Last year and the pandemic created many challenges for students and families, and of course that extended into the school year. We all thought that Covid-19 would have been gone by now, but the 2021-22 school year is showing us that there continue to be issues going back to school and kids will be dealing with potential instability during a new school year.
Kids who have communication disorders and speech language disorders have difficulties with transitions and so do other children who may have a diagnosis or may present with a speech delay such as toddlers who are late talkers or children.
The speech language pathologists at Therapy Works Together have put together some helpful tips for transitioning to the classroom that will make transition back to classroom as easy and stress free as possible for you and your children.
Transitioning Your Child From Home to School
The first step in transition is to determine what that first day of school will look like for your child, and then make a plan for that. This could be a make or break moment for your child as they transition from a child in daycare to a child in school and as many teachers as possible need to understand that a transition is happening.
Not every child is the same, but as a parent you have to have an idea what your child needs and also your child is just that, a child. Children need consistency and stability when they go to school.
Make the Days Easier
With this knowledge, it makes sense that we start our school year with a few easy tips for the transition from home to school. It’s key to remember that your child is going to learn and grow and become much more independent with the transition.
Try to enjoy the beginning of the school year for both the children and the parents! Remember that even if your child has a low attention span, they are still a child and need time to adjust to the changes in their life. Parents can support and loves their child and allow time for a child to learn and grow and be comfortable while they do it.
Does your child need to wear a mask to school? Here are 5 mask tips :
1. Try practicing wearing a mask at home for short periods of time, play dress up games to make it fun; parents can talk aloud about how they feel about wearing a mask; this helps kids hear the language they can use to talk about a mask
2. Let your child pick the fabric of the mask and decorate it; this is also a great opportunity to use a hands on activity to target other speech or language goals like following directions or new vocabulary
3. Think about what type of fasteners may be best for your child (such as one that ties behind the head or one that loops around the ears). Remember that some kids have a sensory issue that they may not be able to verbalize
4. Use a social story to help them understand why they need to wear a mask. A social story is a personalized short story about your child that explicitly describes a situation, skill or concept. Click here for a great video social story about masks to watch with your child.
5. During pretend play, put a mask on your child’s favorite doll or stuffed animal. The doll can even talk about how he feels about the mask, and parents can take the opportunity to empathize and show that they understand
Some kids last year did not attend school but learned online at home. This year this may or may not have changed. For those that are starting to go to school on location (or back in the school building) here are a few extra tips to make the transition easier:
And a Few Tips For Going Back to the School:
1. Before school starts, take a family walk to the bus stop and home. Practice in advance and talk about what you see along the way. This is a great opportunity to talk about directions (turn left, go straight), time (we need to be at the bus stop at 8:30) or talk about morning routines you spot along the way (look at the newspaper delivery)
2. Let your child pick out their own backpack, lunchbox and clothes for school. This helps get them excited for the new school year. Remember that some kids actually want their old items so pay attention to your child’s reactions when offering to wear new clothes (some kids have sensory sensitivity to new clothing before it is worn in). Kid with speech and language delays or disorders may not have the language abilities to tell you how they are feeling and may cry or tantrum.
3. Role-play situations that may be stressful for your child. Do you remember situations that were difficult for your child last year? Does your child stutter and is worried about introducing themselves on the first day of class or reading out loud. Role play it with your child, practice the strategies of for younger children use dolls or puppets to play it out.
Take the opportunity to talk about these situations and practice in advance to help reduce stress, negative reactions and emotions. Practicing at home can also build confidence about new social interactions.
4. Create more opportunities for stability and routine at home. Going back to school is a big change and requires a lot of effort by our little ones whether or not they have speech or language delays or other communication issues. So think about keeping a few routines at home the same, decreasing or holding off on after-school activities until the school situation stabilizes. And consider what activities can be done at home. For example, some kids like arts and crafts, so perhaps they can work on projects at home.
If your child needs speech therapy services, there is always the option of working with a speech therapist online. Many children feel comfortable these days with speech therapy online as they have learned how it works from when schools were online. And parents love this option since it spares them the commute to another activity, it has been show to work just as well as traditional speech therapy, and it is affordable.
These Tips for are Teachers and Parents
Following these steps in the transition process will make it easier for both of you to help your child with a speech delay get more out of school and help you both understand each other better. Talk and listen together. Go through the entire routine.
Understand that each step, each period is an opportunity to help your child continue to learn. By the way, that means that don’t just keep the routine, but do it in more fun ways. You and your child have to create fun ways to help with the transitions, make it more engaging and more interesting for your child.
Help your child understand what is going on by verbalizing and talking out what is happening. Each time your child has a schedule change like having to get ready to go to school instead of having a snack.
Summing it all up…
Most importantly, you can speak to your child about how you believe in them. Not only as a student but also as a person who is brave to be going out into the world in what may be uncertain times. You can tell them that you know that they have the skills to meet this next grade head on and do well. You can also relate to them by telling them stories of when you were younger and worried about things and how it turned out well.
We are all counting down to the first day of school and are looking forward to it. Good luck families, be safe and be well.
At Therapy Works Together we provide speech therapy services to children and adults.