Parents of young children, especially young children with special needs, are often aware of the challenges brought to their children by transitions to new environments and experiences. Starting school, even preschool and play groups, is one such experience. It may be the same school but a new teacher, or it may be a brand new school altogether. There are some things you can do to make this transition a little easier on your child.
As part of my caseload, I run two pragmatic language groups for children 3-5 years of age at one of our centers. To help new children prepare for their new class, I email the Power Point social story above with families. It is recommended that a parent sits with their child to view the slide show and help him/her as needed click through the pages as the story is read aloud from my recorded narration. If families don’t have Power Point software, then I will print a hard copy or forward a PDF version for the family to read with the child. In either case, of course, reading the story several times, especially as the first day approaches, is recommended to help support the child in the transition to his/her new school. Remember repetition is very important to learning.
Other supports that children may benefit from include a visit to the classroom and/or the playground to help them feel more comfortable with where they are going, what they will do, and who they will see. An easy adaptation of the new school social story is to take pictures (from a traditional or even a cell phone camera) of the classroom, the staff, and school common areas to review with your child many times. A discussion with your child’s teacher or therapist or perhaps a sample schedule from him/her can lend itself to preparing your child for the planned activities. Pictures, whether of the real activity or of a very similar activity (ex: a group of children eating to represent the class having a snack or lunch period) found on the internet, may be helpful to support your child’s attention and language comprehension.
At bedtime, especially as school is only a week or two away, you may wish to have your child color, mark with an “X,” or put a sticker over the date on a calendar to indicate that the day is done. Have a special fun sticker or bright color on the date of the start of school. Have a brief nightly countdown to count the number of days remaining until s/he begins school.
A few final comments, remember to be positive about the new school. Reinforce that you will pick up him/her from school, or will be waiting for him/her at the bus drop off point at the end of class. If that is not the case, let him/her know what will happen and when s/he will see you again ( ex: “After school, the bus will take you to day care. I will get you from day care after my work, just like usual….. First school, then day care, then home with Mommy and Daddy”). As always, refer to your child’s SLP for specific suggestions (such as the optimal utterance length and response time for your child’s receptive language skills) to support your child’s expressive and receptive communication skills in these transition preparation activities.