Transcript for Supporting transition for young children with disability

Supporting transition for young children with disability – 2021 cohort video (34:47)

Narrator – Welcome to supporting transition for young children with disability the 2021 cohort. We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land in all areas that this professional learning is reaching. We pay respect to Elders past and present, and extend that respect to Aboriginal people joining us today. We recognise that Aboriginal people have been nurturing and teaching their children on this land for thousands of years.

Participation in this session will address the following professional standard for teachers. This presentation will support educators to use family centred and strengths based practice to provide individual transition support for young children with additional support needs and their families. Learners will explore a range of practices to support strong transitions for young children with disability or support needs. And consider strategies to support transition to school or to early childhood services for children with disability or support needs in the context of COVID-19. Throughout this PL we will take time to listen to the voices of the children, the parents, the teachers and the community as they talk about transition.

Advice about kindergarten, orientation and transition is available on the department website. Schools have been advised that orientation and transition can resume for students within strict guidelines. Exemptions apply to students with disability, and additional learning and support needs and their families, and these are outlined on the website page. Visit the site for any further updates as health advice changes. Year one support class teacher tells us about transition. There are five students starting school next year in our school support unit. They all have high needs. We have worked on a program that invites these children and their families to come every Tuesday over a five week period. Just one example of how support class teacher is adjusting transition practices to suit the needs of her children with disability.

Successful transitions for all children. Starting school or preschool can be exciting, and it can also be challenging. When a child has a disability or support need, transitions can be surrounded by strong feelings of excitement but also heightened emotions of anxiety, fear and uncertainty for the child, their families, their educators, and their teachers. Here we listen to the voice of a parent of a child with a disability. Who says it's really hard to have your child starts school. I don't think we recognise enough that many of us are still grieving. Not just the disability, but having to leave the children all day. We are so used to being there for them.

The 2021 cohort. Preschools and schools have children starting in 2021 who have had significant impact on them and their families in the last year. The COVID-19 pandemic, bushfires, drought and floods have meant that early learning programs and transition programs have been significantly disrupted across New South Wales and many families are anxious and stressed. All children are going to need continued support as they transition. But transition practices and programs are looking very different this year. For children with disability or support needs careful planning and organisation are going to be crucial as they adjust to their new environment. They require additional planning to help them to participate on the same basis as all children.

The importance of positive transitions is well recognised. A large body of international evidence supports the importance of a positive start. The OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) start strong report recognises the importance of a successful transition to school for children's long-term learning and development. It emphasises a shared understanding and collaborative practice between preschool and primary school teachers and continuity of learning. A balance between how children learning early childhood education and how they learn in primary school. The report also highlights a growing body of research which shows that a successful transition to school is important to maintain the long term benefits of quality early learning.

The school excellence framework also highlights transition planning as an important part of school leadership. It's a statement of what's valued in excellence for New South Wales public schools and transition and continuity of learning as it is outlined as an important theme in the school excellence framework. It describes the school excelling in this theme as having strong collaboration with parents, students and the community.

What works best and reflecting on what works best and transition practices. The evidence, based practices in education are outlined in the centre for education statistics and evaluation publication. What works best in practice. There are strong links between the eight what works best themes and strong transition practice for children with disability and support needs. Reflecting on some of the themes and transition, we have high expectations about knowing our students well valuing them as learners and understanding how to support their learning right from the start. Collaboration, frequent and ongoing collaboration that promotes and values the sharing of ideas and advice in nonthreatening ways. And well being, fostering positive relationships and a supportive environment across the whole school community.

At the heart of effective transitions are secure, respectful, reciprocal relationships. Children may be feeling more anxious these days about change and may find separating from their family more difficult. And children with disability are likely to be feeling especially anxious. Prioritising children's well being and building strong connections with children and their families are high priorities. More than any other element of transition relationships are the basis of meaningful conversations and continuity. Relationships between professionals, families, schools and early childhood services will continue to be vital to a successful transition for all children starting in 2021. The outcome is that everyone sees themselves as valued members of the school community. For children with special education needs and their families, the changes in relationships are often major, as prior to school support ceases, and new relationships with new resource staff need to be built.

