School Transitions

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School transitions, such as advancing to a new grade or moving on to a new school, can be difficult for any child. This section provides information on the following topics related to school transitions:

Preparing for a School Move

When your child is preparing to move to a new school (whether it is because he or she is moving up to middle school or high school, or moving to a new town or district) there are several things you can do that may help ease this transition, including:

  • If your child has formal learning accommodations, making sure you have a written and formal record of those accommodations
  • Making an appointment with the new school's principal, guidance counselor, or school support team member in charge of organizing additional support for children with ADHD to discuss these learning accommodations
  • Checking to make sure that your child's current school has transferred his or her files to the new school

Questions to Ask Before Your Child Transitions to a New School

  • How does the school support other children with ADHD?
  • How will school support team members contact you?
  • Whom should you contact if you want to talk with school support team members?
  • What plan is in place for children who need to take medicine?

Elementary to Middle School

Children with ADHD may have difficulty paying attention to details and may have trouble with organization. Therefore, moving from elementary school to middle school may be especially hard on them because:

  • They may need to transition from having one teacher and a single classroom to multiple teachers and classrooms
  • They may have more homework

As you begin to prepare your child for this transition, it may help to teach him or her to:

Learn to organize his or her schoolwork

  • Make sure your child has a plan in place for getting and remembering assignments.
  • Set up new homework routines and talk about study skills, if needed.

See the Handling Homework section of this site for more details.

Be able to ask for help

Your child should be able to ask, answer, and act on questions such as:

  • "What do I need to finish this project?"
  • "Did I understand what was just said?"
  • "May I ask for help if I have a problem?"

Middle to High School

To help children to invest in school, you may want to encourage them to play a key role in planning their own paths starting at the beginning of their high school careers.

  • Early in the school year, you and your child may want to meet with teachers, other school support team members, and health care professionals to discuss additional help or learning accommodations, goals, classroom structure, and rules.
  • During the school year, you may both want to meet with school support team members to monitor your child's progress.
  • At the end of the school year, you should set up a meeting with your child and his or her school support team members to review which strategies worked and which need to be changed for the next year.

Preparing for College

High school graduation may seem a long way off, but children may start to explore college and career options from the day they begin the ninth grade. Work with guidance counselors to help children:

  • Explore possible career options
  • Volunteer or intern in an area of interest
  • Figure out the type and level of education needed for select career options
  • Plan and prepare for pre-college exams (eg, SAT, ACT)
  • Find a mentor, if possible

Planning for college, career, and beyond

In addition, whether your child/young adult has a Section 504 plan or an IEP, by the time your child is 16, his or her team should be developing a transition plan to address your child's future, including college, career, or independent living.

Creating a transition plan

Make sure that children who may need an IEP or 504 plan in college obtain a written plan in high school. Colleges may require these records before they provide the same type of learning accommodations and services.

Collaborate with your child's team to identify the goals and services necessary to make the transition from today to tomorrow. Look to develop measurable postsecondary goals, like "Upon completing high school, my child will enroll in courses at Ocean County Community College" or "My child will obtain a 4-year degree from a liberal arts college with a major in child development." Measurable simply means it's easy to determine if the goal has been achieved.

When your child's transition plan is developed, you may want to consider inviting someone who is knowledgeable about vocational issues—possibly a representative from a vocational school or the state Vocational Rehabilitation Services. They can offer guidance on specific courses your child may need to take to pursue a career of choice. To help your child become more invested in the process, school support team members can work with your child to make a "transition assessment portfolio." It's where all transition assessment data are kept. Using a transition assessment portfolio is a great way to maintain ongoing dialogue between your child, family, case managers, and other members of the IEP team, and to keep plans on track.

Questions to ask when visiting colleges

  • Is there a staff member at the college who specializes in helping students with ADHD?
  • Does the school have a study skills program specifically designed for students with ADHD?
  • Is there an ADHD support group on campus?
  • How much experience do the professors at the college have with teaching students with ADHD?
  • How big are the class sizes at the college?