Your child has been learning since birth, from you and everyone in their family and community. Playgroups and kindergarten are great first stepping stones into their formal education.
Playing and learning
It might look like all children do at kindergarten or playgroups is play. But playing is how young children learn. And these spaces offer lots of different activities that can teach your child how to learn. This helps a lot, when they go to school.
Going to playgroups and kindergarten also helps your child learn to mix in with lots of different children, and feel confident in a new environment. This will also help them settle at school, especially if they start school with kindergarten friends.
Sharing knowledge to help your child learn at kindergarten
Your child’s kindergarten teacher will get to know your child, and work out what helps them to learn well. You can help, by sharing your knowledge of what will help your child settle and enjoy kindergarten. The teacher should also share their knowledge with you. They can suggest things to do with your child at home, to help them learn better.
- Families can often get help to cover the cost of kindergarten – contact the Koorie education Unit in the education department to find out more.
Playgroups can help your child and you
If your child has special needs, you might also be able to take them to a supported playgroup. These can be a really good way to make friends, for you and your child. Also, parents and carers whose children have similar needs often share information about which services were helpful to them. To find out about local playgroups, ask your Aboriginal health service, your child’s GP or therapist, VACCA, Carers Victoria, or ring a disability service.
- Find contacts for many services in Through the Maze, our guide to the disability system.
Picking up your child’s special needs
Your child might already have a diagnosis when they start kindergarten or playgroup. If they do, make sure to tell the kindergarten or playgroup leader. That helps them to support your child better. Some children with special needs can also get extra help at kindergarten – ask the teacher or kindergarten coordinator.
Some children’s special needs are picked up by their kindergarten. Finding out about your child’s special needs and getting them help early can make a big difference. That’s how it was for Aunty Faye’s daughter.
“[The kindergarten] pointed out that my daughter needed grommets in her ears, because she wasn’t speaking well. Unless you’re switched on, or know someone who knows about this certain learning disability, or hearing, you don’t know where to go. You don’t know what to do. As soon as the grommets went in, she was so excited. She went right through school, she went on to university, got a Diploma of Koorie education.” – Aunty Gayle
Also, some children can get more help if they are diagnosed when they are little. Different therapists can help them with things like their talking, their learning, their behaviour and how they play with other children. There are many programs that can give your child help from the get go, before they start school.
- Read about how other families used information from their child’s diagnosis to help their child and family.
Help with the next big stepping stone: starting school
Near the end of four-year-old kindergarten, the teacher will write up information about your child into a ‘Transition report’. The report includes a section for parents and carers to fill in, including a section on special needs. The kindergarten will give you a copy of the final transition report, and send a copy to the primary school you have chosen for your child.
This report gives the school a good idea of where your child is at. It tells them what your child is good at, gives them tips for helping your child feel comfortable and learn, and tells them what help your child needs. For children with high needs, this could include extra help.
The report can help the school choose a class for your child, such as with kindergarten friends, or with their older cousins, if there are composite classes. Or they might get placed with a teacher who has lots of experience working with children with special needs.
The more information that school has about your child’s special needs, the better they can help your child from the start. If your child is already seeing a therapist or other professional, ask that person to send the school information about your child, before school starts. The school might want to meet with you before school starts, to plan the kind of help they will give your child at school.