Starting school is an exciting and monumental time in a child’s life! As loving caregivers, we all want to be sure our children enjoy the early experiences of education. While all kids develop at different rates and all have the right to be accepted as they are, there are some key skills that can help children get the most out of the early school experience. In this article, we will review the key social, emotional, intellectual and verbal skills that youngsters will need as they enter the classroom. For cases in which parents feel their child needs some extra support, we will look at how speech-language therapy can get kids ready for school and set for for success.
Skills Your Child Needs for School
Parents may already be aware of the academic skills that are useful in early school – such as the child being able to count, recognise letters, write his or her own name and use equipment like scissors or pencils. What is less obvious but possibly even more important are the “soft skills” children need. These are a range of interpersonal skills that, if a child has grasped them by school age, will make his or her transition into the classroom much easier. These abilities include:
Is Your Child Ready for School?
In New Zealand, Plunket screens four-year-olds to ensure they are ready for school. You can find parent-friendly information about Plunket’s “B4 School Check” and its recommended benchmarks on this website: www.kiwifamilies.co.nz.
In making your own evaluation of your child’s preparedness for class, you may wish to consider a few of the following questions as well. Can your child:
How a Speech-Language Therapist can Help
It almost goes without saying that a Speech-Language Therapist (SLT) will help kids improve their communication and social skills. Less obvious, however, is the breadth and depth of issues that SLTs cover in supporting these areas! In this section, we will investigate the main aspects that an SLT will assess and – if necessary – treat, when preparing a child’s social and communication skills for school.
When looking at your child’s communication skills, a SLT will ensure he or she can initiate and sustain conversations with adults and other children, speaking clearly, audibly and with appropriate eye contact. The SLT will ensure children have the language skills to describe recent experiences, and to ask inferential questions such as “why?” and “what’s next?” Speech therapy can actually help kids with a quite range of language-related skills, including the abilities to:
Regarding the social skills required for kids to be ready for school, SLTs will ensure that they are able to understand and comply with cultural norms, such as making eye contact and facing a person when they are talking. Speech therapy will also arm children with strategies to manage frustration, avoid tantrums and to wait patiently for several minutes for adult attention. Again, a SLT will support a very broad range of skills, including but not limited to the abilities to:
To summarise, children will experience a smooth transition into primary school if they have certain social, verbal and intellectual abilities. You can gauge your child’s school-readiness with Plunket’s B4 School checklist, and if any concerns arise, a Speech-Language Therapist is one of the key professionals to consider contacting.