Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Transition to Middle School for the Child with Special Developmental Needs

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Transition to Middle School for the Child with Special Developmental Needs

Article excerpt

The word "transition" often sends fear through the hearts of families who have children with special needs. One of the first thoughts that ran through my mind when my daughter was transitioning to middle school was: "The kids are so much older! Will my daughter fit in?" That question, and more, plagued me in the weeks before the move. I worried about changing classes, physical education, and transportation issues. I wondered if my child with special developmental needs would still have the same support in the classroom that she now receives. And, would we need a new Individualized Education Program (IEP) for the transition?


The last great transition your child has probably faced was going from pre-school to elementary school. Now, years later, the adolescent will face new time changes, program and transportation changes, and a new and different conglomeration of faces on a new campus. For those of you facing the transition challenge in the months to come, here are some common issues on how to prepare for the upcoming transition.


It is often a great idea to take your child to visit the middle school before the transition. This will help you to find answers to your questions. You and your child can meet with the special education teacher, the nurse, the counselor, and the principal. Visit the classrooms, student areas, and even the restrooms. Think about what your child will need at this new school.


When you go for the visit, write down questions and concerns. Discuss these concerns with your child's current teacher and/or team members. You may need to ask for modifications or accommodations for your child at the new campus. Are there doors or hallways that impede access for your child's wheelchair? Is there a place for your child to rest, if needed? Does your child require a private changing area in a restroom? Is the bus loading/drop off area appropriate for your child? These questions and more can be investigated and discussed in the weeks before transition. A new IEP does not need to take place to transition your child to middle school. Remember, you can meet with your child's education team at any time.


During the summer, you may receive a welcome letter from your child's new school. They may include information about the school's music program, special activities, and school supplies that will be needed. These letters and lists are generic. They were not written with your student in mind, but rather for a general population who do not have special needs. Before taking offense at the school for inviting your child with severe disabilities to join the wrestling team or for asking you to register for an informational meeting on choosing a musical instrument for your child, you need to know that each student is included in school activities. If your child can not participate due to personal limitations, let the school know, and then take heart in the fact that the school has begun to include your child by making them feel welcome and part of the middle school campus life.


School supplies may need to be adjusted for your own student's needs. The supply lists are for a generic population. You can talk to your child's special education teacher to amend your child's supply list, if needed. …

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