A boy in school uniform is walking though a corridor smiling.

The disruption to routine, moving to children learning from home, and changes overall from COVID-19 have been a rough ride for most. For some parents, educators, and carers, the next hurdle is navigating the return to the school space.


The reality is, schooling and the school environment will be different from the schools we knew before the pandemic. Anxiety around the return, behavioural challenges and disruption affecting students with disability are managed better with considered planning and transition strategies. Schools across the country have different expectations and different rules. Some parents are feeling a disconnect from schools after not being able to attend "First Days" for their children. Some unsure of expectations at new schools. Parents of children who have returned from overseas and foreign schooling systems may be feeling uncomfortable with how their children will navigate the Australian school landscape.

To make it easier, we highlight some ideas to help navigate the change. And the conversations and questions to have with your child's school as they do return.

Good Inclusive Practices

An essential step is collaborative planning for the change to support students and families like a mini transition to school program. Schools and stakeholders can work together to do this through the following:

  • Using a single method of delivery and feedback point rather than multiple channels for return of schoolwork and for questions for students who remain at home or are transitioning days

  • Use of Social Stories, or Pictoral Resources to explain what is happening and schedules, new rules

  • Videos to show changes in spaces, numbers of students, the environment, new teachers and staff, change to drop off routine or place

  • Where digital or online options are not available, schools should use non-digital offline strategies to support student learning. (Printed calendars or schedules, directions for work and projects, sample assessments, material from textbooks or other resources, communicating by

  • To use communication tools, including the school website, newsletters, emails and other online tools as needed, to share changes, processes, assistances, consistently across all channels so students, carers and families are informed and up-to-date.



Plan the return together with the support of the school to determine areas requiring thought.

  • Borrowing library books or resources from school to support learning while the child is at home if they are learning from home for a time

  • Individual Learning Plans (ILP) or Individual Education Plans (IEP) may require adjustments to reflect changes, therapies or interventions that may be new. Review this plan with your child's educator

  • If you are using NDIS budget for support workers in the assistance of education, involve them in the plan of returning to school

  • Have conversations with your child's Teacher, Learning and Support Teacher/ Team (LAST), or School Learning Support Officer, and School Counselling Services about how your child worked from home, such as

    What worked well
    Struggles and difficulties
    Therapy notes or interventions
    Other concerns for the return – you might discuss expectations on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and hand sanitiser 
  • Sharing work or social interactions through platforms like Class Dojo to write a journal, video, photograph activities helps students feel connected with those who must still stay home - Ask your school which platforms are being used by the school and the teacher.

  • Having ongoing and regular conversations with teachers allows parents, carers and families more significant input about learning and supports.

If your child's NDIS plan requires changes

  • Talk with your Support Co-ordinator, Local Area Co-ordinator or Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) Co-ordinator to make adjustments to the plan.

  • Or Contact the NDIS on 1800 800 110 and select menu option 5 for the special COVID-19 Planners. 

Schools will still be required to ensure students with disability receive reasonable adjustments following the Disability Standards for Education 2005. If you believe the school is not providing learning resources, (or actions to assist learning), differentiated for participation on the same basis as their fellow students, have this conversation with the school directly – see our blog for tips on where to direct questions. If you would like more information on the United Nations Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCPRD) to education, see Article 24 of the Convention.

Further reading

School from home - making it work for kids with disability shares tips to make learning at home succeed during COVID-19 and who to contact if your child is struggling.
Queensland University of Technology Inclusive Teaching Practices for Learning at home has checkpoint about inclusive teaching strategies for delivery of education during COVID-19
Prime News Border News story on parental around students with disability and returning to school
How to Create Successful Social Scripts to Help Students with Autism includes Social Stories on Coronavirus and Video on How to help children during Coronavirus.
#disability Twitter thread discussing inclusive practice and transitioning for kids with disability

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