Part 4: Transitioning from Middle School to High School in Special Education

Aug 8, 2019 | Blog, Family Engagement, Transition

This is the final big transition before your child will transition out to the real world.

Congratulations on making it this far! While Middle School was probably the trickiest as far as figuring out a new way of scheduling classes and walking around to different classrooms throughout the day, now that your child has that experience under their belt, high school should be a breeze, right? Well, if you prepare yourself with these transition tips, it should be a very smooth transition for all involved.

1. Find out if your district has a formal plan for transitioning into High School.

You may find that you’ll save yourself some time if they already have a plan in place. Review the plan and see if this will work well for you and your child. This plan may involve a special orientation meeting, often called a bridge meeting, you can set up before school starts. You’ll need to consider if one meeting will be enough for your child, or if you should go in with your child to tour the school an additional time. Some families like to do this at the beginning of the summer to take photos that your child can review throughout the summer to help them better prepare for this new environment. So, if your district DOES have a plan, learn about it and see if you need to add any extra accommodations or modifications for your child to execute that plan more successfully.

2. Schedule your first IEP Team Meeting.

You should get this scheduled as early as possible so you can address any new areas of concern or opportunities for new goals, accommodations, or modifications that you think your child should have in place. You can request that the high school invite your child’s middle school special education teacher to attend and share information about your child. You’ll want to consider asking about things such as transportation, where your child will eat lunch and with whom, class schedule and elective options, looking ahead to an alternate academic diploma and state testing, etc.

3. Set up meetings with teachers before school starts.

This is a great opportunity to encourage your child to self-advocate if you want to have them reach out to their teachers on their own to arrange this meeting. They can come up with a list of questions they have for their teachers and have it ready for the meeting. This will provide them with some experience in greater independence which will come in handle throughout their high school journey.

4. Arrange a tour of the school.

Just like in middle school, this is an important step to take so that your child can see the new campus and map out an idea of their day. If you weren’t able to arrange this during the bridge meeting, you may want to set this up toward the end of summer but before students return to school. You should walk to important places like restrooms, cafeteria, classrooms the main office, nurse’s office, etc. If it helps for your child to have photos of these locations to review before starting school, take them at this time. If you have his/her schedule set, you could also make a photo map of their day to help them prepare.

5.  Start encouraging self-advocacy.

This will most likely be the school where your child will turn 18 and become and adult. This is a great time (if not sooner) to start practicing self-advocacy. Ask your child what their goals are for high school. Encourage them to plan for questions or comments they’d like to share during the meetings you have scheduled. Developing these skills early on will help them prepare for the world beyond high school.

6. Check out these resources to help you prepare for success:

Parent Tips for Supporting your Teen in High School
Transition Planning Tips from
Moving On to High School: A Tip Sheet for Parents of Children on Individualized Education Plans