Transition is a dynamic process and it begins well before children start school. Transition is more than orientation, although that's part of it. It's more than the first day, though that's a big day. It's more than notions of each child's readiness for school. The more than about preparing for school, it includes being at school as well. It's a time of change moving on from one setting to the next. The time to think about continuity as things change. It's about the child. It's about the family and the community as well and school as all important in being ready, not just the child. The dynamic process that begins well before children start school and it extends into where the child and the family are settled and feel that they really belong in the new setting. One early childhood, educators says, my belief is that schools should be ready for children rather than children being ready for schools.

So how do we know that transition has been successful? We know that transition has been successful when children and families feel comfortable, relaxed and valued and they feel excited and motivated. They have good relationships with others and have a sense of belonging within the new school or preschool community. Here we hear the voice of one parent who has really had a good transition for herself and for her son. Martin has severe autism. He has been attending school for two terms. He's not anxious about going to school and we are confident that the environment is very much individualised for Martin.

Planning transitions for children with additional needs during COVID-19. It's important to build on what is gone before. And when a child has a disability or support needed pays to start early. The transition process works best for children with disability and their families when it begins well ahead of time. And every New South Wales public school has a learning and support team that will have started working collaboratively with the children, their families, and other agencies to support smooth transitions. In some areas, schools are supported in this role by the itinerant support teacher, early intervention, or early intervention support class teachers. My children support teachers hearing or vision may also be supporting the child. New South Wales public school staff can find out more about these support teachers through your local student support and specialist programs contacts link.

It's important to take steps to be sure to know who the children are who will be needing support. It's a important to connect early wherever possible. Schools in early childhood services can actively check that they have connected with as many children needing additional support and their families as possible. By checking enrolment forms and information there, using the transition to school statement, working closely with local early childhood and early intervention professionals and agencies, and having close association with local community groups, working with an itinerant support teacher early intervention if there's one available in their area and working closely with itinerant support teachers, hearing and vision, and having supportive and responsive processes in place when families with children with additional needs approach for enrolment. It's also important to remember that some families may not have access to devices or to the Internet, and some may have a language other than English, so some families may feel uncomfortable about approaching the school. Connection with local community groups in early intervention professionals will be vital to connecting and supporting these families.

The transition process can be really complex for children with additional support needs in their families. Well before Term four many families will have already contacted the school or early childhood service that they would like their child to go to in the following year and a lot of work to try to support transition will already be well underway. Some families may still not know where their child will be going to next year. Some may be waiting to be offered a specialist support class or special school placement following an access request process. For some children, the need for extra support may not become clear until sometime after they've actually started school or preschool, or sometimes children with additional support needs may turn up at the last minute. Children with disabilities and special education needs and their families encounter many challenges as they navigate the transition to school process. It's really crucial to involve the parents in any contact with outside agencies, professionals or services, and always have parent consent to contact others working with their child.

Connect with children with support needs and their families and with the other professionals who are supporting the child. Some suggestions on how to do this are virtual zoom or phone meetings with all parties, including the child where possible. Face to face meetings when necessary and permitted. Onsite orientation sessions where permitted, based on the current department and health advice. Written communication, including emails and letters, and make sure these are translated where required. Recorded welcomes greetings or messages to the family into the child, or perhaps record the new teacher recording a recorded message or a story to the new student. Virtual orientation ideas such as social stories or video story tours of the new school or preschool. There are templates and guides to create social stories on the departments strong start to school 2021 web page. Taking advantage of the additional transition opportunities available to students with disability and support needs that are listed on the department website. I like this idea from a teacher. We ask parents to share three wishes they had for their child as they start school. It's about embracing what parents know and how well they know their children.

Share relevant information and really get to know each other. Schools and early childhood education services can do this by working together and valuing and using the transition to school statement for children starting school. Reviewing reports from other professionals, of course, with parent permission and a school counsellor consultation where that's relevant. Reviewing information in access request profiles. Organising face to face, where health advice allows or virtual meetings. Talking with the parents, they know their child better than anyone and are the child's first teachers. Also important to listen to the children. And to recognise that some families will take time to trust and share information and that building relationships is crucial. And it's important to respect privacy and confidentiality. I love these quotes from children. Liam tells the school what the school needs to know about him, and he says the teacher needs to know I like playing with Flynn and I'd like playing with cars and paper planes. And Alex says in my new classroom I would like to see a dragon and a crocodile.

