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Helping your child with special needs transition to a new school

Moving to a new school requires a lot of planning.
Moving to a new school requires a lot of planning.
Teemu008 on Flickr

Children change schools several times throughout their lives. These changes can make kids nervous or anxious. For children with special needs, these changes are particularly stressful. Parents can take steps to reduce their children’s anxieties. Here are some tips to help make the transitions go smoothly and reduce your children’s anxieties.

Make a transition plan

The development of a transition plan should involve parents, staff from the children’s current schools and staff from the children’s new schools. Children should be included or at least consulted about the transition plan. The transition plan should include:

  • Several visits to the new school. Each visit should have a specific purpose. For example, during one visit children can learn the physical layout of the facilities including restrooms, lockers, cafeteria, gym, bus pick up/drop off area etc. During another visit, give children the opportunity to sit in on a class or two. During additional visits, children should meet teachers, school staff and other students.
  • A meeting(s) between parents and the staff from each school to review the child’s particular needs and what techniques, strategies or accommodations helped your child as well as what didn’t work. There should also be a discussion about the type of supports your child will need in the new school.
  • Getting a sample timetable or schedule from the new school so your child can see what a typical day is like
  • Getting or obtaining a map of the school to review with your child.

Educate the school staff and teachers
When your children start new schools, you need to educate their teachers about their special needs. One of the best ways to do this is to write a short memo including the following information:

  • Your children’s diagnoses
  • A description of each diagnosis
  • An outline of particular problems your children have in school and solutions that have worked in the past
  • Copies of any medical reports that recommend accommodations
  • Copies of any medical reports or articles that you think would help teachers understand your children

Check out the photos for a sample information sheet.

Find out if your children’s new school has a buddy or mentor system. If the school doesn’t have a buddy system, ask if another student can show your children around during their first few weeks.

Finally, talk to your children about any worries or concerns they may have. Once you know their worries, you can take steps to alleviate them.

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