Emma Pierce, Transition to School and Inclusion Coordinator talks about the new Transition to School video clips which were launched this week at the ECIA NSW/ACT Inclusion Symposium.
A child’s first day at school is a big milestone that most parents anticipate with a mix of emotions. When your child has a developmental delay or disability, a considerable amount of anxiety and stress is often added to the mix. Parents and carers have told me many times that one of the most helpful things is hearing the experiences of another parent who has already been there. Listening to someone else’s story makes learning more authentic and carries so much more weight. With this in mind, I realised we needed to find a way to add personal stories to our Transition to School Resource website.
Fortunately, I met Kate Strang, mum to a child who has autism spectrum disorder, who was happy to help. Together with Kate’s fantastic team, we developed four short new video clips to tell one family’s story of their transition to school.
In this series of 4 short video clips, mum, Kate talks about the things which she was looking for in a school for her child, and the roles she and other members of her team played in the transition process from planning through to transitioning into year 1.
Early planning for school
Following the lead of families
It may sound obvious, but Kate’s story highlighted to me that as professionals we need to keep asking families what they want and supporting them to advocate to make their vision for their child come to fruition. For example for this family, academic skills were not the big focus when looking for a school as Kate said: “I wanted a family environment that could nurture my child and allow him to be confident and comfortable.” It is so important not to jump to conclusions about what we, as practitioners, might think is best for children and families, but rather to ask and really listen. Vanna Lockwood, early childhood teacher says in the video: “for us, the most important part is building a really ordering premarin positive relationship with the family… we have a role to play in supporting the family to advocate for what they want for their child.”
Getting ready to start school
What made this family’s transition successful?
This little boy’s transition to a mainstream school wasn’t a success by accident. Lots of planning, regular communication, energy and work from this family and their team has gone into every detail. From preparing this boy and the school, to facilitating play dates, setting up visual supports and social stories, trouble-shooting solutions, and through to getting involved in community activities, there were many steps. Kate is actively involved in her school community, and is highly valued for her contributions to the school community by the school staff and other families at the school.
Although everyone in the team rate Kate’s son’s transition as a successful one, the process wasn’t without its challenges along the way. I think it is important not to gloss over some of the hard parts, but rather to see that there are ways to overcome challenges together. Michelle Milner, kindergarten teacher and Julie Cowmeadow, early childhood intervention (ECI) key worker talk about how they worked out solutions together with the family along the way, such as using visual supports and reinforcers to motive this child.
Working together around transition to school
Inclusion has benefits for everyone
The big thing which stood out to me in this transition story was that it is not the child’s skills which make the biggest difference, but rather the importance of a community-wide approach to transition to school. It is great to see what the research tells us playing out in reality. When everybody is committed to making it work, and people draw from the strengths within the team, there are benefits for everyone. Michelle, kindergarten teacher confirmed this by saying ”We noticed that some strategies we were (…) implementing for our little boy who had additional needs were benefitting the rest of the class.”
Early days at school
A huge thank you to Kate and all those in her team for contributing their perspectives and showing what is possible through a community-wide approach to transition.
Kate Strang, mother
Julie Cowmeadow, Plumtree Pathways for Children and Families
Vanna Lockwood, St Peters Community Preschool
Neil Lavitt, Principal, NSW Department of Education
Michelle Milner, Kindergarten teacher, NSW Department of Education
Robyn Ward, Learning and Support teacher, NSW Department of Education
Garth Montgomery, Urban Kombat Martial Arts
Kimberley Farrell, film shooting, editing and animation
Joscelyn Markerink, composition and sound
Emma Pierce, Transition to School and Inclusion Coordinator, ECIA NSW/ACT
The videos were officially launched by the Hon John Ajaka, MLC, Minister for Disability Services at ECIA NSW/ACT’s Inclusion Symposium on 7th June, 2016
Transition to School / Inclusion Coordinator
Emma has worked in the non-government disability sector for the last 18 years. She has developed and facilitated training and resources for parents and professionals across NSW and presented papers at national and state conferences. Emma was previously the Manager of Building Blocks® Early Intervention Service at Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect). Emma also lectures casually at Western Sydney University and works as an independent consultant to Early Childhood Intervention services. Emma is the main author of ECIA NSW’s Transition to School Resource and has worked for ECIA NSW/ACT since 2013.