember that even the most advanced kids will be struggling with these things when they start school.
What is Transition Support Funding?
Transition Support Funding (TSF) is available for children with additional needs. It is also available for children whose needs cannot be met by the normal transition planning and induction arrangements in place. Many children who receive early years inclusion funding will need transition funding.
Transition funding is split into two parts, a small amount is given to the pre-school setting in the final term before school. This enables them to engage with the transition process, it is in addition to any inclusion funding. The bulk of the transition funding goes to the school to support the child during their reception year.
If you think your child will require transition funding then discuss this with your pre-school setting. A request for funding would need to be made with the local authority (council). The contact will likely be within the SEN team (Special Educational Needs).
Top Transition Tips
These tips were written prior to Covid -19 which has a huge impact on our children who are transitioning. However much of this can still be done, visits may take place the week before a child starts or more emphasis may go on visuals or even videos in advance.
Most schools will have an induction process that will include visits to the school. If your child has transition funding you may be able to arrange additional visits / induction sessions. Most will have initial visits or induction sessions with familiar adults either pre-school workers or parents.
Schools generally include visits to the school in the final term of Pre-school and then an induction process starting in September. Most schools have different induction processes, some like to start with full days straight away whilst others can have weeks of half days while the children settle in.
If you are local to the school try and attend any events such as a summer fair, the more familiar your child is with the school the better. When you pass the school point it out and talk about going to school.
Information Packs / Parents meetings
If your child has additional needs you may have ‘team around the child meetings’ if this is the case then invite staff from the new school so you can discuss transition. If you have transition funding you should be able to meet with pre-school and the new school to arrange a transition plan.
Most schools will provide information to parents either in packs or at meetings. This is where you get the majority of practical information about the school. Talking to parents with children already at the school is a great way to get information.
Meeting the teacher
Your child’s new teacher will be a big part of their life and the more familiar they are with the child the better. Many teachers will visit children at home or pre-school before they start so that the child can meet them in a familiar environment. Many reception classes at mainstream have teaching assistants who you may be also able to meet in advance. We were very lucky and my son’s new teacher came to see him at both his pre-school settings (one specialist one mainstream) and came to several of his music therapy sessions.
Most pre-schools will be doing lot’s to help prepare a child for school. If you are not sure what they are doing ask them. They will be teaching children to use their pegs, dress themselves, feed themselves and working on motor skills. At my sons nursery for the final term they took in PE Kits so they could practice getting changed and doing a PE lesson.
The Summer Gap
Unfortunetly most schools are closed for the six week summer holiday and this is a long time for your child. The school transition starts in the final term before the summer and then you have an big gap before they see the school or teachers again. This is where you can help at home, the more school transition related activity you can build in the better.
Books are a great way to prepare children for school. We used to read Starting School by Janet and Alan Albherg, use school references in their favourite books too (Zog is all about his learning at dragon school). Role play at home, talk about lessons and learning. Practise writing their name and the alphabet.
Be positive, going to school becomes the big topic that you discuss with family and friends. Make sure children are not listening when you discuss how terrified you are.
The school should give you information on what uniform (if any is needed). It is not only uniform you need to consider shoes, bags, PE / swimming kits too. Once you have ordered the uniform and labelled everything then it is a good idea to have your child try it on a few times over the holidays. My son was so proud of his uniform, now it’s a total mess daily but that’s a different story.
A picture book
Some schools may even provide you with a picture book, my son relies heavily on visual aids. A book with information and pictures about the new school is a great way to give your child time to process information over time. In your picture book I would include:
- Pictures and names of the teachers and teaching assistants
- A picture of the school
- A picture of the classroom and information about activities they may do
- A picture of the playground.
Getting to school
Think about and trial your journey to school, this will be easier for some than others. My son uses transport provided by the council, I was able to meet the driver in advance and take photos of his vehicle for my son. If you live near to your school then have a practice walk to school in the summer holidays.
I hope this has been useful to you, remember every child is different and will have different needs when it comes to transitioning to school. The more you can do to prepare your child for the transition the better. Being organised each time kids transition to or start back at school really makes a big difference.
Do you have any tips to support transition to school? Is your little one off to school soon? Let me know in the comments below.