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Andrea Cooper

Andrea Cooper

Kindergarten Transition to Big School

Over the past two weeks I, along with Jess from Explore and Soar Occupational Therapy, presented a workshop for families and educators focused on the topic of Kindergarten Transitions to School.

We thoroughly enjoyed presenting this talk, which discussed the skills children should have prior to starting kindergarten, as well as activities and tips to help develop these competencies. This presentation was attended by families, educators and teachers.

You can also view a recording of the presentation by clicking this link: https://youtu.be/ic9knqpR8Pw

Click on the links below to access the handouts from the presentation.

https://acspeechpath.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Speech-Pathology-School-Readiness-Booklet_compressed.pdf

https://acspeechpath.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Transition-to-school-Parent-Resource-List-.pdf

For information about school readiness milestones read our blog: School Readiness – What is it?

https://acspeechpath.com.au/school-readiness-what-is-it

For activity ideas to promote school readiness skills read our blog: ‘School Readiness: Preparing your child

https://acspeechpath.com.au/school-readiness-preparing-your-child

Your Questions & Our Answers from the Kindergarten Transition presentations

  • If covid continues, and the children have to start their school journey remotely, what tips do you have to ensure a smooth start for parents who haven’t done home schooling before?

Routines are very important. Having a daily schedule can help structure your child’s day and ensure that they have a balance between completing school work, play and relaxation. You will need it to! Consider using timers or dressing up in the uniform so that your child knows they are doing school work. If possible, have a separate space to complete the schoolwork. It is important that you provide feedback to the teacher regarding how much support your child is requiring to complete the work and how long it is taking. If you are finding that the majority of your day is spent completing schoolwork, the amount of work needs to be adjusted. Home learning should be flexible. Parents and carers have been amazing and inventive during this lockdown period. It is important to appreciate that you are not only the teacher at home, you are the parent, cook, cleaner, nurse, entertainer, etc. Make sure that you only do what you are able to. Do not overburden yourself. Mental health for the whole family is the most important goal during lockdowns. Communicate with your allied health team if your child has therapists. In some of our telehealth sessions we have been working with the children to help with their school work (whilst targeting our current communication goals). It is important to ensure learning is flexible and fun – can we practice our spelling list words by making the words out of playdoh, or a fun online word hunt?

[Andrea]

  • How to support a child in the classroom setting with ADHD, language delay and Childhood Apraxia of speech?

Answering this question is a whole workshop series, but most importantly it should be tailored specifically for your child. it is important that your child has therapists who are delivering an individualised and high intensity therapy plan, particularly to meet your child’s articulation and language goals. Whilst your child is working with their speechie to develop their speech and language skills, it is important that teachers use strategies within the classroom to encourage participation. This includes accepting all forms of communication (verbal and non-verbal) and adjusting learning material so that your child is able to engage in the task, and complete the work with success and support. Your child’s therapists will be able to find strategies that work specifically for your child in the particular areas of need, they will communicate these with your family and your child’s teacher. Clear communication is important between members of your child’s support team. Check out the following websites for example strategies for CAS, language disorders and ADHD:

Language Disorder:
https://thedldproject.com/families/dld-information-for-families
https://www.nccd.edu.au/professional-learning/classroom-adjustments-developmental-language-disorder
https://dldandme.org

CAS
https://www.apraxia-kids.org/brochures-and-printables/for-schools
https://www.apraxia-kids.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/School-Based-Professionals-Brochure-BW.pdf
https://www.sess.ie/categories/dyspraxia/development-verbal-dyspraxia-dvd/general-strategies-support-students

ADHD
https://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/school/principals/participation/tipsmanagingadhdinclass.pdf
https://www.verywellmind.com/help-for-students-with-adhd-20538

[Andrea]

  • Smaller v’s larger public schools. Alternative settings such as Montessori and Steiner, for children with additional learning needs.

We visit many different schools including private and public schools. I myself do not have experience or knowledge as to the curriculum of the Montessorti and Steiner schools. What I have found to be really beneficial for families is to have a conversation/interview with the learning support team at the schools that of interest to you. Ask what supports they have for children with additional learning needs, i.e., do they have an SLSO (School Learning Support Officers, previously known as a teachers aide) for the classroom. Ask what additional programs they have for children who may be struggling to develop literacy or maths skills. Discuss how they will work with your child’s therapists. Is your child’s therapist able to visit? Do they work within the classroom or playground environment, or do they have a separate space for one on one intervention? Every school is different, and just like any decision, the school needs to be the right fit for your child and your family. Don’t be afraid to connect with families in your community to ask about their experiences. And if you feel it isn’t right, discuss with the school your concerns and/or look at other options.

[Andrea]

  • Our son has low functioning autism, what if he doesn’t have these skills or can’t do these things you are listing?

It is important to acknowledge your child’s specific strengths and communication style. Share these skills with your child’s kindergarten teacher. It is important that your child’s therapists, your family and your child’s new school work together to support your son’s learning. Developing an individualised education plan (IEP) and having regular coordination meetings throughout the school year will be useful to establish goals and ensure that your child’s team is supporting him to develop skills that improve his participation skills, learning, communication and social development. Your child’s therapists can develop individualised strategies to support your son’s transition to school. Practicing and developing self-help skills will be particularly important, including; putting on clothes, eating with different utensils, opening food packaging, and using the bathroom. It is important to identify your child’s learning style and behavioural regulation strategies that can be used in the classroom setting.

The following websites have some great information about school readiness strategies for children with Autism and other developmental delays/disabilities:

https://raisingchildren.net.au/autism/school-play-work/autism-spectrum-disorder-primary-school/starting-primary-school-asd
https://www.transitiontoschoolresource.org.au/tts-content/activities-to-help-prepare-your-child-for-school
https://www.transitiontoschoolresource.org.au/tts

[Andrea]

  • Can you recommend a book/website that helps educators with strategies for children that require additional needs?

