Parent Tips for Successful Transitions

Note: This information is also available in Farsi, FrenchPunjabi,  Simplified Chinese and Spanish from the links at the end of this article.

Students and families face many transitions:

  • When the child first starts school
  • From grade to grade
  • From elementary to senior elementary school
  • From elementary to secondary
  • From secondary to College / University / Work Force

Many students struggle with change and some parents struggle with “letting go” as their child grows up. Students with disabilities may also need:

  • Accessibility
  • Special equipment
  • Health and personal care supports at school
  • Special education programs and services

The following tips are to help parents prepare themselves, as well as their child, for transitions.

Tip 1

Know Your Child:

  • Make sure you understand your child’s disability
  • Make sure you understand your child’s disability
  • Know child’s strengths and needs
  • Find out what supports and equipment your child will need
  • Make sure reports and assessments are up to date
  • Get new assessments if needed
  • Think about and share your dreams for your child’s future

Tip 2

Recognize Your Feelings about Change and the Next Transition:

  • Consider how you feel about the upcoming change your child will face
  • Identify any fears or concerns you may have
  • Give yourself permission to feel sad or anxious when changes occur
  • Identify your feelings about your child’s disability and how it may effect their education and their future
  • Share your feelings and concerns with a family member or friend
  • Look for support groups or organizations where you can meet other families facing the same challenges
  • Seek professional help if you feel unable to cope

Tip 3

Find Out About the School System:

  • Find out how to register your child for school (elementary or secondary school)
  • Attend any school information meetings or activities that will help prepare your child for starting school, such as Welcome to Kindergarten or Schools Cool.
  • Contact school and arrange for a tour of the school or schools that you are considering for your child
  • Learn about special education services and programs from the school board’s Special Education Plan – This can be found at the school or on the school board’s website
  • Get a copy of the school board’s Parent Guide from the Principal or the school board’s website
  • Ask your child’s teacher about the Individual Education Plan (IEP) and how it supports your child
  • Find out about the Transition Plan component of the Individual Education Plan (IEP) from your child’s teacher, the Principal or other school staff
  • Use the internet to find out more about Individual Education Plans and the parent role in special education
  • Ask school staff or therapists involved with your child about your role in transition planning and how they will help you

Tip 4

Understand the Service System:

Many ministries and agencies are involved in providing services and supports to the children with disabilities, and their families, before school and at school.

  • Find out about and understand the differences between Ministry programs and service organizations, so that you know what to expect – Programs may have different requirements, for example about participant age or diagnosis, and may offer different lengths and frequency of service
  • Ask the therapists or service providers involved with your child about the different programs and rules
  • Use the internet to find out about programs and services available for your child

Tip 5

Maintain Records and Keep Notes:

  • Keep your notes and records organized in a binder or filing system
  • Keep copies of assessments and reports
  • Keep copies of Report cards and Individual Education Plans, and the Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC) decisions, if applicable
  • Keep notes from meetings or request copies of meeting notes
  • Collect and keep business cards or a record of the people you have met or talked to about your child

Tip 6

Prepare for School Meetings:

  • Make sure you understand the purpose of the meeting
  • Find out who will be attending the meeting and why they will be there
  • Take someone with you to the meeting who can help you by taking notes or speaking on your behalf
  • Be prepared to share information about your child
  • Make a list of questions to take with you to the meeting

Tip 7

Find Help in the Community:

  • Ask therapists and other professionals involved with your child about strategies that might help with school transitions
  • Attend workshops or meetings that provide transition information or support
  • Contact community agencies that provide support to families of children with disabilities
  • Connect with other families of a child with similar issues at support groups or through parent associations
  • To find out about organizations that support children with disabilities, and their families, in your community you can check:
    • Phone book
    • Community directory
    • 211 phone service or website
    • School board website section on Special Education

Tip 8

Involve the Student:

As children grow they need to become more independent and be able to

advocate for their own needs

  • Ask your child what they want and offer age appropriate choices
  • Talk to your child about the transition and ask for their opinion – It will help them feel more involved
  • Talk about the new school/class and ask your child about their expectations and concerns
  • Bring your child to meetings to see you advocate for them, and allow the child to ask questions or express their needs – This is how they will learn to advocate for themselves

Helpful Websites:

  • Easter Seals Ontario at:
    • Transitions from Starting School to Adulthood
  • Holland Bloorview Rehabilitation Hospital for Kids at:
    • Growing Up Ready – Timetable and Skills for Growing Up Checklists
    • Family Resource Centre
  • Ontario Ministry of Education at
    • Planning Entry to School A Resource Guide (2007)
    • Transition Planning: A Resource Guide (2002)
    • The Individual Education Plan (IEP) A Resource Guide (2004)

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