Starting Kindergarten with a Learning Difference

Disclaimer :: The Hill School of Fort Worth — a college preparatory, full-service school for students with dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, ADHD, high-functioning ASD, and other learning differences — crafted and sponsored this blog post.

The first day of kindergarten is filled with warring emotions for a parent: nervousness, excitement, speculation — and your child is usually feeling the whole spectrum of emotions as well. There are now eight hours of the day where your child is in a brand new environment, around a lot of new faces, and you begin to wonder: What if she’s scared? What happens if the kids aren’t nice to him? Will she have someone to eat lunch with? Is he ready for this?

All of these thoughts cross your mind before your little one even hops out of the car on that early Monday morning. All in all, it often ends up being a perfectly pleasant experience for everyone involved, and your kindergartener can’t wait to go back the next day.

Now, imagine the emotions parents endure when their child, who has been recently diagnosed with ADHD or high-functioning Autism, is starting school. These parents ask a lot of the same questions that have already been presented, but the number one thing they want to know is: What if my child isn’t ready?

Girl Building Cube - Hill SchoolWith more children being diagnosed with learning differences at a young age, you consult professionals, additional resources, and review current trends before deciding the best course of action for your child. Common learning diagnoses for Hill School students include ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, auditory processing, mild ASD (or those formerly diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome), written expression disorders, or social expression disorders.

Most kindergarten curricula primarily focus on teaching basic social skills, reading, a bit of writing, and mathematics. Young children who have already been diagnosed with a learning disability can take a longer amount of time picking up a few of these foundation concepts, and you worry about your child being able to keep up.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what program you select if your child isn’t ready, so the quick list below should help discern if your child is prepared for the jump into kindergarten. Your child must be able to:

Respond to his or her name and follow simple directions. Students must be able to recognize their name and respond to a teacher when called upon.

Recognize numbers one through 10, and count to at least 20 or higher. Most kindergarten programs focus on growing early math skills and concepts using manipulatives. At Hill School, we use an individualized or small group approach to ensure the students are absorbing the information.

Girls Reading - Hill SchoolRecognize uppercase letters and some sounds. Intensive multisensory language instruction and early reading skills are a priority in kindergarten, and it’s highly recommended to find a school with an Orton-Gillingham-trained teacher, especially if your child shows early signs of dyslexia. The Orton-Gillingham program uses a multi-sensory, phonics-based approach, combining multi-sensory techniques with the structure of the English language and common spelling rules. All of Hill School’s lower school faculty as well as all middle and upper level English and language arts teachers are certified.

Draw or write with a pencil (based on writing ability). Children unable to use a pencil will have a difficult time keeping up in class, so this is an important skill to develop before starting school.

Interact and play appropriately with peers. Many kindergarteners with learning difference diagnoses have not been in a school environment before, so a heavy emphasis is placed on the development of social skills. Much of the curriculum will be focused on growing social skills through social thinking initiatives that teach students how to learn, engage, and build relationships in a school environment.

Take care of themselves. Children must use the toilet independently, feed themselves, and drink from a cup.

Boys working- Hill SchoolNo matter what age your child starts kindergarten, or what program they enter, it will be a growing experience for both you and your child. Every program approaches learning differences differently, so be sure to ask lots of questions about their methods to ensure it will be the best fit for your child. At Hill School, we strongly believe that early interventions have the most impact, and by starting with the youngest learners, students may gain the strategies and skills needed to transition into a more traditional school environment after just a few years.

Hill School is a college preparatory, full-service school for students with dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, ADHD, high-functioning ASD, and other learning differences. Hill School is launching its first-ever kindergarten class, starting in August for the 2017 – 2018 school year.

Located in southwest Fort Worth, Hill School’s forty faculty and staff members teach grades K-12. Hill School focuses on intensive small-group instruction in core subject areas to ensure that all students have an opportunity to reach their full academic potential. Students also explore interests and affinities through athletics, fine arts (drama, visual arts, music), and a wide variety of community involvement activities. For more information, visit or



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