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How to Best Prepare for Your Child’s Transition Meeting in Special Education

Young student transition in special education

Any transition by nature can be stressful, anxiety-producing, high stakes, and filled with unknowns. Transitions in education come with new people, new routines, and new expectations, and almost always reveal practices that are not student-centered. Whether your child is transitioning from preK to kindergarten, middle school to high school, or just from one grade to another, we want to share some tips on how to ensure your child’s needs are not lost in the system.   

Every transition needs to be intentional and calculated with purpose. However, depending on the school/district and the systems they have set in place, there may or may not even be a file review, parent input, student input, or even a person to person conversation. To ensure your child’s transition is as successful as possible, you should be an expert in your child’s service delivery grid, statement, and accommodations/modifications. You need to know what purpose each accommodation serves and how the service minutes align with their IEP goals. This will help you navigate transitions better and advocate for your child’s identified needs. 

You should also be prepared to combat any potential statements like “we do not do that in that grade,” “that is not something we do in middle school,” “we want your child to be independent,”  or “we are preparing them for the real world.” You may find that as your child matriculates up the educational system, the system becomes less supportive and wants your child to conform to the predefined system instead of adjusting to your child’s needs. We will give you a few strategies to help you navigate transitions in schools when faced with certain responses.  

First of all, start the transition conversation early, even if the school says something like, “It is not time. We do that in April.” As you know, finding meeting times with schools and all stakeholders is challenging, so bring it up often and ask for updates. It might sound wild, but we start having conversations with clients and schools in January/February about the following year. Schools are systems, and they operate on timelines. There are generally the same timelines every year, so the sooner you bring it up, the sooner those meetings can happen. 

Here are some questions to ask your child’s case manager: 

  1. Who will be facilitating the transition meeting?

  2. What system is used to transfer knowledge about my child and their needs?

  3. Will we (parent/guardian) be involved in the transition?

  4. Typically, when are transition meetings held?

  5. Is there an agenda that is used in transition meetings?

  6. If transitioning to a secondary school, ask about classes and get course descriptions.

    1. Also, ask about course selection.

As the transition meeting approaches, keep in mind that every transition should be driven by your child’s needs as identified by the IEP, not by what the school says they can or cannot do. Here is some advice to combat statements like “we do not serve students like that,” “we do not do that in that grade,” or “that is not something we do in middle school.”  

  1. Review your child’s IEP, specifically the services and accommodations/modifications.  

  2. Pick a few accommodations that are in the current IEP and ask the team how they will ensure the accommodations are implemented with fidelity.

  3. Ask the team how they will ensure your child is making progress toward meeting their goals?

  4. Remind the school team that it is not your child's responsibility to adjust to them, but that they must adjust to your child’s needs. 

  5. Ask the team to explain why they “do not do that” and ask for the research that helped inform their position. 

  6. Ask the team if they are willingly denying your child’s rights to their accommodations.

Transitions can be an exciting and anxiety-provoking time. Having an advocate by your side or behind the scenes can facilitate the process and help empower you to best advocate for your child.



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