A new school year means a new grade, new teachers, new goals and maybe a new school for some students. In order to help ease the transition for students with special needs, here are some helpful back-to-school tips.

10 Tips to Ease Transition

  1. Visit the school site with your child. Point out bathrooms, the cafeteria, office, playground, etc. Older students may benefit from printed maps with time schedules. Talk to your child about exciting new classes, activities and events she can participate in.
  2. Help your child reconnect with schoolmates. Ask if the school has a buddy system or if students in school leadership are available to help as mentors or guides.
  3. Review Individual Education Program (IEP) goals. Ensure the goals are still relevant and note the date of the annual review. Remember, you can request an IEP review anytime. Be sure to discuss assessment accommodations for your child.
  4. Connect with the teacher. Write a brief introduction about your child (including a photo) with her likes and dislikes, social/emotional set-offs, motivators, methods of communication, pertinent medical information and any other important information. The more proactive and honest you are, the better teachers and school staff will be able to meet your child’s needs.
  5. Help plan ability-awareness training. If your child is in a general education class, consider helping to plan ability-awareness training with the class. Make sure to get buy-in from your child first. Write a story for the other kids so they understand what makes your child unique, and things that may be difficult for her.
  6. Keep paperwork organized. Create a family calendar of school events, special education meetings, conferences, etc.
  7. Continue learning. Stay up-to-date on special education news and legislation, so you can advocate for your child, and all children.
  8. Create a communication log. This will help ensure that you and the school staff are on the same page. Be sure to note the dates, times and nature of the communications you have.
  9. Attend school events when possible. School events such as back-to-school night and parent-teacher conferences offer a great opportunity to meet staff and other students and families.
  10. Offer to help, either in the classroom or at PTA-sponsored events.

Find out more about California State PTA’s work to advance education about and support concerns of students with special needs. Additional information is available from the California Department of Education at www.cde.ca.gov/sp/se.