It’s an important start to the year when children return to the classroom, and for children with disability achieving a smooth transition requires planning.      

“For parents and carers it is crucial to openly discuss their children’s feelings about starting or returning to school or learning programs, acknowledging any fear or anxiety,” according to Emma Thomas, area manager at services provider LiveBig. This includes arranging a visit to the school and contacting the provider in advance around discussing a child’s needs and creating an inclusion plan, she said.

Tips List:

·      Open communication:  Acknowledge it’s okay to feel scared or anxious. Discussing these emotions is the first step towards a smooth return.

·      Establish a routine: To create a sense of routine, start meals around the same time as during school days, packing lunch boxes, and ensuring sleep habits align with school bedtimes.

·      Familiarise with the school environment:   Organise excursions to the school to familiarise children with the environment. Discuss practical aspects such as lunch spots and classrooms. Look at the school’s website together as this can help in easing anxieties related to the unknown.

·      Collaborate with the school: Discuss your child’s needs, enquire about available resources like sensory rooms, and ensure staff are well-informed about medical requirements or chronic conditions.

·      Involve children in preparation activities:  Encourage children to participate in activities like a fashion parade with their school uniform. Discuss what aspects of their disability they may want to share with their peers, to them to take ownership of their narrative.  Create a checklist of items to bring to school daily, such as medication, assistive technology, communication aids, or any items that assist with stimming. Pack the bag together for better preparation. 

It is also important to foster a robust support network within the learning community. “Don’t hesitate to express concerns or preferences,” CEO Juliet Middleton said. “Be a proactive advocate for your child, ensuring that the provider’s environment aligns with their learning style. Regularly engage with the staff to discuss any necessary adjustments or additional support,” she said.