Students who have Special Educational Needs (SEN) can struggle with a variety of tasks each day at Secondary School. As teachers and parents, we want to make their transition to Secondary School as smooth as possible. This feature article gives some tips on how you can help your child navigate their day-to-day engagements more seamlessly. It also contains some useful advice and informative recommendations for Parents of Students with SEN that are already attending Secondary School (2nd Years upwards).
The ‘Home’ Support
- Photocopy their timetable, have copies in their locker, on the fridge, in their journal and for their pocket.
- Photocopy their bus ticket. Have a spare ticket in their school bag, at home and in their school locker in case it is misplaced.
- Get colour coordinated folders. Give each subject a colour. For example, all English related work and notes goes into a green folder. Put a green sticker on the English textbook and English copies and colour code ‘English’ green on their timetable. If you have a map of the school, then the room where English class takes place should be shaded green also. Everything ‘English’ is green and so on.
- If using a locker key, make multiple copies and get a springy key chain so that they can attach it to a loop on their pants or skirt. Alternatively, use a combination lock and get them to memorise the code between now and the start of school. Mark with nail varnish or spray paint to make it brighter and easier for them to see their property from a distance.
- Have a stash of spare copies and stationery material in a cupboard. Let them know where it is, so that they can draw on it as things go missing or get filled up.
- Have a morning checklist on the fridge for: books, lunch, key, jacket, PE gear etc.
- If possible, arrange for them to tour the school before day one. It is also a good idea to do a trial run of their trip to school with them, to get an idea of the route and timing. This will avoid any travel trauma’s during week one.
The ‘School’ Support
- If possible, arrange that they meet as many of their subject teachers and year head prior to starting back or as soon as is possible. This gives them certainty about who will be working with and helping them this year.
- Look into having a safe and reliable person that they can approach for help and advice in school on a daily basis.
- If they have an SNA, make sure that person also has a copy of their colour coordinated timetable, a spare key/combination code and bus-ticket.
- Make it your business to get to know your child’s Assistant Principals and Class Tutor as soon as the year commences.
- Have a notebook that they can write in during the day in case they find something challenging. Both of you can reflect on it together when a suitable time during the week arises to see what challenges might need to be overcome.
- For the first hour each evening, allow them to breathe and relax when they get home. Do not expect them to talk immediately after school. It is advisable to allow them some quiet wind-down time first.
- Advise them to choose a Locker at eye level. This is so important, as all their classmates and other classes may be scheduled to go to their lockers together, leading to mayhem at times. Having to reach down with people blocking their path can be especially challenging for someone with social or communication difficulties. This is definitely one practical suggestion that will ensure they are on time for each class and that they bring the correct materials to each class also.
- Encourage them to link up with a buddy or designated person in each subject class, so they can text them to find out what homework they have, should the need arise.
- If they are using a laptop, most Secondary School books now come with a code written inside to allow the eBook version of it to be uploaded digitally. This means they can leave more books at school each day, lightening their load.
- Getting to know the school secretary, for both you and your child is definitely worthwhile, as they will have an awareness of who they are and their challenges etc. Any extra support or eyes around the Secondary School environment can help greatly for those who struggle in various practical ways.
To view last week’s feature article on ‘Transitioning to 1st Year from Primary’, click here.
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