Wednesday 28 December 2016

School Readiness

School readiness has different meanings to different people. For some it means having their child being able to recognise their own name or knowing the alphabet, numbers and colours or their child being able to write their name.

For us it simply meant having an effective and smooth transition into the school system for both O and L.

Towards the end of the 2016 school year a lot of parents of special needs children were already looking towards the beginning of the 2017 school year and what they needed to do to have a smooth transition to the next school year.

For most parents of neurotypical children it is usually simply a case of filling the school book list, buying new school uniforms, school bags, lunch boxes and shoes.

Throw in a special needs child and suddenly everything becomes a little more complicated and at times a lot more expensive.

There’s the liaising with the school to find out your child's teacher for the following year, finding out who the teacher aide will be if you’re entitled to one, trying to get photos of the new teacher, aides and classroom to complete a social story so that you can introduce your child to the idea over the holidays. Some parents will want to organize transition time in the new classroom before the end of the school year. There's updating any sensory toys that your child may require.

Recently quite a number of parents have started asking me how we prepared ourselves and our children for the new school year. Yes it is 4 and a bit weeks away but you can never be too prepared.

These are the main things we make sure that we do in the lead up to the end of the school year.

Aide Time

The school that O and L attend have been fantastic this year. The school officer has been instrumental in organizing aide time for L. Without his Teacher aides, thank you Kate and Leanne, I honestly don’t think that L would have achieved what he has at school this year.

L’s class was lucky enough to have their teacher, Maria – who is amazing, a teacher aide, Leanne – also amazing, and a special needs teacher aide – Kate – again, amazing! It meant that L received one on one time in class. It meant that there were three pairs of eyes keeping an eye on my little runner. It meant that L felt settled in class and that he belonged there. It meant that L joined in on class activities, instead of just doing his own thing. It meant that L has learnt a whole new set of skills and is ready for full time school next year.

When I was going through L’s end of year learning journal, I honestly had a tear in my eye. Comparing the level of work that L was doing at the start of the year to that at the end of the year, WOW! He has made the most amazing progress.

I have had parents in the past tell me that they didn’t want their child assessed because the school will get money and their child won’t see it so what is the point.

Yes the school receives funding, but it is your child that benefits. I do not want either of my children to be left behind academically. Having aide time means that there is a chance that being left behind won’t happen.

It is worthwhile checking with your child’s school to see if aide time is possible. There are some hoops that have to be jumped through, but the knowledge that L was making progress made it all worthwhile.

Transition to a new teacher and classroom.

Particularly with L, this was super important. L is not good with change. No matter what it is, he copes better if he is prepared beforehand.

Late in 2015, we went and visited L’s classroom so that he could see the classroom and meet his teacher for the following year. We took a few photos of the classroom and his teacher and talked about the photos throughout the Christmas break. He was still very anxious when he started school in 2016, but he was somewhat familiar with his surroundings.

At times it just isn’t possible to have transition time, but it is worth asking the school. L has again had transition time with his teacher for next year, so hopefully that will help him adjust a little quicker when the new school year starts. We are well prepared that L may regress a little and that is perfectly normal.

Photos to do a social story.

If you haven’t heard of a social story, please do some research. There are social stories for almost every type of situation and event. We have a brilliant social story on the importance of putting on sunscreen and a hat before going outside that L's case manager at the early intervention centre found.

The photos that we took in 2015 of L's teacher and classroom for 2016, we made into a very simple photo story - at the point I wasn't aware of a social story. By personalising a social story with photos of your child and an environment that your child is familiar with, makes the story easier for your to relate to.

The story doesn't have to be complicated. It could be as simple as a few photos with captions explaining what the photos are.

This is L. This is ...................................., he/she will be your new teacher at school. This is a photo of your new classroom.

Again, your child may still have a rough start to the new school year, but the social story may make the transition a little smoother.

Then there are visual boards to think about. Does your child require a visual timetable or visual board on how to put on sunscreen or the steps involved in washing hands. Again these are relatively easy to complete yourself, or if your therapist is willing, they may create these for you.

Letter of introduction to new teacher/aide.

One thing that I did at the beginning of this year, was write up a letter from Lachlan to his teacher. In the letter I included anything and everything that I thought would make his school life a little easier. I included his stims and what they meant, the fact that he has no fear, the fact that he is a runner, his sensory issues, you name it it was in the letter.

I wanted to prepare his teachers so that if L couldn’t or wouldn’t talk to them, that they would know how to approach the situation. The letter that I wrote ended up being a bit of a novel and I may have seemed like I was going to be one of those annoying parents (I hope that I wasn't) but I wanted to prepare his teachers for every situation that they might encounter with L.

