The transition from pre-school to primary school can be a daunting time for any child, but for children with speech, language and communication needs, it can be especially challenging. With a number of different changes within their everyday routines and new expectations to meet, it’s important that children are prepared for any changes so they can transition into school smoothly.
What’s the transition like for children?
While making new friends, attending different classes and learning to navigate their way around a new school is an exciting time for some children, it can also be stressful. Children with speech, language and communication needs may find the transition particularly challenging if they have difficulties understanding verbal information or rules, struggle to follow instructions, have low self-esteem or find it difficult to socialise with other children.
There are a number of things that parents can do to help prepare their children for the transition into primary school. Here are some of our top tips:
Get familiar with their new environment
Before your child starts school, take them on a few visits to the school to see their new classroom. This will help them become familiar with their new surroundings and allow them to become familiar with their new environment. You may wish to take some pictures of their new classroom which can be revisited if they are ever feeling anxious.
Talk to your child’s school
Most schools will offer you transition meetings and are often held with children and parents. During the transition, it is important that the school has all relevant information regarding your child’s speech, language and communication needs so they can provide them with adequate support during this busy time. These meetings give you the opportunity to discuss any worries or concerns you may have but also showcase your child’s strengths to their new teacher.
Create a visual timetable
Many children with speech, language and communication needs find it helpful to have a visual representation of their day. Used consistently, they can help establish independence in young children. A daily schedule can also help young children connect the real and the abstract - what I am doing now compared to what I might do after lunch and allow prepositional language to be used in meaningful ways - first, next, before, after. A visual timetable can be a useful tool to help communicate tasks that otherwise might not be understood by every child.
They can be made using something as simple as a picture chart with key activities and transition times labelled. It is useful to provide this visual timetable before the transition so children are familiar with their new routines.
If your child has difficulties with understanding verbal information, talk to the school Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo) about providing key visuals that can be used in class to support their understanding and learning.
Build on their attention and listening skills
Attention and listening skills are the foundation of school learning and therefore crucial skills for school readiness. When a child enters school they will be expected to sit and listen and follow instructions for longer periods than before. To help your child build on these skills play simple games like 'Simon Says' and sound recognition and location activities. Make sure you discuss the rules of good listening which are sitting still, staying quiet when someone is talking, looking at the person talking and listening to all of the words. Remember to always call your child's name first before giving them instructions and always get down to their level.
Help them build a friendship group
Some children can find it challenging to make friends and may need support in building relationships. There are many simple activities you could do at home that will help your child improve their social skills such as turn-taking games, board games and cooperative tasks. You could also help by encouraging them to play with other children both at home and in their local community.
Prepare them for new routines
A lot of change happens when children start school, from waking up earlier to following their new teacher's instructions. Start preparing your child in the weeks leading up to school starting by slowly introducing these changes. This may include a few dress rehearsals with their new school uniform to get used to new textures and materials.
Talk about their feelings
During your child's transition to school, you and your child will undoubtedly experience a range of emotions! It is important that you discuss these feelings with your child so that they feel reassured and supported. To assist your child in developing their understanding of emotions, label and discuss their real feelings and map emotive words to genuine sentiments.
Encourage pre-literacy skills
One of the most important things children learn in primary school is how to read and write. In order to be excellent readers and writers, children need to have good underlying phonological awareness skills. Phonological awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate individual sounds in words. There are a number of fun activities you can do with your child at home that helps develop these skills, such as clapping out syllables in words, going on a sound hunt and singing nursery rhymes.
Use Total Communication
For children who are non-verbal or have limited language skills, ask the school SENCo if they could use a communication book to help them communicate their needs and wants with the teacher. This could be part of a total communication approach where the child uses a combination of language, gestures, signs and visuals to support their communication skills. A Speech and Language Therapist can guide and support you with this.
Try to be positive and calm
Starting school is a huge step for a child but also for you as parents! It’s important that you remain positive and calm around your child to reduce any worries or fears they may have. If your child is excited about school, this may ease your nerves in turn!
We hope these tips will help your child transition smoothly into primary school! If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us!