Transitioning from preschool to kindergarten for a student receiving exceptional education services within an early childhood special education (ECSE) classroom can be exciting, yet overwhelming for both parents and their rising kindergartner. As early childhood special educators, we are charged with the unique responsibility of supporting the transitioning student and their family and the receiving kindergarten teacher. Thus, transition becomes a multidimensional process that requires an understanding of relationships and processes across agencies, staff, families, and children in a specific community context (Rous & Hallam, 2006). Often, kindergarten transition focuses on students without disabilities. Kagan (1992) notes that transitions can be either vertical or horizontal in nature. Horizontal transitions involve movement or change in services within a common timeframe. For example, Michael leaves home for Head Start in the morning and attends childcare in the afternoon. Vertical transitions involve movement or change across time: Michael will move from an early childhood special education classroom to a school age program at age five. Transitions are unique experiences for all young children and families. Research has demonstrated that children and families confront challenges often during times of transition between early childhood programs and advancing to kindergarten (Rous & Hallam, 2006).
For young children, with and without disabilities, positive outcomes have been linked to smooth and effective transitions between early intervention programs, preschool programs, and public school programs (Ahtola et al., 2011). The book Tools for Transition in Early Childhood: A Step-by-Step Guide for Agencies, Teachers, and Families offers a blueprint for all stakeholders across programs, school divisions, and families to develop a successful transition plan. The authors connect research-based practices and strategies through a systematic approach that can be implemented across all sectors serving a role within the transition process. The first two chapters are designed to lay the foundational context for the community approach to transition via a research-based lens. Chapters three, four, and five provide information about establishing a transition team, defining its structural components and decision-making process. Chapter six addresses barriers affecting the current transition process within a program. Chapters seven and eight provide literature that support administrative and staff practices while addressing the importance of family involvement in the transition process. Chapters nine and ten explore ways that agencies can support transition by developing policies, procedures, and interagency agreements while outlining ways to determine priority areas for action planning. Finally, chapter eleven provides suggestions for an evaluation process that supports continuous improvement. To support the learning process and relevance of the material to the reader, two case studies are used throughout the text that are representative of two different community perspectives. The authors have included a variety of sample forms and tools to guide team discussions.
Additional resources that support the transition process from early childhood special education to school-age kindergarten programs are listed below. The book featured in the article is available for checkout through TTAC’s library system.
Helping Children with Special Needs Transition to Kindergarten
Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA): Transition from Preschool Services to Kindergarten
The Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center (PEATC): Transition from Early Childhood Special Education to Kindergarten
PACER Center: How to Prepare Your Child with Disabilities for Kindergarten: Tips for Parents
Making the Move from Preschool to Kindergarten: A guide for parents of 4- and 5-year-old children who receive Preschool Special Education Services
Ahtola, A., Silinskas, G., Poikonen, P.L., Kontoniemi, M., Niemi, P., & Nurmi, J.E. (2011). Transition to formal schooling: Do transition practices matter for academic performance? Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 26(3), 295–302. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2010.12.002
Kagan, S. L. (1992). The strategic importance of linkages and the transition between early childhood programs in early elementary school. In Sticking together: Strengthening linkages and the transition between early childhood education and elementary school (Summary of a National Policy Forum). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.
Rous, & Hallam, R. A. (2006). Tools for transition in early childhood: A step-by-step guide for agencies, teachers, & families. Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company.
For more information, contact Andrienne Quarles-Smith (email@example.com), Program Specialist, T/TAC at VCU.