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Smooth Transitions from Grade to Grade

Smooth Transitions from Grade to Grade

Whether you have a child who will be transitioning from preschool to kindergarten, elementary school to middle school, or high school and beyond, transitions can be tumultuous times. And while transitions are a normal and natural time in our lives and necessary for our growth, they can be especially trying when you have a child with a disability. Here are some ideas and insight to make them as seamless as possible. 

Mindset matters. Good transitions set the tone for positive respectful relationships between students, families, and educators. They are flexible and responsive to your child’s unique individual needs. Trust between all stakeholders is essential for smooth transitions: when we have trust, the doors to communication are open. Good parent advocates maintain a professional demeanor to set the tone for respect and trust. Yes, your child and all issues that affect them are very personal, but a professional mindset is a must. Keep any issues from the past in the past. Move forward with a clean slate to open the door to possibilities tomorrow.

Help expose your child to the new people they will be learning from next year. If your child is going from preschool to kindergarten, introduce them to their new teacher as soon as possible. Take a picture of them together and post it on the refrigerator to make the new face familiar over the summer.  For middle and high school children, help your child identify a person they can go to when problems arise throughout their school day. Make sure they know how to locate that person in the building. This is often their special education case manager, but it could also be a coach, the principal, etc. It is said that having one trusting adult other than a parent can make a huge difference for a child. Likewise, identify the person you feel most comfortable with in the school and build a relationship with them. Parents too need someone they can go to in times of need. This person can be your bridge builder when problems loom.

Give your child a glimpse of the new classroom or building. Let your child see their new teacher’s classroom before summer break if possible, or ask if your child can go in as teachers set up before the school year begins. If your child is going into high school or even middle school, one way to create familiarity is to have your child create a video and walk through the new building as they go through a spring orientation or visitation day. This would be great for elementary students as well, but is perhaps more necessary as children have to navigate many more classrooms in a larger building, or even multiple buildings in the secondary grades. Providing a map of the school building with classrooms highlighted in colors to match corresponding classes on their schedule can be very useful during the first few weeks of school.

Before or during the first few weeks of school, send an email to your child’s teachers: elementary aged children have different teachers for specials like Music and P.E., so be sure to include them. Introduce your child, their interests, and strengths along with a short detail of some of their needs. Attach a copy of the accommodations/modifications page of their IEP - while teachers are given the IEP documents, it is important to note that they are rather lengthy. Simply supplying the accommodations and modifications is much less overwhelming for teachers whose work is never done. Make sure to include your contact information and invite them to call, email, or text at anytime if they have questions or concerns. Make yourself open and inviting to them.

Before the start of summer break ask for a brief meeting with your child’s counselor or principal, or have a discussion at a spring IEP meeting. Ask them what they have in mind for teachers and classes for the fall. Explain what type of teacher you feel your child will work best with or make them aware of other students they work well with or those that they might avoid pairing your child with. You most likely will not be able to pick your child’s teacher, but you can express how you believe they will be best set up for success.

Bring along a portfolio photo

Request a meeting early in the school year and look at possible amendments to their IEP. Bring along a portfolio or All About Me sheet. Show your child’s strengths and motivators. Tell them what works. Also request the standards and objectives of the curricula for the grade your child is in so that you can help foster mastery and understanding at home.

Other things to keep in mind. Ensure that the transportation plan for your child is in place. Make contact with the school nurse to make sure your child’s medical plan is good to go on the first day of school. Make sure staff has been trained in using any AAC or communication devices necessary for your child. Help staff implement the home-to-school communication method that is most beneficial to your child, you, and all teachers and staff who will be using it. Help your high school or middle school child set up a place in their backpack or binder where they can locate locker combinations and passwords and usernames with instructions and pictures if needed.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list for transitioning from grade to grade, hopefully it has given you some ideas on how to ease anxieties and smooth any bumps in the road as your child makes their next transition. If you have further questions contact a PEAK Parent Advisor by calling 719-531-9400, or email a Additionally, check our schedule of events to see when we’ll be holding our next workshop on transitions from grade to grade.