Navigating the Transition from Preschool to Kindergarten

As parents, one of the most crucial milestones we encounter is preparing our children to transition from preschool to kindergarten. For families with children who are blind or low vision, this transition may come with additional needs and planning. Working with your educational team will help make the transition process smooth and less worrisome for you and your child.

Transitioning from preschool to kindergarten can be a momentous step. It is key to start preparing early to create a plan to support your child, you, and the team. It is important to gather information about the kindergarten program, its curriculum, and the resources available to support your child.

Gathering Information

When gathering information about the kindergarten program, you may find needed information from:

  • The School Website or Printed Materials: Visit your local school’s website. Many school districts provide detailed information about their curriculum, facilities, and support services. Information may include a district map, the school your child would attend, and if there are other kindergarten options for your child’s specific needs. 
  • Your State School for the Blind: Visit your state school for the blind’s website. Like your local school, you may question whether this option is appropriate for your child. You may find value in understanding the school’s offerings as they may have summer camps or other resources that would benefit your child if being a full-time student is not the most appropriate.
  • School Visits: Schedule visits to prospective kindergarten schools to get a firsthand experience of the environment. Observe the accessibility of classrooms, the playground or other community spaces and classes, and the overall atmosphere. Seek to meet the school’s principal or special education teacher to learn more about support staff such as the TVI or O&M who serves the students at that school. 
  • Parent Teacher Association (PTA) or Support Groups: The individual school or school district more than likely has a PTA group. You may find they have a Facebook group or meeting you can join. This group could provide valuable information and experience from parents who have been through the transition process.

The Transition Meeting

A transition meeting is an important part of the process. Parents, preschool teachers, special educators, the TVI, O&MS, and other service providers should attend this meeting. The meeting is designed to discuss the child’s needs, strengths, and goals and to develop an IEP specific to your child’s needs.  

Prepare for the meeting:

  • Advocacy and Rights: Familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations regarding educational rights, assessments, and accommodations specific to children who are blind or low vision. 
  • Understand the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) and the importance of including it in your child’s education.  The ECC includes:
  • Assistive Technology
  • Career Education
  • Compensatory and Academic Skills
  • Independent Living Skills
  • Orientation and Mobility
  • Recreation and Leisure
  • Self Determination
  • Sensory Efficiency
  • Social Interaction Skills

Be prepared to discuss the following topics:

  • Review the Current IEP: Review your child’s IEP with their current preschool teacher, TVI, and other service providers. Understand the goals, services, and accommodations currently in place, and assess how these can be adapted or updated for the kindergarten setting.
  • New Medical Information: Provide any new information about your child’s visual diagnosis or abilities from your eye care professional, low vision evaluation, Orientation and Mobility instructor, or assistive technology expert. This information can provide valuable insights into your child’s unique needs and suggested supports. 
  • Child’s Strengths and Interests: Be prepared to share what your child is doing well and what they enjoy engaging with. Understanding your child’s passions and challenges will support your team in developing an IEP that supports your child’s specific motivators and additional needs for the most challenging situations. 
  • Transition Assessments: Plan to address any areas you and the team are concerned about that have not been previously assessed. Areas for future assessment may include academic skills, social interactions, independent living skills, and other service provider content.
  • Goals: Agree on goals for the next IEP year. These goals should include academic skills, other services, and expanded core curriculum needs. 
  • Services and Accommodations: The team will agree on services and service time. Decide accommodations based on your child’s needs and the goals they are working towards. 
  • Discuss Special Areas: Plan how to support your child during special classes. It may be important to have a plan for physical education if adapted materials are needed to ensure access and inclusivity in the various games or activities.  
  • Communication and Continued Support: How will open communication with your child’s classroom teacher and other team members continue between annual meetings? Have a plan for sharing concerns, progress, and areas needing extra attention during the transition. 

Questions to consider discussing during the meeting:

  • How will the curriculum be adapted to accommodate my child’s specific needs? If my child is learning braille, what will the process be for the classroom teacher to provide the needed materials to be transcribed?
  • What assistive technologies or devices will be available to support my child’s access to learning?
  • How will the school promote social interaction and foster inclusivity among all the students?
  • Will there be training provided to the kindergarten teacher and staff to support my child’s specific needs (assistive technology, orientation, and mobility)?
  • Is there an opportunity for my child to orient to the new school? Can they walk the building, classroom, and other areas before school begins? It will help them be safe and comfortable in school.

Preparing for the First Day:

Whether your child will be transitioning from half-day preschool or from being at home to full-day kindergarten, it is a significant milestone for both of you. To ensure a smooth and successful transition, here are five things you can do to help prepare.

Gradually adjust your daily schedule: 

  • Help your child adapt to the longer school day by gradually adjusting their daily schedule. 
  • You might get up a little earlier to allow time to get ready before school. You may also consider making bedtime a little earlier.  
  • Allowing extra time to perform your regular activities (getting dressed, getting into the car, eating a meal) will continue to support independence while providing extra time if your child is tired or unwilling to complete tasks.
  • Adjusting your daily schedule will help them get used to the new routine without feeling overwhelmed on the first day.

Develop independence skills:

  • Encourage your child to practice independence skills such as dressing, using the bathroom independently, and opening lunch containers.
  • Full-day class often involves more self-reliance; developing these skills beforehand will boost your child’s confidence in managing their daily tasks.

Visit the class or meet the teacher: 

  • Your school may have a Meet the Teacher event, depending on the time of year. If not, consider asking for time for your child to meet the teacher and visit the class or building before starting. 
  • Familiarize them with the classroom, playground, and other rooms they will encounter.

Foster Social Skills: 

  • Encourage social interactions and playdates with other children who may attend the same school or even the same class.  
  • Building friendships before school starts can help your child feel more comfortable and excited about the new experience.

Read books about kindergarten: 

  • Introduce your child to books that discuss the kindergarten experience. Several series have topics of new buildings, kindergartens, teachers, and even other staff members.
  • Reading stories about starting school can help limit fears and generate excitement about the adventures that await them.

Preparing for this transition will take time and effort to help your child feel confident and excited about their new school and educational journey. Remember, more than anything, your child will need emotional support and celebrations for their significant and small achievements through this transition process.