It's important to work collaboratively with a child, their family, other educators and professionals and to use a strengths based approach. What is a strengths based approach? What does it mean? What is it about? It's about what the child can do and what they're interested in. It recognises that children grow from their strengths. It's about what works for the child. It understands that children's learning is dynamic, holistic and complex. And appreciates the children demonstrate their learning in different ways. It acknowledges difficulties that need support, and it's about sharing information with all involved in an honest and consistent way. It demonstrates high expectations for each child as a learner and for their families. A strengths based approach is not about neglecting to identify areas for further development. It's not an approach that focuses on deficits. It's not about framing everything in a positive way so that we don't upset anybody. We don't upset the parents, and it's not about telling the parents one thing, because that will make them feel good or and telling the teachers something different. It's not about a way of avoiding the truth. Aboriginal educator talks about the strengths based approach. I have spent some time talking with the community about what they regard as children strengths. As an Aboriginal educator I want everyone to have high expectations of our children, recognising their strengths rather than focusing on perceived problems. That really describes a strengths based approach.

The strength based approach builds relationships and confidence and it reflects high expectations for all children's as learners. If we know where a child is up to in their development, we can then target what that child's needs are. Building on their current capabilities and moving them towards the next steps. Schools in early childhood education services can do this by focusing on the child's strengths and interests with parents and others working with the child. Every child has strengths and abilities, every child. Talking about what the child can already do and what they can do with support and build from there. Focusing on family strengths as well, acknowledging culture and the many ways of living, being and knowing. Focusing on what the child needs to build on current capabilities and move to the next steps. And looking at strategies that have worked in the past and that may work in the future to continue to support learning. Avoiding stereotypes and recognising the strengths of other professionals as well. Steven Shaw is an autism advocate and he's also on the spectrum. He talks about avoiding stereotypes, and he has the quote. If you have met one child with autism. Then you've met one child with autism. And a parent I'm a Bundjalung woman. My culture is important to me and it is celebrated here at this school. The school recognises and works with my children's strengths and the school works to meet my family's needs. When we first started here, I felt welcome immediately.

Plan together. You could use the collaborative planning tool. This resource is available to download to all participants in this professional learning and looks a bit like this. It encourages the team to work together to identify the children's strengths across different areas across communications, social, emotional, physical, about how they're involved in learning and about what self help skills they might need assistance with, or what they're able to do. So identifying their strengths, what they can do, what they are interested in, and then from that emerges the needs across the different areas. So discussing with others involved with the child. So with the parents with other professionals, early childhood, educators, other agencies and then working through adjustments, and intentional teaching strategies that might be used to support further learning in those areas. It's a collaborative tool that encourages the team to work together, to focus on strengths first, and then from that recognise the needs and plan for adjustments and supports. I like this quote here as well. As a school learning support officer I found it so valuable to be part of the meetings to complete the planning tool. It helped me to know the child and how to support them before they even started. Sometimes I think we forget to include some of the most important people who will be implementing the planning for a child.

So as a task you can trial the collaborative planning tools to support transition planning. So download the tool which is attached to this professional learning and trial it as a basis for strengths based planning for a child with additional needs who's transitioning to your school or early childhood service. So include the other professionals working with the child now and those who will be working with a child when the child starts school or preschool and where possible, include the child themselves especially for the discussion about their strengths and what they're interested in.

Build on collaborations to develop individual transition plans. A sample transition plan template is also available to download with this professional learning. Understandings gain from using the collaborative planning tool can support the development of individual transition plans, and these are often required for children with additional support needs. This is a sample only each child, family, school, or early childhood service will have different considerations, and this template is intended as a sample that you're free to use your free to adjust or of course, free to use your own. This is page one of a six page template that is available for you to download. It highlights some things that are important to include in an individual transition plan, such as contact details, best times for families to contact the school or early childhood service, or the best time for the school or early childhood service to contact the family. The best mode. The best way to contact to keep in touch with each other and ongoing schedule of meetings to reflect and review how everyone is going. So getting those planned and getting those times written down so that everyone knows the next time that they'll be meeting and discussing. Families can be very anxious about their child with support needs when they're starting school or a new early childhood service. And it helps if they know how they can make contact and when the next contact is planned, when the next meetings are planned. An educator talks about their individual transition planning and says a number of our children have individual plans. We have parents, teachers and other professionals who are involved and they all come along and we all back each other up and support the parents. So we make sure there is one set of consistent messages and strategies.

