Preparing young children with disabilities and their families for the transition to kindergarten begins many months before the start of the new school year. Understandably this can be an anxious time for many parents. A successful transition to kindergarten occurs when a child’s family, preschool team, and the receiving elementary school staff work together to ensure a smooth transition process.
The Division for Early Childhood recommends the following practices associated with transitions:
TR1. Practitioners in sending and receiving programs exchange information before, during, and after transition about practices most likely to support the child’s successful adjustment and positive outcomes.
TR2. Practitioners use a variety of planned and timely strategies with the child and family before, during, and after the transition to support successful adjustment and positive outcomes for both the child and family.
The kindergarten transition process may include one or more of these activities that promote the DEC Recommended Practices:
- scheduling family and child visits to kindergarten classes
- meeting new administrators, teachers, and therapists
- kindergarten information nights to facilitate the transition process for all new families
- special opportunities for new kindergarten families to observe classes, lunch, recess, and other typical activities during the school day
- transition IEP meetings, which include current and receiving staff members, to exchange instructional programs and specialized equipment/materials
- video clip examples of typical routines and activities to help children acclimate to a new environment
- home visits by kindergarten staff prior to the start of the new school year
Preschool for All (PFA) and Head Start programs are required to have written kindergarten transition timelines. The Head Start Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center (ECLKC) offers resources for staff and families (in English and Spanish) to ensure smooth transitions. The IEL Tip Sheet Getting Ready for Kindergarten (available in English, Spanish, and Polish) is another excellent resource for families and staff preparing children for the transition to kindergarten.
Starting kindergarten is a major event for all children and their families. With careful planning and attention to the individual needs of each child, the transition to kindergarten can be a very positive experience for young children with disabilities and their families.