Starting school with an Intellectual Disability

Transition is the movement from one set of circumstances to another. It requires the ability to adapt to the changed circumstances in the environment and to those in it. This can be an area of challenge for the young child with an Intellectual Disability(ID) as they may have varying degrees of difficulty processing and responding to circumstances at the same rate as their same age peers.


In thinking about your child’s transition to primary school there are a number of things to consider:

  • Planning is required to prepare your child
  • Transitions occur for your child throughout the day and from year to year in a school
  • Transition requires planning at key points in life, during school and post school pathways
  • Transition requires time and planning for change
  • How does my child respond to transitions, what works best
  • It requires a team approach, which people/professionals can assist with this

To assist your child’s move to primary school the following general points could be helpful to think about;

  • What are the potential transition issues from home to school and from school to home or after school activities
  • What level of organisation is required to support my child to manage during the day
  • How well does my child manage a change of plans that may occur during a school day and does he/she understand that change is okay

A conversation with school staff prior to the start of the year will be helpful. Ask that they assist you by providing the following;

  • A copy of the class timetable
  • An alert to any staffing changes
  • A map of the school layout identifying the assembly points, toilets, rooms and play spaces your child will access
  • Have a checklist of things to ask about

As a parent your role in the transition to primary school is vital. Providing the school with as much information about your child will be critical to your son/daughters success at school. Consider collating the following to share with the school and class teacher in support of your child’s successful transition;

Transitions will occur throughout the school day, when moving from one space within the classroom to another, one lesson to another, from inside to outside, outside to inside, to different rooms throughout the school and to working with different staff. All children will benefit from the initial support structures put in place. Work with school staff to understand the potential changes that could occur during the day and troubleshoot any potential challenges that may arise to pre-empt as best as possible to avoid these.

Your child will have many transition points throughout the coming years. Developing the support structures in this first year of transition from early intervention or kinder to school will help your child to adapt to the future transitions that will occur.

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