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Cub Pride Article - March 31, 2017 by Mrs. Teena Fare, Special Services Director
Making the Move!
Although it is only March, planning for the 2017-18 school year is well under way. Reviewing the Individualized Education Program (IEP), developing a schedule, and planning for grade transition are important steps to support a successful start to the upcoming school year.
In addition to the planning and preparation done at school, there are steps parents and students can take to ease the transition to the next grade. This is especially important for students with disabilities. When transitioning to a different building, things that were unnoticed or became routine in the previous building can become sources of student stress and anxiety in a new building. You may be especially concerned about your child’s move from elementary to middle school or middle school to high school, but you can help lay the groundwork for your child’s success by following these tips.
It is important to be prepared with a plan to transition your child to a new school. When transitioning to new buildings, your child may encounter some new situations that come with growing independence, such as:
• using self-advocacy skills
• choosing some classes
• attending social, cultural, and sports events
• increasing organizational skills and homework expectations
• developing goals and planning for the future
Your child will interact with new teachers, staff, and administrators and will navigate the layout of a new building. As with other major changes in your child’s life, the move to middle school or high school will go more smoothly if you gather information in advance and prepare for the change. In order to make the orientation a meaningful process, you may want to consider these questions:
• Will one orientation visit be enough for your son or daughter?
• Will your child benefit from taking photos of the school or other visual supports (a map, resource list, location of the office, etc.) to familiarize him/her with the school layout during the summer break?
• Will an interpreter be needed (Spanish, Somali, Hmong or other language, or sign language)?
• Does the school district offer an orientation, tour of the school, and an opportunity to meet new teachers for incoming students and parents at the end of summer break or early in the fall? If so, be certain to make a note of the dates and sign up your son or daughter for the experience.
An early visit to a new building is especially important if the IEP team has concerns about accessibility and safety. Ask your IEP case manager for a contact person at the next building to help you arrange a visit. If the information is not already provided, the following information may be requested when you visit the school:
• Ask for a copy of the student handbook, class schedule, course offerings, and a list of during and after school activities.
• Schedule a short appointment with the principal or vice principal to introduce yourself and briefly explain your child’s needs. Indicate your desire to work in partnership with the school to help your child succeed.
• Talk with other parents whose children attend the school. Their information might be helpful.
Prepare your child for the move beginning in the spring of the previous school year. Begin to casually introduce positive elements of the new setting. The following are some possible ideas:
• Talk with your child about middle school or high school and identify any
concerns he or she may have. Talking about issues may reduce your child’s anxiety about the move.
• During the summer, make it a point to drive by the school a few times and look at the school and its grounds.
• If the school has orientation sessions in the summer, plan for your child to attend.
• Arrange to visit the middle school or high school before classes begin in the fall so your son or daughter can become familiar with the building before it is crowded with other students. Locate restrooms and water fountains, the nurse’s and counselor’s offices, the cafeteria, and the special education resource room.
• Determine the best routes between classrooms.
• Practice using the hall and gym lockers with your son or daughter and note if the lockers, locks, or location need to be changed to accommodate your child’s needs. Be sure to discuss this with administrators ahead of time.
• Plan necessary routines for getting on the school bus; it’s helpful to have those plans ahead of time.
• Consider if your son or daughter will need a specific person to contact if questions or issues come up during the day.
The following are questions for parents of students with disabilities to consider:
• Have I reviewed the student handbook and discussed the school rules with my child?
• Will the number of class periods increase? How will the increase impact my son or daughter?
• Is there anything specific that my child will need to know about grading policies, behavior, or homework expectations?
• Are there any new accommodations my child will need to orient to the new building?
• Do I know the name and room number of a person to whom my child can go for help?
• Are there any anticipated changes in the nature or type of supports that need to be written in the IEP?
• Will my child have the same lunch period as his or her general education peers?
• How are students introduced to possible extracurricular activities? Can I obtain a list?
• Does my child need to add or change his or her assistive technology as an accommodation? If so, is it available in all of his or her classrooms?
• Are there opportunities for my child to socialize with general education peers in school or extracurricular activities?
• Is an individualized emergency plan necessary for my child?
The move to a new building can be an exciting milestone and a time of growth. With advance planning and teamwork, this transition can be a positive experience for you and your child!
Adapted from PACER’s National Parent Center on Transition and Employment website: http://www.pacer.org/transition/resource-library/publications/NPC-53.pdf