The letter put my mind at ease because I knew that I had done my up most best to inform his teachers and aides of all of L's mannerisms. They wouldn't have to second guess themselves and/or L's behaviour as they had the letter to refer to throughout the year.

I will be updating L's letter for next year as well. I'll also be writing one for O to her teacher.

Sensory Bag.

At the beginning of 2016, I put together a Sensory bag for L to take to school each day. L chose the fabric for the bag and I sewed up a very simple carry bag. In the bag was his weighted blanket, his block out ear protectors, a few fiddle toys, his essential oils and eventually L’s communication book.

This was L’s safety bag so that at any stage if he was feeling overwhelmed by the situation, he could access the things that help to calm him down. By taking the bag to school each day, L could start to self manage his anxiety and sensory issues.

O also had a mini sensory bag that was kept in her school desk – a few fiddle toys and her calming essential oils. At one point O told me that she felt calmer just knowing that the bag was there if she needed it. Towards the end of the year O became quite good at recognising at school when she was becoming anxious and was able to self manage with her oils and fiddle toys. This in turn gave her the confidence of knowing that she could self manage her anxiety.

It is a good idea to check with your child’s teacher not only to explain why your child may need the sensory toys but also to get the go ahead from them. After all it is their classroom.

Can your Early Intervention Centre or therapist go to the school to run a workshop?

We've had lengthy discussions with L's case manager in regards to this. For us it is imperative that L's therapists and the school, and in turn his teachers and aides, are on the same page when it comes to L's progress.

Throughout the school year just gone, I would take in to L's teachers and aides any and all information that we received from the therapists at the early intervention centre. The more people who are helping L with his therapy goals, the better. I also did the same for O's teacher.

Early in first term next year, one of his therapists will be going to the school and into L's classroom to speak with his teachers and aides about the types of therapy L participates in and how the therapy can be incorporated into the classroom.

Looking at this from an Educators point view, this information with not only assist L in the classroom but it could also assist other children in his class.

We're incredibly fortunate that L's early intervention centre actively encourages other teachers and carers of a child to attend the centre to observe what happens at the centre.

All of these strategies will assist O and L to not only have a smooth transition into the new school year but hopefully the strategies will also ensure that the remainder of the school year is a little easier for not only O and L but also for their teachers and aides.

Some may seem a little over the top, but I just want both my children to have access to the best learning opportunity that they can at school. And if means putting all these strategies in place then so be it.


  1. He was a pleasure to teach - a true little hero who made herculean progress! The team effort and constant liasing with school - home made Ls journey very smooth! I wish L all the best in 2017!! I will keep an eye out as once you e been in my ckass you always remain a paet of my journey too! Your resources and knowledge have been much appreciated- well done Jenny:)

    1. Thank you, L loved being in your class! As I said to Kate, you're not going to get rid of us that easily. All of you are part of the family now!

  2. You are such an advocate! I love it! Great tips! Transitioning to school can be tough!

  3. Thank you, I try my hardest to be a great advocate!

  4. I have a sister with Cerbral Paulsy and gosh can I remember the days when I was growing up and my mom trying to get us all ready for school. Luckily for my mom, My sister was so cheery and loved school. She is still in programs years later and even now transition to new programs is hard and a lot of paperwork and organization. Thumbs up to you!

  5. My little one isn't in school yet, but definitely something to be aware of for the future!

  6. It's so tough for the kids to get back into the grove of school after the Holidays. These are great tips!

  7. I think these strategies are perfect and not over the top at all! You sound like a great mum and I hope you all have a fantastic new year :)

    1. Thank you for your kind words. Happy new year to you too!

  8. What great ideas! My son had those social stories and it helped a lot.

  9. You and your kids sound incredibly ready for school. You all are really on your game and so organized and prepared. It's so great that you have an amazing teacher and amazing aides that you trust and respect.

  10. the social stories are such a good idea - as is the sensory bag. I think this could be of use to all children.

    1. Definitely could, I always look at them from the point of view that they won't just benefit my children but who else would it benefit.

  11. Awesome post. So many great ideas!!

  12. Wow, there's so much that goes into getting prepared for a new school year! I had no idea!

  13. Each child has a different learning curve and they also adjust differently. Your son is lucky to have a mom who is very hands-on when it comes to his education and learning.

  14. Wow! These are some really helpful tips. I never knew that there's so much to do when kids prepare for school.

  15. I will be using these tips when I have children in the future. Children should have a nice transition for school.

    Isaly Holland |

  16. I loved your post. very informative!

  17. It is really heartwarming seeing your kid doing well at school. I'm excited to feel that when my son started going to school. These are great tips btw. :)

    Mhaan |

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