Getting around School

Once at school there are lots of things to think about to help your child or young person join in with all aspects of school. This includes joining in in the playground, standing in line, joining in at lunchtime and moving around secondary school.

Click on the sections below for quick access to each area or scroll down the page to see all the content.

Participating in the Playground

Before your child starts school, if you have any concerns about how they will participate in the school environment your child may need the help of an Occupational Therapist who will look at your individual child’s needs in terms of participating in the whole school day.

Many primary schools use a buddy bench/stop system so that your child knows where to go for help or find a friend to play with.

Please see below suggestions for your child if they have physical, visual or sensory difficulties.


My child has physical difficulties, what can be done to help?

  • A safe route to the playground should be identified prior to your child starting school, this should be level i.e. a ramp or a stairway with rails depending on your child’s needs.
  • Give your child a snack which they can easily carry and open.
  • Consider fastenings on coats and shoes so that your child can be as independent as possible.
  • It may be helpful to identify somewhere that your child can sit and rest if they become tired.
  • If your child has difficulty taking part in the games available through school an OT may be able to suggest suitable alternatives to the school which everyone can use.

My child has visual difficulties, what can I do to help?

  • Visiting the school prior to your child starting will help them to find their way around and recognise hazards.
  • Highlighting hazardous areas such as the edge of steps with yellow tape.
  • Ensuring obstacles such as bins, benches, planters etc are always positioned in the same location.

My child has sensory issues, what can I do to help?

  • Some children find ear defenders or earphones helpful in very busy noisy places.
  • If your child is sensitive to unexpected touch, speak to the school about them standing at the beginning or end of the line when going back into class.
  • Identifying a quiet area in the playground where you child can have some quiet time may be useful.

How to Stand in a Line

Strategies to support children to stand in a line:

  • Visual Cues (e.g. tape on the floor, squares or circle mats) - This will provide children with a visual boundary to assist them in identifying personal space as well as developing self-organisational skills.

  • Holding Hands - Children can line up in pairs.  Some children may find this difficult due to a variety of reasons such as sensory difficulties, hyperactivity or simply behaviour.
  • Follow the Leader.
  • Holding a Skipping Rope - This provides a visual and physical prompt to assist children in developing an understanding of standing in a line.
  • Positioning - Some children struggle to maintain their position in a line particularly if placed in the middle of the line. It is important to be able to identify children who find this challenging and to implement strategies to support them. For these children it may be best to place them at the start or the end of the line as this will reduce their anxieties around personal space.


Participating at Lunchtime

The first time your child goes to the dinner hall there are lots of things to think about:

  • They may have to sit on a little stool without a backrest.
  • The dinner hall can be a very noisy time with strange smells.
  • Lots of people are moving around.

Hints and Tips

  • Think about how long your child will take to eat everything, will they still have time to play?
  • Select healthy food they enjoy and can open and eat without an adult helping.
  • Talk to your child about the school menu for the next day and help them to make choices the night before.
  • Encourage your child to go to the toilet during lunch break.
  • School often have very set routines for lunchtime, it may be helpful to speak to your child’s school to find out more to be able to talk to your child about this.
  • Sometimes it is possible to join your child for a lunchtime early in Primary one, ask if this is an option.

The following are activity suggestions to help your child before they start school:

The following are activities suggestions to try out with your child before going to school:

  • Recognising their lunch bag - it could be their favourite cartoon character or their name.
  • Practice putting straws in cartons and opening crisps.
  • Practice opening yogurt pots.


The following are activities suggestions to try out with your child before going to school:

  • Practice carrying a tray.
  • Practice using a knife, fork and spoon at home.
  • Practice at dinner time setting table and clearing up.

Physical or Sensory Difficulties

Please see below suggestions for your child if they have physical or sensory difficulties.

My child has physical difficulties, what can be done to help?

  • Speak to school about best place for your child to sit, this may be close to serving hatch or entrance so they do not have far to travel.
  • Some children may need seats with a little more support or height to access dining tables, this is something you can speak to your OT about.
  • Specialist cutlery can help a child be more independent with feeding themselves (caring cutlery, dycem etc).
    Carrying lunch tray may be difficult, speak to school about who may be able to help.

My child has sensory difficulties, what can be done to help?

  • Make school aware of any dietary issues or sensitivities, or consider a pack lunch which has familiar foods.
  • Thinking about where your child sits, keeping away from where everyone lines up or passes.

My child has visual difficulties, what can be done to help?

If your child has a visual impairment there may be access to a specialist worker either from the Local Authority of Voluntary Organisations such as Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) who can provide guidance for parents and education staff and how best to support the child’s needs. For example, a Habilitation Specialist provides orientation and mobility skills. This would allow your child to familiarise with the new environment and make their way independently around the school setting.

Finding your way around Secondary School

Your child may be very familiar with the layout of their primary school and can now easily find their way around.  However, they will almost certainly find that their new secondary school is much larger and they have to go to numerous classes during the day.