The first step parents must take in preparing their children for transition is to prepare themselves. This is simply because there are things Kindergarteners will not be able to do on their own. Your child will rely on you to guide him or her through this process. Consider the following suggestions on how to prepare for transition.
Reading and talking to others (your child’s current and new teacher, the Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) Committee, therapists and other parents) about transition will help you understand and cope with this change. There are numerous resources to help you learn more. Consult recommended and trusted books, web sites, and the additional resources list at the end of this article for more information.
Public vs. Private School?
If you are trying to decide whether to enroll your child in public or private school, there are differences between these two systems you need to know. Some of the differences include: how services are determined, school district responsibilities, service plans and how IDEA’s procedural safeguards apply. To learn more about “parentally-placed” children with disabilities in private schools, see Training Module 16 (Center for Parent Information and Resources) or your Procedural Safeguards document.
Remember, information is power when advocating for your child!
Advocate for your child.
If your child has been evaluated and has an Individual Education Program (IEP) or will soon have an IEP, be sure to discuss transition at the Admissions, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) Meeting. Consider talking to the ARD committee about inviting the new teacher and all personnel that will work and come into contact with your child. In addition, think about other people who do not normally attend ARD meetings but who will interact with your child during the day: the bus driver, security guard, lunch server and school nurse, for example. Make a point of introducing yourself to them and perhaps sharing your child’s Student Introduction Portfolio.
Discuss transition strategies at the ARD meeting. Have those strategies written into your child’s Individual Education Program (IEP). By definition, a strategy is a plan, an action that will be taken to reach a desired result.
Including transition based strategies in an IEP will ensure:
- A smooth movement from where your child is (pre-school, PPCD, home) to Kindergarten.
- Strategies specific to your child are developed and put into action.
Here are two examples of what a transition strategy might say:
- “Tony will visit with his new teacher several times during the summer so that he is more comfortable when school starts.”
- “Tony and parent will visit the school campus together (include which parts of the campus) several times before school starts.”
Familiarize yourself with the Texas Kindergarten curriculum, TEKS, and assessments used. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has learning standards in all subject areas for Kindergarten students. Learning standards guide schools and teachers on what students should be learning in order to succeed in the “real world.” The school curriculum in Texas is based on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).
When teachers plan for and deliver their lessons, they must consider each student’s level of functioning, learning style, and interests. This is called differentiating instruction. All students are expected to learn the same content but not necessarily in the same way because different students learn differently. Some students may need accommodations to help with learning and testing. Accommodations are procedures and materials (e.g., small group instruction, study guides, recorder, classroom set up) used by a teacher that:
- Allow students to learn, have access to, and be tested on the same curriculum (TEKS) as students without disabilities, and
- Do not change what the student is expected to learn.
Other students may need modifications made to the curriculum (TEKS). A modification is:
- A change in what the student is expected to learn that is different from the general education curriculum (TEKS), and
- Only used for students with an Individualized Education Program (IEP), as needed.
A disability label does not automatically mean your child needs a modified curriculum for Kindergarten. If you think your child may need accommodations and/or modifications to his or her curriculum, talk with your child’s special education teacher to discuss your options. Remember – all your child’s needs should be clearly documented through an evaluation or assessment. To learn more about accommodations and modifications that can be used, see the Accommodations vs. Modifications overview or visit TEA’s Accommodations Resources.
The test used to assess a student’s knowledge and skills is called State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR), which kids do not take until the third grade. There are a variety of tests that schools can use to assess children in Kindergarten. Many teachers use the Texas Primary Reading Inventory (TPRI). Often teachers use this assessment at the beginning, middle, and end of the school year. This test lets teachers and parents know how kids are doing so that lessons, instruction and assignments are adjusted according to the child’s needs. It is important to ensure that if all other Kindergarten students at your school are taking a particular Reading assessment to gage learning throughout the year, your child should be included in that assessment also. If your child cannot participate in that assessment, you will need to ask what assessment will be used to assess reading. If you are interested in learning more about Reading, see the Texas Education Agency Reading resources, in particular the Reading Red Book resources at the bottom of the page.
Change “emotional gears.”
Parents may be tempted to keep their child at home and to put Kindergarten off another year. Parents may also experience feelings of sadness, uncertainty and separation anxiety. These are all common reactions and understandable during a transition. But transition can go more smoothly when emotions are kept in check and you take positive action. Excessive worry, anxiety, fear or anger are emotions that may harm rather than help the situation. All children, including those with disabilities often take their cue about how they should feel from a parent’s example. Kids also tend to be very intuitive about our feelings even if we try to hide them. For these and other reasons, it is important for parents to have a positive outlook. In the end, a positive change in point of view about your child’s new path will likely set the stage for greater things to come.
Get involved and stay involved.
Take action. Take the steps mentioned above and keep moving forward. Open communication and ongoing collaboration with all school staff involved with your child will strengthen your relationship with the school. Parents will feel more at ease and confident in their children’s ability to succeed in the new school. Click here for further guidance on how to create family/school partnerships.
- Keep track of your child - Consider using a daily data sheet or a communication notebook to know how your child is doing.
- Volunteer – Doing volunteer work at the school is a very effective way of forming positive relationships with the school and other parents. It’s an opportunity to make positive contributions towards the school’s goals.
- Participate in school functions - Attend events such as open houses, parent teacher’s conferences, fairs and school trips, to the extent your schedule allows. Become a member of the PTA.
Now that YOU are prepared, it is time to prepare your child for kindergarten.
Transition to Kindergarten