New Beginnings: Adjusting to Starting School

09 January 2018

Our families often tell us, at the beginning of their journey with us, that one of their goals is that their child will be able to go to a mainstream school. In a few weeks this will become a reality for our 2017 Early Intervention graduates. However, it can be a tough time for any child when they move from the comfort of their kindy / childcare and go to school. 

Our Early Intervention Manager and our Child & Family Counsellor have put together a short guide to helping make the transition as easy as possible for your child, particularly if they have a hearing loss. 

The beginning of school marks an important milestone for your child and your family. Full time schooling generally requires an adjustment of routines and provides a great opportunity for new relationships to be formed and new learning to take place. 

With this in mind, preparing for the changes that will take place can help ease the pressure over this period of transition. Transitioning a child who is deaf or hard of hearing can require a few extra considerations to assist with a smooth transition.

A positive attitude

When parents feel calm, positive and in control, this confidence often flows onto their child. By demonstrating that you expect your child to succeed in their adjustment to school, you are assisting them to approach the pending changes with the right attitude. This can also be fostered through reading age-appropriate stories about school, encouraging discussion with your transitioning child and older children/siblings already at school, or telling stories about your own schooling experiences or favourite teacher.   

Prepare early

Decide on how your household routine will need to adjust, and put strategies in place early. If your child will need to wake earlier, begin a consistent routine ahead of time to create a better pattern of sleep/wake times in the week or so before school begins. If your child is beginning to manage their own morning routine or to pack their own bag, a picture sequence showing the necessary steps of how to get ready or what to pack may provide useful prompts.  

Practice runs of almost everything can be helpful, even before the school term starts; from dressing in the uniform, walking to school, unwrapping and eating a packed lunch and playing on the school grounds and equipment if this is accessible. The more familiar these concepts and actions are to your child, the more they will feel a level of control or predictability about their new environment when away from you.

Support the language

Teacher and female student

Each school has it’s own set of words that they use to label buildings, playgrounds, break times, and routines. Schools are usually very happy to assist you in creating a book that has photos of key buildings and places with the language that accompany them, Is the gym referred to as the gym or the sports centre or the activity centre or the hall? Does your school have a canteen or a tuck shop? Is there a red playground or a western playground? Is break time called recess or little lunch or first break? By familiarising your child with names of these places and routines your child will be more likely to follow instructions without confusion.

Your child will meet lots of new people when they start school. Creating another little book with photos of key teachers will help your child learn names and understand the roles in preparation for school. Ask the school if you can get a photo of your child’s teacher, classroom assistant, school receptionist, canteen person, specialist teachers such as sport and music. The summer holidays are the perfect time to read through these books to familiarise your child with the common language that they will encounter daily at school.

Keep it pleasant

In managing the morning routine, try to keep things unhurried and in a pleasant tone whenever you can. The reality is that kids of any age can throw hurdles into any rushed and pressured morning, and when everyone is feeling overwhelmed this can make for a tricky start to the day. Try to be patient and understanding, and remember the points above re: routine and predictability. 

Sleep is important

Lack of sleep can impact on anyone, no matter what their age! Limit screen time for at least an hour before bedtime, keep bed and wake times as consistent as possible in the days before term starts and create quiet and soothing bedtime routines appropriate for your child’s age and developmental level.  

Be honest

Just like at kindy, childcare or at the park, school can sometimes feel lonely, overwhelming or sad. We hope for our children to have positive experiences, but it’s normal to feel lonely, angry, worried and scared at times too – even in the adult world. If your child runs into a bump along the way, it can build trust with them to be honest about this in an age appropriate way. It’s okay to say “I would have felt sad too” or “I remember feeling like that when I was at school” – this helps kids feel that they have been heard. You can then help them decide how to manage a similar situation next time.

Communicate with the school

Junior Primary teachers are usually very good at talking things through and providing you with feedback about how your child is managing. Emailing can be a good way to keep in touch with staff – mornings can be hectic so sometimes if it’s a general query this can be an easier way to connect, or alternatively request a before or after school meeting. Some children in your child’s class may also have older siblings at the school, and may be able to answer general questions about the way the school runs, how payments are made for various extras, etc.

Facilitate friendships

Young boy and girl on their first day of school

One of the most important parts of schooling is making friends. To facilitate friendships consider inviting a friend over for a play date. Children are often at their most comfortable and confident in their own home. The home environment is often quieter than a school playground (not always) and provides an improved listening environment for your child to talk and play with a friend and build a relationship with a peer. A peer will learn about your child’s interests and vice versa and provide a foundation for conversation and play within the school setting.

This is an exciting time for you, and your child, so enjoy it and we hope they all have a wonderful first day at school!

If, as a client, you have any questions about your child’s transition to school feel free to talk with your Teacher of the Deaf, Early Intervention Therapist or our Child and Family Counsellor. 

Rachael Ward, Early Intervention Manager

Belinda Dunne, Child & Family Counsellor






Rachael Ward                Belinda Dunne
Early Intervention           Child & Family Counsellor


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