Tips for Transitioning into Elementary School
Written by: Laura Ann Oliver, Michelle Detwiler, Karra Barber
Once a child begins school, parents face letting go of the sole responsibility for their child’s learning. For even the most actively involved parent, this can prove easier said than done. Parents of children with disabilities can experience significant anxiety when it comes to allowing another person to assume such an important role in their child’s life. In spite of that, establishing open lines of communication with your child’s school, especially their classroom teacher and paraprofessionals, will help to ensure that you are kept aware of what occurs when you cannot be with your child. Maintaining this open flow of communication permits a parent to have a voice in all that is going on while your child becomes part of a new educational setting.
Since early experiences in education can have such a profound effect on how children perceive learning itself throughout their lives, it is important to make this time as positive as possible for both you and your child. Prior to the transition, gain as much knowledge as you can about what goes on at your child’s school. For a smoother transition into a new situation, such actions like observing the classroom, getting to know future teacher(s), and understanding one’s educational options, all help to ease anxious feelings of anticipation.
Prior to the First Day of School
For the families of individuals with disabilities, preparation for early childhood education needs to occur sometime long before the beginning of a school year. The tips in this section focus on areas that parents may want to consider before their child transitions to school for the first time, as well as for those transitions occurring through first grade. Careful preparation will allow both the parents and the future classroom teacher to feel a greater sense of confidence about what lies ahead. In addition, this approach provides parents and teachers with the opportunity to anticipate and sort out potential concerns before any issues actually arise. Essentially, taking a proactive attitude sets the tone for developing a strong partnership between home and school.
For most children, their early educational experiences have a profound effect on the rest of their education. This means that positive early experience establishes a solid foundation for learning, as well as for success in the future. In fact, it has been found that both parents and teachers believe that the way a child feels about their school has a major influence on a how the child transitions into a new school environment. As a result, parents play an essential role in encouraging their children to maintain positive beliefs regarding school.
Tips for Transitioning to Early Childhood Education
Schools in Session
The first day has arrived. You are confident that you have done your best to prepare yourself and your child. But what can you do now to make the transition easier for your child?
The following are some additional tips for the first few days or weeks of school:
The End of the School Year
Finally, you and your child have developed a positive relationship with the classroom teacher. However, it will eventually be time to move on to new educational challenges. Throughout the early years of education, the end of a school year often means that you and your child will need to be prepared to transition once again. The current classroom teacher can be a valuable resource in determining what steps will need to be taken. Saying goodbye to the current teacher may be difficult for your child, so allowing the teacher to be an active part of the transition process may help provide some ease in the inevitable separation. In order to get ready for the next school year, you may need to follow many of the same practices you did at the beginning of the current year. Remember, being well prepared and establishing an open line of communication with your child’s school and teachers gives your child the opportunity to navigate transitions with confidence.
Laura Ann Oliver is a third year doctoral candidate at Michigan State University. She is the recipient of the Special Education Technology Scholars Fellowship. Her concentration areas include special education technology and educational policy. Laura Ann is also the co-founder of Individual Eyes Education, which develops multimedia presentations and seminars designed for parents of children with special needs as well as educators.
Looking for more tips for transitioning your child into elementary school?
Visit the My Child Without Limits support community and talk to fellow parents, caregivers, and experts about their experiences with school health plans.
Are you looking for resources to help your child?
Check out our Resource Locator to find the government and non-government agencies that can provide the services that your child needs.