Preparation is the key to a successful transition from primary to secondary school for children with special needs. Secondary school is quite different and the changes in structure and routine often cause anxiety in children. Parents can do several things to make the transition easier. Here are four tips:
Talk with your children about the transition to secondary school
Talk with your children about the move to secondary school. Find out:
- What they are worried about.
- What they are looking forward to.
- Anything they want their new teachers to know about them.
- Ideas they have to make the transition easier.
Speak with your children about this transition several times to get as much information as possible from them. Keep notes of their concerns so you can discuss them when you meet with staff at the secondary school.
Plan school visits
Visiting the secondary school is essential for a successful transition from primary school. Many schools already plan visits for all children, but added visits are beneficial to children with special needs. After an initial visit providing an overview of the school, schedule more visits to:
- Get a full tour of the school’s facilities including the locations of toilets, lockers, cafeteria, special classes, pick up and drop off locations, etc. If possible, get or make a map showing the school’s layout.
- Have children sit in on some classes.
- Introduce your children to school staff and teachers.
- Arrange a meeting with students in first year to talk about their moves to secondary school.
- Ask a teacher or student to review a copy of the current timetable for first year students with your children so they know what a typical day will be like.
Coordinate a meeting between the two schools
Ask for a meeting between the special needs staff who work with your children at primary school and the special needs coordinator at the secondary school. At this meeting:
- Give copies of your children’s most recent medical and psychological reports and Individual Education Plans (IEPs) to the secondary school.
- Ask the staff who work with your children to share their experiences with the secondary school including the level and type of support your children need.
- Discuss practical issues including:
- The best location for your children’s lockers.
- How your children will find the right bus after school.
- Where you can keep an extra uniform at school, if applicable.
- The preferred way to communicate with teaching staff.
- Assistive technology your children need or use.
- Whether your children need a second set of books for home.
- If there is a place children go when they become overstimulated and need a break.
- Explore whether any of your children’s sensory issues could be affected by noises from classes such as woodworking and/or smells from home economics.
- Anticipate potential problems and explore solutions including:
- How children will take down homework assignments.
- If your children need help taking notes in class.
- Whether your children need help getting from class to class.
Prepare a profile of your children for their new teachers
Make a one-page information sheet about your children to give to their new teachers. Include the following information:
- Diagnosis and a summary of how it affects your children.
- Meltdown triggers if applicable.
- Classroom issues and possible solutions.
- Your contact information.
If possible, hand deliver the information sheet to your children’s teachers at the start of the school year. Then you meet the teachers and can offer your help to them.
For more information on transitions, and templates for information sheets, check out our resource pages.