Getting Ready for School

Starting school is an exciting time for children and their families. The transition from an Early Years setting, like a pre-school nursery, to full-time school can seem daunting when your child has hydrocephalus, so here’s some top tips to get ready to start school.

Top Tips


Read books about starting school to get your child ready for school.

  • Picture books, such as ‘Starting School’ by Janet and Allen Ahlberg and ‘Come to school too, Blue Kangaroo!’ by Emma Chichester Clark, are good starting points for talking about going to school.
  • Visit the school for fun events such as open days plays, fund-raising fetes and sports days.
  • Have play dates with friends, who are starting in the same reception class.
  • Practise the morning routine for school to find out how long the process will take and where the hot spots of the morning will be. Putting on a coat can be difficult for a child with hydrocephalus so find games, songs or even the upside-down coat flip trick to ease the learning process.
  • Practise the school run so your child experiences the journey and they are prepared for the route, sights and events along the way. Talk through the journey to reassure them about what to expect.
  • Wall charts with visual reminders help children with hydrocephalus prepare themselves for what to expect at school.

Positive Attitude

  • Be positive and relaxed about starting school so your child does not feel your anxiety.
  • Find photos of your family at school and talk about your happy memories of your school days.
  • Look at information about your chosen school online and talk about the pictures.
  • Avoid making negative comments about your own experience of school like “I was rubbish at school,” or “I didn’t like school.”


Help your child to become more independent by teaching self-help skills at home.

There are four main types of self-help skills:
  • Self-feeding to get used to using a spoon, fork and a knife
  • Independent dressing and grooming like brushing hair and cleaning teeth
  • Hygiene and toileting so your child can wash and dry their hands, use a tissue to blow their nose and to use a toilet with minimum support
  • Helping with daily chores like table setting and picking up toys.

How to start completing daily routines successfully

  • Get down to your child’s level
  • Be a good role model for the activity
  • Provide easy-to-follow steps or instructions
  • Offer simple choices between no more than two items
  • Give First/Then statements to reinforce the sequence, such as “First we roll up our sock. Then we put it over our foot, like this.”
  • Celebrate your child’s success with a smile and praise.

Hydrocephalus can affect a child’s mobility and some will struggle with dressing and undressing at first. Children can practise by playing little games with plastic hoopla rings where they put their arm or their leg through the hoop. This models the movement of putting their arm through a sleeve or their foot into a sock. Slowly a child will learn the skills of dressing and undressing even when they have difficulties with movement.

Rewards and Praise

By making use of your knowledge of what your child loves to do, you can reward your child with the activities they love in readiness for school.

  • Reward the effort your child makes rather than the achievement.
  • Praise all the small successes your child makes every day.
  • Some families use a reward system for their children to maintain good behaviour both in and outside the home. There are many examples of rewards systems available such as stickers, putting building blocks in a jar and counting them up at the end of the day or week, leading to a chosen reward.
  • Remember that the greatest reward you can give a small child is your time so find a small reward that you both enjoy, like reading a favourite story together, to have positive moments with each other throughout the week.

Listen Carefully

Sometimes a child’s behaviour can change when they start school so keep calm and maintain your tried and trusted routines and rewards to help your child settle in school.

  • Play listening games to encourage your child to follow instructions like ‘Simon says’ and ‘I spy’.
  • Listen to your child’s concerns about starting school and find positive ways around their worries.
  • Ensure that you have a school checklist of times, equipment, kit and clothes your child needs to keep the transition as seamless as possible.
  • Ask the school to listen to your explanation of the hidden effects of hydrocephalus. The school can invite Education Officers from Shine to talk to staff about classroom strategies too.
  • Allow time for your child to find their way around the school building if their hydrocephalus affects their short-term or working memory and ‘internal map’

Good Communication

If you and your child’s teachers and support staff have a unified approach and communicate well then your child will have a greater opportunity to thrive at school.

  • Build up good relationships with your child’s class teacher, teaching assistants, SENCo and head teacher.
  • Help the teaching team understand that you and your child’s specialists are experts and that they can turn to you for advice.
  • Remember that if you have concerns then it is best to talk about them early in the new term to prevent difficulties.

Need more help?

If you need to speak with one of Shine’s specialist advisers about spina bifida or hydrocephalus, call us on 01733 555988 or click here to email us.

Our office hours are Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. We aim to respond to all enquiries as quickly as possible!

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