Transitioning Children with Developmental Delay to School

Transitioning Children with Developmental Delay to School



Is your little one starting school in 2024? Starting school is a big step and with it comes a vast range of emotions from excitement to nerves and not just for your child!

For children with developmental delay and global developmental delay (GDD) the transition to school can be more challenging.

We share some tips to help make the transition to school a positive experience for children with developmental delay and global developmental delay.

During the enrolment process

  • Work collaboratively with your child’s new school to ensure that their support needs are going to be met.
  • Provide any recommendations from their allied health therapists or doctors which will help the school to understand your child’s needs and how to fully include them.

Preparing yourself and your child

  • Its normal to feel nervous or worried for your child. If your child senses this, they may become nervous too. It might help for you to connect with some other parents to help alleviate any concerns or to share your nerves together! Try to be excited and positive around your child when discussing their new school.
  • Visit the school together, drive/walk past the school, talk together about all the exciting and fun things that will happen when your child goes to school.
  • Try on uniforms and shoes – your child might need some practice with doing up buttons or shoes. You might need to use your problem-solving skills about how to make this easier for your child (for example elastic shoelaces or velcro under the buttons or stickers inside their shoes to let them know left from right).
  • In the weeks leading up to the first day of school, practice your morning routine so that it can be calm and fun. Some children like a visual checklist with pictures, while other just need you to tell them what will be happening a step at a time (eg, first we will have breakfast, then we will brush our teeth…)
  • Over the summer, have some picnics with your child using their school lunchbox and drink bottle. Get them to practice opening and closing their lunch box and make sure that you are decanting any packets which might be too hard for them to open alone. You can also talk about what foods to eat at different times (for example don’t eat all the food at morning tea!)
  • Read books about the first day of school to help them to know what to expect and to help them understand some expectations which they may not pick up easily (such as listening to the teacher’s instructions, sitting still and eating only at designated times).

Preparing the school to support your child

  • Create a resource for your child’s teachers and educators so that they know your child’s strengths and interests and can quickly reference the resource.
  • Share the things that will help your child thrive in the classroom environment. You might provide some examples with photos of your child doing things they love.
  • Explain your child’s capacities with gross motor, fine motor, and communication skills to give their teacher some examples of how your child can participate fully in the classroom.
  • If you have a supportive allied health therapist or Kindergarten teacher who you feel could assist your child’s new teacher with strategies for how to include them, you may request for them to connect.
  • You may need to set expectations about what inclusion should look for your child. Talk to your child’s teacher about how you would like your child to be included in experiences such as swimming carnivals and sports days if they experience physical delay, or how they can contribute to show and share if they experience delays in communication.
  • Make yourself available for the teacher to ask you questions, this might mean providing your email address, or phone number or simply staying back at pick up time and checking in with your teacher.

On the first day of school

  • Perhaps use a marker to draw a heart on the back of your child’s hand to remind them that you love them, draw a picture or a write little note and place it in their lunch box.
  • Make sure that your child is settled or with an educator when you leave. Always say goodbye and tell them when you will be back and where. For example, “I’m going to go now, I hope you have lots of fun, I will be waiting at the classroom door when school is over”.
  • Look after yourself! The first day of school can be an emotional experience for many parents. Try to stay positive while you say goodbye to your child, then take a few minutes for yourself and your feelings. You’ve got this!

We’re here to help

As Queensland’s peak body for children with developmental delay, we’re here to help. Simply email if you need support or information about resources for children with developmental delay.