Check out the Sue Larkey Website –  https://suelarkey.com.au

Sue Larkey is a highly qualified educator who has taught students with autism spectrum disorder in the mainstream and special schools. Her website has great tip sheets, short courses, books and resources for educators and teachers working with children that have additional needs.

The Tony Attwood Website is also a good resource to check out –  https://tonyattwood.com.au

Professor Tony Attwood is considered to be one of the world’s foremost experts on Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Courses can be found by following this link: https://attwoodandgarnettevents.com

[Andrea]

Books:
The out of sync child by Carol Stock Kanowitz
Raising a sensory smart child by Lindsey Biel & Nancy Peske

[Jess]

  • I have a lot of students who require OT and speech in this region but the wait list is so long. How long should parents expect to wait to see an OT or speech pathologist?

Waitlists will differ between services. Community health is a free service that operates from public hospitals, however there is usually a selection criterion for services. The private sector has experienced a boom in caseloads, primarily due to the NDIS. It is wonderful that children with disabilities and delays are now being provided with funding to access regular and intensive supports, but this does mean that with regular appointments for those children, new appointments for others can be scarce. Our hot tip would be to connect with a service during school holidays (when most clients have a break from therapy). This is the perfect time to book an assessment and at least get a home program for your child, whilst you are waiting for regular therapy sessions to become available. There are rebates available via private health and Medicare to help with the cost of private therapy services.

Check out this link for information about rebate options:

https://acspeechpath.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/REBATES-FUNDING-HOW-TO-MAKE-A-CLAIM-2021.pdf

[Andrea]

  • What if they are fine motor orientated rather than gross motor orientated?

That is ok. Keep engaging in activities from a fine motor perspective, get creative and use imaginative play to increase movement between fine motor orientated activities,

Go on bush walks to collect nature items for craft to increase gross motor movement and challenges.

[Jess]

  • Our kid has a lisp. So how does that go with starting kindy?

A lisp is an articulation disorder. It occurs when a child is having difficulty producing the ‘s’ or ‘z’ sounds. Sometimes children with a lisp also have difficulty producing other related sounds such as ‘sh’ ‘ch’ and ‘j’.

There are two main types of lisps; an interdental lisp – This occurs when your tongue goes between your front teeth and makes a ‘th’- sound for the ‘s’ and ‘z’ sounds. Examples include saying ‘thun’ for ‘sun’ or ‘thoup’ for ‘soup’. This kind of lisp is considered a part of normal speech development and is typical for children before the age of 4.

The other type of lisp is called a lateral lisp. This is where the air escapes over the sides of the tongue instead of the front of the tongue. It makes the “s” sound ‘slushy’ and unclear. This type of lisp is not usually seen in typical speech development. A child is less likely to ‘grow out of’ this kind of lisp, and will need therapy to help it resolve.

Speech therapy can help remediate your child’s lisp. Focusing on how the ‘s’ and ‘z’ sounds are made (“smile and put your teeth together, making a long sound”) in front of the mirror after brushing your teeth, will be beneficial for your child.

We would recommend improving your child’s lisp if it is impacting your child’s confidence, intelligibility, emotional and mental health or if it is impacting their early literacy skills (difficulty writing down the correct sound because it is being said incorrectly).

Check out ACSP’s blog about Lisps for more information.

https://acspeechpath.com.au/lisps

[Andrea]

  • How to get kids interested in writing.

Begin at foundation skills. Working on gross motor movements with increased pressure through the upper body; e.g., obstacle courses, challenges on all fours, belly crawling and movement with resistance in the shoulders for strength.  Activities that target stabilisation and development of control are beneficial before a pencil goes in hand.

Engage in outside play activities like, play ‘spray and wipe’ or water plants with the spray bottle to increase fine motor activities. All of these incidental activities, even through they do not directly target writing, will strengthen hands, for when it comes to writing at school.

[Jess]

  • How can we help our little one with separation anxiety?

Support their emotional regulation skill development. Commencing from co-regulation and establishing self-regulation strategies that will work for your child in particular, and support them when transitioning between activities and events. Have clear routines and structures in place prior to walking in to school and during the pick up process.   Use visuals or narrate your way through the morning routine to school.  Communicate this with the school and develop a plan together, such as a teacher meeting at the gate for the first few weeks to support the transition, or buddy system. Provide support and comfort to assist in the transition, finding the right balance of not just leaving when they’re not looking or hoovering for too long. This is to ensure they still feel comforted and safe while they make the transition. If concerns continue, discussing with an allied health professional and your child’s school can be important to develop and support the best process for best success.

[Jess]

  • How can we help our little person relax and regulate after a big day at school? What can we do in the mornings to help our little person feel ready for the school day (fill his cup)?

Set up their own sensory diet activities that work for them to make them calm but alert before transitioning to school; strategies could include, respiration, heavy work, music to help calm or set up the body.

Transition to home; help calm and regulate afterwards; ice chips and cold temperatures help regulate and naturally resets the body, and similar to above strategies.

Establish clear routines, expectations and rhythms to support the predictability for the first few weeks when transitioning.

Remember; each child’s sensory processing and emotional regulation needs and strategies will be different. Don’t be afraid to experiment to see what works for your little people, especially, when we as adults each have our own ways of calming and waking our body up to perform our daily activities like attend work and maintain our home.

If you require additional help to establish these routines, discuss with an OT to increase your tool kit to support your children and discuss options with your teacher to support the children in the classroom throughout the day.

[Jess]

If you would like to know more about school readiness or if you would like to book a school readiness screening assessment please get in contact.

Happy Talking,

Andrea