How to Help Your Special Needs Child Transition to a New School

Group of children at school helping one girl in a wheelchair transition to a new school.

Did your family move over the summer? Just as you are finally past the hard part…it hits you! How will you help your special needs child transition to a new school?

As parents, we want nothing more than for our children to succeed in school, but a lot is going on for our kiddos – grades, activities, peers, etc.

Ultimately, it would be nice if our kids could grow up with the same group of peers from pre-K to college, but life doesn’t always work out that way.

Sometimes work, or family takes our children into a new school district, which can be hard for some kids to handle.

 

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How does switching schools affect a child?

Switching schools can be challenging for kids for several reasons. For one, they’re leaving behind their old friends and the comfort of the familiar.

They also might feel like they’re not as good as the other students at their new school or that they won’t fit in. All of these worries can lead to anxiety and depression in children.

In addition, kids with special needs might have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) in place at their old school that may take time to implement in the new school. This could mean that they have a delay with their support services.

What can you do to help your special needs child transition to a new school?

#1 Talk about it. 

Nothing is scarier to children than venturing into the unknown. So take this time to ask your child questions about what might be worrying them going into a new school.

Talk to your child about their feelings and encourage them to express what they’re going through. They need to know that it’s normal to feel scared or sad about starting at a new school.

Then, reassure them that everything will be fine. It’s also a good idea to visit the new school together so they can see that there’s nothing to be afraid of.

 

#2 Get them involved in extracurricular activities. 

One way to help your child transition into a new school is by signing them up for extracurricular activities. This can help them make friends and feel like they belong.

Look for activities that interest your child, allowing them to interact with other kids their age. This could be a sport, club, or after-school program.

 

#3 Meet the teachers and tour the school.

If possible, try to schedule a meeting with your child’s new teacher(s) before the school year starts. This way, you can introduce yourself and your child. In addition, your child can get a feel for the type of classroom environment they’ll be in.

Ask for a tour of the building. This will alleviate the stress of walking into an unknown situation.

It’s also an excellent opportunity to ask questions about how the transition to the new school will work and possible accommodations for your child. 

 

#4 Choose new supplies. 

Before their first day at school, take your child to the store and let them choose a new backpack and their school supplies. This helps put them in control of the situation, so it’s not overwhelming.

 

#5 Take a test run. 

A day or two before your child begins their new school, get them up and ready just like it’s the big day (be sure to let them know this is only a trial run). 

Make your child breakfast, get them ready, and drive them to the school, so they know what routine to start expecting from there on out.

 

#6 Get some sleep! 

Stress can often disrupt sleep patterns in both adults and children. The last thing your child needs is for both of you to be tired when the big day comes. 

Make bedtime a priority for everyone in the home, as being sleepy can affect your child’s academic performance and how they interact with their peers.

Check out our Ultimate Guide to a Better Bedtime Routine for Kids

 

#7 Have patience. 

It takes time for children to adjust to change, so be patient with your little one as they transition into their new school. They might not make friends immediately or be as outgoing as they were at their old school.

Give them some time, and eventually, they’ll adjust to their new surroundings. Lastly, stay positive and be there for your child every step of the way. They will look to you for guidance and support during this challenging time.

 

What to do if your child struggles to transition to a new school? 

If your child is struggling with the transition to a new school, it’s essential to talk to them about how they’re feeling and help them work through their emotions.

If you notice your child is having trouble sleeping, acting out more than usual, or seems withdrawn, it might be time to seek professional help.

A therapist could help your child work through their feelings and make the transition to their new school much easier.

 

Additional Resources That May Help!

These are some basic tips to help your child start transitioning to a new school district, but you know your child best. Try to choose activities, toys, and comforting behaviors. 

And don’t introduce any new stimuli into the situation until they are well into their new school.

Additionally, for children with special needs, ensure they receive the special education resources and assistance they deserve. Seeking outside help such as special education tutoring might also help ease their burden, especially if they are unfamiliar with the ways of their new classroom.

Your child’s academic performance should be a top priority, even if it takes a little work to help them adjust. The school’s teachers, aides, and principal can help assist in the areas your child needs to work on most. But don’t be afraid to reach out for any resources available.

 

Group of children at school helping one girl in a wheelchair transition to a new school.
Changing schools can be extremely hard for children. Here’s how to help your special needs child transition to a new school.

Suzie Dalien

Suzie Dalien

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