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A Koalaa Guide to Starting School (with a limb difference)

Eek! Your little one is starting primary school in September!

Don’t panic! Koalaa Limb Buddy and primary school teacher, Amy, has brought together a wealth of experience from parents and carers who’ve been there before.

Grown ups from the Koalaa and the LimbBo Communities have shared their top tips for making sure your little one’s school experience goes off without a hitch…

1. Talk to the teacher!

Arrange a meeting with your child’s new teacher to share as much information as you can about your child and to ask and answer questions you both might have.

Things to discuss:

  • What your child calls their limb difference and how they like to handle questions

  • What they can expect your child to be able to do

  • Things your child may need some extra support with

  • Classroom strategies such as alternatives to counting on fingers, using finger spaces, etc

  • Lunchtime needs - using cutlery, carrying trays etc

2. Spread the word!

Your child will be coming into contact with many different adults during their school day. Make a little information page about your child that can be shared with all current and future staff. Download our template here:

My School Profile
Download PDF • 389KB

3. Choose your uniform wisely!

If your little one struggles with buttons and zips, look for alternatives such as Velcro shoes, legging-style pull-up trousers and jumpers instead of cardigans. High Street shops such as ASDA and M&S also do ranges of superb adapted uniforms.

4. Embrace washables!

My daughter, Hero, clamps a pen to her chest with her baby hand and pulls

off the lid with the other: genius! Sadly for me though, classroom whiteboard pens are NOT washable and countless shirts and jumpers have been lost to the dreaded black mark!

Consider buying a set of washable markers (Crayola are my go-to!) for your child to use in class and spare yourself the pain of hours of fruitless stain removal and the disposal of ruined jumpers!

5. Put your back into it!

Many schools will send your child home with a book bag. If they’re staggering out of school each day struggling to carry everything, look for a backpack with a pocket for holding bottles and room for a lunchbox inside!

My daughter often comes out of school with her water bottle stashed in the hood of her coat - great idea that TA!

6. Go, go gadgets!

Does your child need help with using scissors, for example? You can buy easy-open spring scissors from most stationary shops. You can also contact charities, such as Reach, to see about borrowing an adapted scissor set for your child to try out.

Other helpful additions can include non-slip mats to hold paper still, lollipop sticks to replace finger spaces and a free Koalaa prosthetic (funded by Project Limitless!) to help out in PE.

7. Liaise about logistics

When you meet with your child’s new teacher, talk about practical things, such as accessibility to toilet roll (are they on a side your child can reach?) and lunchtime logistics such as using cutlery, etc.

This would also be a great time to get the school’s SENCO or ALNCO involved, or your child’s OT if they have one.

8. Life is a library!

If you have any wonderful books featuring limb-different characters (check them out here!) considering lending or donating them to the classroom library. They’ll help to normalise differences and be a tool the teacher can use to deal with any questions that might arise.

You can check out some awesome book ideas we’ve put together with the LimbBo Foundation here.

9. Introduce yourself & join the party

If your new school has a private social media or chat group, give yourself control of the narrative and make a post introducing yourself and your child. This can help to reduce any nerves you may have and also allow parents to better answer any questions their own children may have.

Also, try to go to any and all orientation sessions and socials. Making friends will go a long way to reducing first day jitters for your child (not to mention for you!)

“When Aurora started school nursery it was very daunting, you cannot help but worry. Aurora is our youngest, so we have been through the school process before but, because of her limb difference, it was a little bit different. I can say that we had absolutely no reason to worry, the school, the teachers and the whole community were brilliant, and Aurora has had no problems!” – Charmaine, mum to Aurora, 6

Did we miss anything out?

Comment below with your top tips for starting school with a limb difference!

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