Document Type



Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Family studies

Publication Details

Successfully submitted to the Department of Social Sciences, Technological University Dublin, in partial fulfilment of the requirements leading to the award of Masters in Child, Family and Community Studies, 2014.


The transition to school is increasingly recognised as a significant life event for children, with a positive or negative transition impacting on their social and emotional wellbeing and academic achievements. Children with special educational needs are at an increased risk of a poor adjustment to school and their families are vulnerable to additional stresses due to the child’s special educational needs. The transition to school is therefore an important period for these families, and the supports available to them to make this transition as smooth as possible are essential to provide children with the best possible start to formal education. In this study, semi-structured interviews and focus groups were carried out with parents, early years professionals, primary school teachers and a special needs assistant, to explore what factors support and hinder the transition to mainstream school for children with special educational needs and their families.

The findings from this study indicate that mainstream school is associated with a number of benefits for children with special educational needs and their parents, in particular the sense of belonging they feel within the community as they get to know other families and children attending mainstream school. Findings also indicate that schools provide a supportive role for children with special educational needs and their families with the transition to mainstream school; although schools are faced with certain restrictions that make the facilitation of this process challenging. The importance of preschool in the transition process emerged from the study as another key finding, particularly in promoting important skills for school readiness. The development of communication between both sectors emerged as an important support to the transition process. Finally, the study highlighted the ad hoc nature of resource allocation between schools for children with special educational needs, and the negative impact that difficulty with accessing educational resources can have on parents. The study concludes with some recommendations in the area of transitions to mainstream school for children with special educational needs and their families.