Preschoolers with Disabilities

Preschool Children wIith Disabilities Need Planning for Successful Transition

Preschool Transition and Disabilities
Special Education Transition. Getty Images

When Your child with a disability enters preschool, it is an exciting time that can also be stressful. Transition is especially important for children with disabilities as they enter preschool. If your child has developmental delays planning is critical. Preparation can help ensure your child gets the disability related services she needs to support her educational development. During your child's transition, you and your child can experience a range of emotions.

It is a time of significant change for everyone in the household that can cause family members to feel:

  • Stress and uncertainty about the future and fearful of change;
  • Excited and hopeful about new learning experiences and meeting new friends;
  • Concerned about your child's readiness or her disability;
  • Anxious about the new adults and children in your child's life; and
  • Optimistic about future learning.
These feelings are normal and to be expected.

Dealing with Feelings, Stress, and Behaviors in Preschool Transition

Not all parents and disabled children feel stress and anxiety with preschool transition. In most cases, however, stress is normal. You can take steps to address anxiety when it occurs:
  • Make a list of items that concern you, and develop questions to ask your preschool's administrator.
  • Discuss your questions and concerns with your child's teacher. If you are not comfortable with the school's rules, routines, or staff, consider the need to choose a different program that is more appropriate for your child's special needs.
  • Check if there are complaints or positives about the programs you are considering. Your state's department of education will have information on public preschool programs and can direct you to the agency overseeing private programs.
  • If you or your child feel stressed about transition, consider creating your own stress management plan.
  • Any separation anxiety your child feels can worsen if he senses you are also anxious. Researching your program can help both of your feel better about your child's transition into preschool.
  • Some children may experience regression to an earlier developmental stage. This is part of separation anxiety. This is usually temporary and will go away as your child adjusts to his new routines. Having consistent rules and routines at home and preschool can help your child adjust.
  • If your preschool child experiences serious adjustment problems talk with her pediatrician and to her preschool teacher. Together, you can develop strategies that are right for your child to help the problem.

Learn About Preschool Programs - Know What to Expect in the Preschool or Early Childhood Program

Whether your child is moving from home, private childcare, or daycare setting into preschool, there will be some changes. Understanding those differences will help you prepare your preschooler for a more successful transition.

  • Research your preschool options before you need them.
  • Be able to explain your disabled child's abilities and needs to his new teacher.
  • Most school districts provide free preschool screenings using tests such as the Battelle Developmental Inventory, the Learning Accomplishment Profile - Diagnostic, and adaptive behavior scales to assess children's developmental abilities and to determine if Developmental Delays are a concern.
  • Developmental delays or not, screening results can provide important information to identify your child's developmental needs in preschool.
  • Ask about parent involvement opportunities at the preschool. Can you assist in your child's class on special occasions? Are there parent events where you can come to the preschool and get to know other parents?
  • Regardless of your background, teachers can usually find tasks for you during volunteer time. Chaperoning field trips, preparing posters, handouts, and newsletters, assisting with repair and maintenance, reading to children or presenting to them about your work or a hobby, assisting as a classroom aide, and managing fund raisers, are just a few of the activities that may be available for volunteers.
  • Preschool is your first opportunity to establish your involvement in your child's education. Children with involved parents consistently fare better throughout their school years than those whose parents are not involved. Your involvement is perhaps the most important strategy in managing a successful transition and the starting point for future educational success throughout the many changes to come.
If your preschool child has been diagnosed with a developmental delays or other disability, he may already have a formalized service plan through early intervention programs. If so, your early intervention agency should schedule a transition meeting within a year of your child's transition to preschool. If not, ask them to do so. At this meeting, a representative from the local public preschool program should be invited. The district representative can share information with you concerning the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act - Part B, which sets requirements to services for children ages 3-21. This meeting can help you understand important differences between early intervention and public school programs. It will also offer school personnel the opportunity to get to know your child's special needs and prepare in advance for her arrival in preschool.

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