Getting ready for school for children with disabilities and delays

Transition to school is a major milestone for all children and families. When a child has a disability or developmental delay, there is a need for additional planning and support. For families the step to school usually involves navigating new systems, jargon and relationships to make decisions which impact on the child with a disability and whole family. Understandably, families report feeling anxious, worried and daunted about their child with a disability starting school.

“School readiness skills” for children are no longer the main emphasis of successful, smooth transition to school programs. Instead, the notion of a community-wide approach to school for all children has become widely accepted as best practice. This is also known as the “school readiness equation”- “ready families, plus ready services, plus ready schools, plus ready communities equals children who are ready for school”. Early childhood education and care (ECEC) professionals play a crucial role in this equation.

“ECECs need to explain to families how they (ECECs) might be able to assist and be involved in Transition to School for example as an advocate with an education background in meetings who can share what works for the child now and might work at school.”

Child Care Centre Director

Parents often report that early childhood education and care services help them to have the confidence that their child will be able to learn at school. Parents have expressed feeling supported by their mainstream early childhood education and care service and that this was a key factor in helping their child to learn skills which would increase their independence at school. Parents say that they value the practical, emotional support provided by ECEC staff.

“Because we had such a good supportive experience with the regular preschool this helped me to feel ready for my daughter to go to school.”

Janine, mother of Molly

Equation infographic

Finding a balance between “being” and “becoming”

In recent years there has been a strong emphasis in early childhood around mindfulness and being in the moment, and not over-focussing the next stage. For children with additional needs in particular, we do need to ensure we don’t lose sight of opportunities in our practice to support children with “becoming”. Developing social and emotional skills, and promoting independence with self-help skills are among the most important areas identified by teachers in schools and there are many natural and inclusive opportunities for ECECs to foster these.

Early Childhood Intervention Australia (NSW/ACT) has developed Transition to School Resource website with specific practical information for all involved in the transition.

The Transition to School Resource includes:

  • practical strategies,
  • planning checklists,
  • information on working with families and schools,
  • information about activities which can help prepare children for school
  • guides to sharing information about a child’s learning strengths and needs
  • links to the EYLF and Quality Standards, and templates
  • A “My New School” story template

For specific information to enhance your practice around transition to school for children with additional needs go to:

Please share the resource with families in your service”

Together we can promote amore seamless community-wide approach to transition to school for all children.

For more information about early childhood intervention see

Emma Pierce

Emma Pierce is currently Inclusion Coordinator with Early childhood Intervention Australia (ECIA) (NSW/ACT). Emma trained as a Special Education Teacher and has worked with children with disabilities and their families for the last 19 years in the UK and NSW, primarily in the area of early childhood intervention. Emma developed ECIA NSW/ACT’s Working Together Agreement in consultation with a range of stakeholders and was the main author of ECIA NSW/ACT’s Transition to School Resource (2014). She has developed and facilitated numerous training programs for parents, carers and professionals. Emma has also co-authored a number of other practical resources for professionals and families. Emma is a sessional academic at Western Sydney University and was previously the Manager of Early Intervention at Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect).

4 thoughts on “Getting ready for school for children with disabilities and delays”

    Your blog is good and post informations is very useful.

    Emma Pierce says:

    I’m glad to hear this article was helpful. Thanks for the feedback! For any NSW based ECECs, you may be interested in a half day practical workshop I am delivering in Sydney “Transition to School for ECECs and ECIs” on 23rd July, UTS, Ultimo. For more info see here

    Magda Jansen says:

    Hi Emma,
    great to come across your article. It’s very useful for NSW Family Day Care and In-Home Care as well.

    Emma Pierce says:

    Great to hear you feel it would be helpful to Family day carers too, Magda! It would be great if you can share the website link amongst your colleagues if possible. Many thanks. Emma

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