Helpful Steps When Transitioning To A New School District
For most any child, having to leave a school district where you’re comfortable with your surroundings and you have great friends, making the switch to a new school can cause some anxiety. For a child with special needs, this change can become even more challenging. Yet, as a parent, there are steps that you can take to help provide a smooth transition.
These steps include…
Step 1. Contact the new district in advance.
When you know for certain that you’ll be moving to a new location and you know which school your child will most likely attend, contact the Director of Special Education. Explain your child’s diagnoses, special needs and the type of program he or she is currently in. Offer to send a copy of your child’s latest IEP (Individualized Educational Plan). Find out how the school district services students with special needs. When a school district is given the heads up on a child with special needs, it allows more time for the district to prepare for the child.
Step 2. Set up an IEP meeting.
If possible, request to have an IEP meeting regarding your child prior to his first day at the new school. Put together a brief video or powerpoint that will help the IEP committee learn about your child’s strengths and weaknesses. In three minutes or less, let everyone present gain a good sense of who your child is. This tool will help immensely as the committee decides on a program and puts an educational plan together. Ask to visit the classroom and to meet some of the teachers.
Step 3. Take your child for a visit.
Before your child starts his first full day of school, make arrangements for him to visit the school. Enter the main door that he will typically be entering and ask to have someone walk the two of you through his daily schedule, showing where his classes are, the cafeteria, the gym, etc. If it’s okay with the principal, have your child sit in on a class so that he can begin to meet his classmates.
Step 4. Put together a picture book.
Depending on the age of your child and his special needs, consider putting together a picture book. The book should include photos of the bus your child will be riding, the school building, his teachers, his locker or cubby hole, the cafeteria, the gym, the classrooms, etc. Go through the picture book with your child a few times before his first day of school to help him become familiar with his new surroundings. During his first week, point at some of the photos and ask your child what he thinks about them. This will help you gauge how well he is adjusting to his new surroundings.
Step 5. Ask to have an older student be a buddy.
Many school districts will gladly line up an older student to be a “buddy” for a child with special needs. A buddy can help your child learn his locker combination, brave the cafeteria, and help him transition from class to class. Some students might only need a buddy for a few weeks, while others might need one for a full semester.
By taking these five steps, you’ll be providing a smooth transition for your child.