Focus on Kindergarten Readiness.
Early in this article I touched on changing emotional gears. This is an important concept to consider yet again as you reflect on how to prepare your child for Kindergarten. Remember that a lack of readiness due to disability should NOT be a reason to hold back another year – in fact, it might be a stronger reason for moving forward since the school has the ability to help. Keep in mind that Kindergarten readiness is not just about how much a child knows. It’s also about how families and schools work together in the transition process. Consider the following tips to help you prepare your child for Kindergarten.
Create a Student Introduction Portfolio of your child.
As you create a student portfolio, keep in mind it’s important early in your child’s schooling to shift the focus from a disability label (which might encourage misunderstandings and create low expectations) to a more personal focus on your child. After all, disability is only one aspect of your child’s life, and children who share the same diagnosis or “label” might have little else in common.
Become familiar with learning activities.
Preschool and Kindergarten children are very similar in development. As a result, Kindergarten teachers often use a lot of the same techniques as preschool teachers do to help their students grow and develop. And so can you! Teachers may use a lot of hands-on and group-based activities as well as play. They typically prepare lessons that have to do with students’ personal experiences and culture, and also model positive behavior and social interactions. Expect to see more independent work, cooperative play, longer activities, and more interest and work in written language, numbers, letters and symbols. For an overview on child development, click here
Once you know what your child is expected to learn, you can introduce some of those activities and concepts at home before school. The activities should be fun and interesting and often have the greatest impact when included in daily routines and activities (e.g. during eating, dressing, bath-time, play and others). Introducing your child to activities and concepts ahead of time may help him or her feel more comfortable and confident when similar activities are introduced in the classroom. For more information on Kindergarten curriculum, click here.
Read and talk about transition.
Visit your local library, bookstore or your child’s school library. Consider picture books on transitioning from Preschool to Kindergarten, school/classroom change, and making friends. You can even write your own story using digital photographs of your child’s new classroom, teacher, and other important aspects of the school day. Introduce books and information to your child according to their understanding and how they learn best.
Set play dates.
Find a good playmate match for your child over the summer and arrange play dates with that child’s parents. This will allow your child to make a new friend before school starts. It will likely result in increased self-confidence and excitement and decreased anxiety about school. Here are some tips on where parents can go to find a good playmate match:
- School district events (see district website or call) or local day activities that future classmates are involved with and that can include your child.
- A local mother’s support group you can join.
- Ask a friend and or family if they know of a potential good play mate.
- Visit your local library and ask about their activity schedule.
- If nothing else, showing up at the local playground or library offers the potential for friendships.
Schedule school visits.
If you did not have the opportunity to include school visits as a goal in your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), then the school will not expect you to visit. As you schedule visits with the new school, keep in mind that collaboration is important for building school partnerships. Talk with the special education contact, teacher or principal first about why you would like to visit the school with your child before school starts. For example, let the school know the visits will ease the transition for your child who may have more difficulties with transition than other children. Be clear with the school about how you and your child would like to spend your time during the visit (in the classroom, at the playground). The school is more likely to cooperate when you openly communicate with them.
This is a great opportunity for you to take pictures that are meaningful. Since children make better connections to real life situations, it’s a good idea to look through these pictures with your child before school starts. Tips to consider for picture activities include:
- Use as few or as many pictures you think your child can handle.
- Talk about each picture as it has to do with your child.
- You can even make a book or scrapbook out of the pictures.