Are your SEND students moving to a new classroom, teacher or provision in September? If the answer is yes, you need to start thinking about prepping them for that transition during the summer term to make it as smooth and stress-free as possible. Here are some suggestions to help you do just that.
1 – Organise a transition visit
When a new setting is in the pipeline, one of the most useful things you can do is organise a transition visit with your students so that they can experience their new environment and meet teachers, support staff and other class members before the new term starts. Some of the ideas below could be done on a transition visit – such as getting a map or taking photos. Do not underestimate the usefulness of a transition visit – especially for children with special needs – it can be of huge value. If the school or college your child is moving to is not offering any this year due to COVID, request a video meeting or school tour to help your students become familiar with new surroundings.
2 – Get a map
When starting at a new provision, it can be useful to see if you can obtain a copy of a map. Spend some time looking at it and discussing what each room is for and which ones your students are likely to use. An idea for an activity during the summer term might be to build a model of the school from cardboard, or to use chalk to draw a map out on the playground, but bigger so that you can have a “virtual tour” of the new environment and start to get used to where things are. This could easily be turned into a game by asking your child to show you where to get an apple (the canteen) or where you can find books (the library) etc. A prize/reward for each question answered correctly would help to start building confidence in using the new environment.
3 – Practice getting ready
This tip is more useful for parents or residential settings. You could practice doing some “dry runs” of the new routine in the morning to prepare for the term ahead. This can help reduce anxiety related to how you will fit in breakfast, packing the school bag and getting dressed and ready for school. On the first try, allow as much time as needed, and then on subsequent attempts, turn it into a game by running a timer and seeing how close you and your child can get to being ready “on time”. Rewarding each faster run with a small prize, leading to an ultimate “treat” such as a day trip or time doing something desirable when you are ready on time (or independently), can mean that by the time September comes around, the morning routine is a breeze for everyone.
4 – Keep in touch with friends
If there are friends going through the same transition, it can be useful to encourage parents to keep in touch with them during the summer holidays and talk about what September has in store. Arranging to go into school with these friends on the first day, or to meet up with them during the day can help bring some familiarity to a day which will be full of new (and potentially stressful) situations.
5 – Know the rules
If your class is moving to a new school, see if you can obtain a copy of the rules ahead of time so that your students can start to get used to them. Understanding expectations can really help to minimise the stress of potentially “getting in trouble for doing something wrong” for many young people. This could be turned into a game by putting scenarios on flash cards and asking your class to tell you if they are against the rules or not. You can use your imagination and make some of these silly and fun ideas in order to keep the game engaging.
6 – Take photos
Some schools will allow you to take photos of the new classroom or key sites around the grounds. By showing these pictures to students, they can see them every day and start to recognise parts of their new setting. In this way, when they arrive in September, they will be reassured when they see things they recognise in their new surroundings. You can also use the photos as a game, giving quiz questions in much the same way as you might when using your map (see above). This tip is also useful if you are unable to organise a visit to the school – perhaps they can send photos to you to use for transition preparation instead..?
7 – Practice the journey
This is another useful tip to suggest to parents. Depending on where they live and how they travel, practicing the journey to a new school might be worth doing – especially if there is an expectation for the student to be able to do it independently at some point. Remember that doing this in the school holidays might sometimes give a false impression of what the trip might be like though – as trains and buses will get much busier once term goes back!
8 – Join a club or do a new activity
Joining groups or clubs is a useful recommendation as it can help children to get used to meeting new people. This could prove to be of value to all children, but particularly those with autism or special needs where meeting new teachers or support staff is more likely to prove to be challenging.
9 – Make sure new staff understand SEND needs
Effective transition planning isn’t just about making sure that pupils are ready for the new term – staff need to be prepared too! So if you have not already had a meeting with your student’s new teacher or support workers then it’s time to make sure that they have copies of EHP paperwork and understand how best to work with them. Although this is number nine on the list, do not underestimate the importance of this step!
10 – Use the holidays to de-stress
Having given the ideas listed above, it’s important to keep it all in perspective. Although planning for the new term is important, taking time out during the holidays to de-stress is also crucial. Encourage students and parents to take time to do activities that will help them to relax and they are more likely to start the new term in a less stressed state. Find a balance between preparation activities and relaxing and with any luck September will be a breeze
Are you looking for SEND staff or work?
If you're looking for a SEND teaching or support job in England or Wales, why not register with Axcis, the SEND recruitment specialists? Or perhaps you need to recruit staff for your school or provision? If so, why not take a look at the Axcis Website, or get in touch today to find out how we can help?