As part of my previous job as Practice Nurse I looked at school readiness and assessed lovely 4 year olds for just that. So what does a school ready child look like? What are the important skills that you, the parent, can help them practice to ensure a smooth transition?
- Are they speaking clearly and in sentences? It is important that the teacher and the other students can understand them.
- Any speech issues may need referral to a speech therapist, especially a stammer. Children often have issues with consonants and this can be entirely normal. It is usually the hard consonants that come ‘late’ such as B, D F, G, K and Y. These are usually mastered by age 4. By age 6 the letters T, L and R are usually mastered with more complex sounds and blends not until age 8.
- It is important to check they are hearing correctly. Whilst children may have passed their newborn screening test other hearing problems can develop that affect hearing such as glue ear and this in turn affects speech. Check with your GP if this is a concern and ask for a referral to an audiologist.
- Eyesight problems need to be screened for. Your practice nurse or school nurse can do a simple sight test. We are looking for things such as squints, as well as short and long sightedness. For more complex issues see an orthoptist (your local clinic probably has one) or you can visit an optometrist for assessment.
- Confidence and social skills are really important. We can help by letting the child attend playgroups, childcare and kindy or pre-school. It is important that your child has exposure to other children and adults before starting school. Try and make sure they have two to three days a week in another environment other than home before starting school. This ensures a smooth transition and creates school readiness. Independence in your child is a positive thing you have created as a parent. They still need you and love you but they are able to form other friendships and relationships. The attachment bonds you created as a baby are always there and a healthy attachment allows for short periods of separation.
- By attending some type of pre-school it teaches the child about play with others, turn taking and sharing. It helps them understand and follow some rules and take direction.
- It also encourages social cohesion and reduces bullying. It helps them express emotions and form friendships.
- Can they concentrate and complete a task? Attention span is vital for school. They need to sit still for long periods of time.