At the IEP (transition) meeting prior to kindergarten:
- Bring a picture of your child to the meeting to let participants know you are talking about a real boy or girl and not just a name on a page.
- Discuss how you and the school will communicate with each other. For example: use a daily back-and-forth notebook. Encourage all of the teachers and para-professionals to contact you any time. Swap email addresses!
- Discuss the best way to educate the teachers and staff on Fragile X syndrome. Impress upon participants the importance of learning about FXS prior to your child entering the classroom. (Suggested reading for teachers follows below.)
- Discuss how best to handle fire/tornado/lock-down drills.
- If you are planning to take pictures of the school before the end of the year (more on this below), discuss any permissions you may need to obtain.
After the IEP meeting, but prior to the end of the school year before your child starts kindergarten
Read through the book, Transitioning “Special” Children into Elementary School. It has several ideas on introducing children to the school. Call the NFXF to obtain a copy (800) 688-8765.
Take pictures of what the whole day will look like for your child and create a book to look at over the summer. You may need to visit a few times to capture a whole day of school, and don’t worry about taking too many pictures. As mentioned above, you may need to get permission to take photos that include other children from the school. Photos might include:
- Leaving your house
- Getting to school
- Walking into the school
- Walking into the classroom
- The desk, tables, and coat room/cubby
- The teacher and specialists
- The different areas of the classroom
- Children walking between classes
- Other classes your child may visit—library, art, music, PE
- Having lunch
- Recess time
- How the children line up after recess (if they do)
- Coming home
- Take your child to sit in the class for part of the day. Do this a few times if you can.
During the summer
- Read the book you created. Talk about how cool school is going to be.
- Drive by the school during the summer and say, “Hi, school!”
- Visit the school during the summer and play on the playground. Maybe you can peek in the windows.
- Give your child and the other kids a chance to become familiar with each other before the first day of school. Invite classmates to your house a few times over the summer to watch a movie or have popsicles on the deck.
- If applicable, put the kids in camps with the aide that will be with them in the fall.
Couple weeks before school starts
- Walk through the school.
- Talk to the teacher(s) and others who work in the school.
- Let your child see where (s)he will sit. Maybe help the teacher set up part of the classroom.
- Think about what objects you can use to help with transitions.
- Talk to the teacher about creating a picture schedule for the class/your child after school starts.
- Consider making a poster about your child to take into the classroom. Include photos of your child’s favorite things.
- Offer to volunteer in the classroom if you are able to do so. This can be disruptive for some children, so if it is for your child, maybe you could volunteer in the office, library or lunchroom instead.
Few weeks after school has started
- Consider talking to the children in the class. Don’t get into a lot of specifics, and keep it simple. Tell them the ways your child is just like them. Explain some ways your child is different. They should have noticed those differences by now and may have questions.Holly Usrey-Roos shares the value of talking with your child’s classmates in her post Finding Hope in My Children. Also included is a podcast and outline that is designed to give you the skills and confidence to present the topic of FXS to your child’s classmates.
- Continue having other children over to your house. You might want to have one other child over or have 2-3 over at a time. Do what works best for your child.
It is important to note that what you are feeling is not that different from parents of typical children. All parents are anxious about letting go. They want their child to have friends, to be included in games at recess and have somebody sit by them at lunch. All parents want the teacher to like their child and understand them. Every parent wants their child to succeed in school.
Going to school does take preparation, so do whatever you need to reduce anxiety for you and your child. Take the ideas above and modify them to work for you and your child. Your child will be successful!
If you haven’t already visited the NFXF’s Facebook page, I urge you to do so for many reasons. Not the least of those is the great ideas and perspectives offered there by other parents who so generously share their joys, frustrations, challenges, and what has worked and not worked on their Fragile X journey. The following tips are culled from many Facebook posts that parents offered on easing their children’s transition to kindergarten.
Special thanks to the many parents on Facebook who contributed ideas for this page.