School Readiness - What can you do as a parent to help? | Possums for Mothers and Babies

School Readiness - What can you do as a parent to help?

Dr Andrea McGlade - General and Developmental Paediatrician

It's that time of year – the holidays between finishing kinder and starting Prep.  Some kids will be looking forward to starting school and others don't want to even try on their new school uniform.  So how do parents know whether their child is ready for school?

It can be a difficult question as all children develop their skills at different times.  From my experience (and this is my opinion only) the children that struggle the most in making the transition are those children that have the combination of three particular risk factors:

  • sensory issues - sensitivity to noise, tastes and smells, tactile (like hair brushing or washing)
  • poor motor coordination (reluctance to do fine motor tasks, following multi-step instructions and have difficulty with some of their self-help skills like dressing and using cutlery) 
  • are not particularly prosocial. 

There may be some behavioural difficulties like emotional outbursts, separation anxiety, difficulty with transitions, movement seeking and poor sustained attention.  And often – but not always - they are boys.  The more risk factors present from the above list raises my index of suspicion.  Interestingly, it isn't children with language disorders who seem to be the most vulnerable, although these can impact in the classroom and with literacy skills.  Children who are young for the year level are also more vulnerable generally. 

So if parents are concerned, what can they do?

The good news is there's lots of things that parents can do.  Firstly, speak with your child's prospective school about your concerns; they can help your child with any early bumps in the road to school.  Secondly, you can enrol your child in one of the many occupational therapy based programs for school readiness over the holidays; the supervising OT may be able to help provide guidance as to whether your child should go on to a formal assessment, with a view to more ongoing or intensive support.  Finally, you can see someone like myself, who can talk through your particular concerns and can either provide reassurance or help work out a plan to support your child.

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