Posted: 6th April 2019
The transition from primary school to secondary school is a big step in your child’s education. Moving from being a big fish in a little pond to a little fish in a big pond can be exciting, but it can also be daunting, especially if you child has a specific learning difficulty like dyslexia.
So, if you are feeling a little wobbly and worried about the process yourself, what can you do as a parent to support your child as they transition from Primary to Secondary school?
You can play a pivotal role in preparing your child for the transition by providing them with practical and emotional support, and you can work with school to help them understand your child’s specific needs paving the way for a smooth transition (we will look at working with school in the next blog).
It’s important to involve your child in the process at all stages so that they will feel heard, understood and valued.
A good place to start is talking to your child. Ask them what they think the sticky points and challenges may be. What are they most worried about?
Some of their concerns may seem a little silly to you, but remember your child is about to make a leap from their comfort zone and it can feel uncomfortable and scary. Your job is to provide practical and emotional support to help them feel that they can take the necessary steps to move forward and transition successfully.
Look at the challenges together and decide on the practical steps that can be put into place to help overcome the challenges. You will be able to implement some as a family, others may require support from the new school.
Here are some possible challenges with suggested solutions:
They are worried that they won’t keep up in class or that the work will be too hard?
Help your child appreciate the value of asking for help – it’s not a sign of weakness – encourage your child to ask for help. Together you could rehearse some statements, so they have something to say, should the need arise. They do not have to ask for help in front of their peers, they could speak to a teacher after the lesson, or maybe email them. Let your child know that if they do not feel confident early on, you can be their advocate and ask on their behalf.
They are scared that teachers won’t understand their dyslexia?
Help your child to understand their dyslexia and how it manifests, both strengths and weaknesses. If they understand it, it will be easier to explain it to the teacher.
Some pupils prefer not to share their diagnosis of dyslexia with their peers. It is completely fine for you as a parent to contact school, let them know about your child’s dyslexia and mention that your child is sensitive to the label and would rather it wasn’t discussed in front of their peers.
Arrange for your child to chat with other pupils already at high school with dyslexia. They can chat about how they feel about school, who helps them and pass on any tips/guidance (practical or mindset). Your child may find it easier to talk to a peer, than to you or a teacher, as they feel their generation can relate to them better.
Teachers at school may be able to facilitate this meeting if you do not know a current pupil with dyslexia yourself.
You can provide information for the teachers to help them understand your child’s strengths and weaknesses.
They are worried that they will get ‘left behind’ or worse still laughed at?
Encourage your child to take control of the situation, rather than presuming they won’t be able to cope/do things. Help them to acknowledge their strengths and how and where they will be able to excel at secondary school. Many pupils with dyslexia thrive when they move into key stage 3 as there is far more access to resources to help them display their strengths e.g. arts, music, sports, science equipment/resources/opportunities, extra-curricular clubs etc
‘Be prepared’ is a good motto here. Provide them with some ideas on what to do should they feel ‘left behind’ in lessons. Having coping strategies ready will help increase their confidence.
They are worried about making new friends?
Chat with your child about ways to strike up a conversation with a person they haven’t met before. Think about the types of questions they can ask, maybe try them out by having a mini role play session. Some pupils with dyslexia LOVE chatting and connecting and find this easy, others find it a little more challenging and some pointers will really help them.
Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. It can take time to change and adjust to a new situation. Each child is unique and will adapt at their own pace. There is no right or wrong time frame. Family support is invaluable as this time. You have a unique understanding of your child’s strengths, difficulties, how they manifest and how potential barriers to learning can be overcome.
If you would like help to create a transition plan for your child and /or create a Pupil Profile that you can share with the teachers that details your child’s strengths, potential barriers to learning and support strategies that teachers can use in class, please contact me. We can arrange a conversation to discuss how I can support you during the transition process.