Here is another page from the sample individual transition plan template. It looks at things like what support are available or can be applied for. It looks at planning for orientation, so plan for a great start by considering any adjustments to allow the child with disability to participate in all transition activities on the same basis as other children. Planning for the first day. It looks at agreed strategies and adjustments that could be ongoing that have been identified through the collaborative planning tool and which can be attached to the plan. It looks at support available within the school or service or targeted support that may require applications such as the disability and inclusion program, or the inclusion support program in early childhood programs or targeted special support in department schools, as such as integration funding support in a mainstream class, specialist support classes in a mainstream school or a school for specific purposes, or support from an itinerant support teacher. You can refer to the department website programs and services within disability learning and support or under the new structure known as inclusive education to find out more information about those programs and supports available. Looking at the quote here, we have a parent saying our team worked on the individual transition plan together and we came up with some strategies that would help my child attend the orientation with all the other children who were starting. We put a visual schedule together so that she would know what was going to happen and the school agreed that she could bring her favourite toy along. They also made sure that two of the activities they had at orientation were two of her favourite things to do.

Some general strategies to support orientation and transition for children with disability or support needs. Each child with a disability or additional support need will have individual interests, strengths, and needs. Strategies plan will vary according to the specific characteristics of each child and the support will be very personalised, by working through the collaborative planning tool and developing an individual transition plan, many strategies will be identified that are actually specific to each child strengths and needs. Here we've just listed some general strategies that would be useful for some children with disability or support needs, and of course that also be useful for all children. So create an individual video or sound recording with messages or stories from the teacher. Set up a buddy for the child with an older student supporting via digital media if that's necessary in COVID times, social stories with actual photos of the child's teacher and the school environment and routines, these may need to be more detailed and specific for children with a disability or additional support needs. For example, there may need to be a whole story on eating recess and lunch at school. Visual schedules which show the sequence of events for orientation visits in the first days of school and also for the routine once school started. Provide familiar, favourite activities and objects in the new environment that provide continuity and a sense of security for the child. Discuss routines with the parents so they can practice at home, such as eating recess and lunch at school. Give plenty of advance notice if something different will be happening and included in the visual schedule where possible. Encourage parents to arrange play dates with other children who will be starting school if this is possible. Maybe virtual play dates. Maintain regular contact with the child's parents once the child has started.

So task two. Document an individualised transition plan. So download the individual transition plan template that's attached to this professional learning and build on the information you have documented together through the collaborative planning tool to trial the individual transition plan template available or use your own to document an individual transition plan for a child that's transitioning to your school or service. Include the family and other professionals working with the child now, as well as those who will be working with a child when the school or preschool starts.

Some resources that we hope will be useful to you. A strong start to school 2021 web page. On this web page you'll find resources to support transition for all children, but also resources that will support children with a disability or support need. First up, we have social stories with templates and guides to create social stories for children's transition to preschool and to school. These social story templates can be adjusted to use your own words and the pictures can be changed or pictures of your own site added to make them much more meaningful and relevant to your own school or preschool situation. There school stories where schools share their strategies for supporting children's transition in 2021 and professional learning and resources available on that page about transition supporting transition for all children.

Also, the early learning websites where the section on transition has strategies and programs that ensure a positive start to school for all children.

Many of the quotes that we saw or read or looked at in this PL that sort of gave us a view from the child's perspective, from the parents perspective, from the educator or teacher's perspective have come from this resource, the continuity of learning. It was developed by Charles Sturt University's educational transitions continuity and change research team, led by Professor Sue Dockett and Bob Perry, who are legendary in this area of transition. This resource I highly recommend, and it's free to download from that site.

Thank you for taking the time to engage in this professional learning. Please feel free to contact us at Early Learning at the email address there on your screen. We would be delighted to assist you in any way that we can.

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