A couple of weeks ago we asked parents on facebook if they would share their experience and top tips for children starting school for the first time. One parent very kindly offered to write her experience of her daughters first year in primary school and share her top 5 tips which we think you’ll agree are excellent. A big thank you from the Bright Futures team and we hope you enjoy reading too.
A child’s first day at primary school is such an exciting and proud time for many parents, but I can’t say I felt that way when my eldest daughter, Cerys, started. Although it would be another year until she was diagnosed with autism, it had been clear for a while that she wasn’t developing as expected. Amongst other issues, her language was fluent but garbled and she struggled with following instructions, both of which caused problems at nursery.
The school day is structured and predictable, which helped Cerys a lot, but she took a while to grasp all the rules. Once she was found roaming the corridors, and a few times forgot to go to the toilet. Noone made a big deal of this, and she soon got the hang of how things worked with gentle and consistent reminders.
Three years on, I won’t pretend it’s been plain sailing but Cerys loves school both for the learning and the friendships. My advice to parents approaching this now would be:
Do introduce changes in routine before school begins. For us, this meant going to her new childminder the week before, wearing her uniform around the house, and walking past the school.
Do go in with an open mind and be positive about school to your child. The school we ended up with was not our first choice, but we embraced it and didn’t let on we had concerns.
Do be specific with your school about what your child needs. I wrote down some common problems I expected and how to deal with them, for example: She may find it difficult to follow instructions. It helps if you can make eye contact first and break the instructions down.
Do maintain contact with the teacher however you can. I only did drop offs two days a week, so we introduced a communication book where we could write messages, such as ‘Cerys was upset when there was a loud banging noise outside’. The teaching assistant was also great at giving me updates, as she often worked with Cerys closely.
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. I was allowed to take pictures in the school, such as the visual calendar and playground, which helped to talk through with Cerys at home. Later, she took in ear defenders and a fidget toy.
And finally, don’t compare your child with others. The school was fantastic at this; treating each child as an individual and talking about their skills and potential. This helped me to not feel anxious about what she ‘should’ be doing.