School Transitions - Part 2

Elementary to Middle School/Junior High School

Students at this level deal with all of the challenges of attending multiple classes: different teacher expectations in each class, possibly different classmates in each class, following a schedule, and organizing multiple sets of materials. In addition, students are dealing with more and new classmates, larger buildings, and more lunch choices in the cafeteria ? all of this on top of changes and challenges related to maturation!

It is very important, at this time, for families to realize that the relationship with the school may be different than it was with the elementary school. General education teachers are working with many more students, and therefore many more parents, and may not develop the relationships with students and parents that families are expecting. As a result, parent may feel ?shut out? of the school community.

This is the time to begin to think about what family expectations are for the young person post-secondary school. Where will the person live? Who will care for the person? Will s/he work? Will s/he participate in some kind of post-secondary training or education? The answers will not come easily and will change almost daily. It is time for families and the young person to talk about what might happen after the young person exits the school system.

Elementary to Middle School: Tips for parents


  • Plan, with the elementary school staff, for this transition at least a year in advance
  • As part of the team, identify needed modifications (e.g. locker modifications, adaptive equipment needed, and access to bathrooms, cafeteria, classrooms and other sites) and make sure that detailed needs are communicated appropriately to the new school staff
  • Discuss the option of postponing secondary graduation until age 21
  • Develop a transition plan for after graduation
  • Include the guidance counselor from the new school in planning, if possible
  • Encourage the new school to use instructional and behavioral strategies that have worked in the past
  • Work with the staff, including the guidance counselor, at the new school to schedule teachers who will 'work well' with the student
  • Meet with ALL of the student?s new teachers to discuss health, behavior, learning issues and share needed accommodations
  • Encourage your student to become involved in extra-curricular activities, with peer support if needed
  • Update that education folder - again!

Middle School to High School

Some of the challenges addressed in the transition to middle school will also be found in transitioning to high school: larger schools, multiple classes, and more unfamiliar classmates. In addition, high schools are more challenging academically and socially and may be more impersonal, due to the larger size. Teachers assign more homework and expect more from students, expecting students to make appropriate choices for class attendance, class schedules, and other activities. The system is more grade-oriented, with classes based on need to earn credits towards a diploma. Towards the end of high school, pressure may be exerted to choose a college, choose a job, or choose a life after graduation.

The family that has been talking with the student and thinking about the student?s post-school life will be more comfortable with these demands. One challenge that families will face is whether or not the student will earn a diploma and graduate with same age peers. It is important to remember that graduation with a diploma ends the student?s eligibility for special education services. Students served under an IEP may stay in school through age 21, as long as they have not earned a high school diploma. Discussion about these options should begin in 9th grade.

Middle School to High School: Age 16

IDEA requires that a transition plan be a part of the IEP in place when the student turns 16. Draft regulations have added ?or earlier if appropriate?. The plan must indicate the student's post-secondary goals: What does the student want to do, in terms of employment? Where does the student want to live? How does the student want to participate in the community? Although families certainly share a responsibility in discussing plans with the student, the transition plan is based on the student?s strengths, preferences, and interests. Schools must make a link with any agency that might provide and pay for services after school, such as Vocational Rehabilitation, DSPD, or Department of WorkForce Services. Eligibility for services is determined by each agency; eligibility for special education does not guarantee eligibility at other agencies.

Please ask your child's special education teacher for further information about transition planning and graduation options.

Middle School to High School: Tips for Parents

  • Keep doing what's been working!
  • Reinforce transition activities at home (e.g. behavior management, self-advocacy skills, independent living skills)
  • Be aware of student hygiene and fashion
  • Encourage extra-curricular participation
  • Give your student age and ability appropriate activities
  • Allow your student to experience consequences of actions and choices
  • Try to establish realistic goals
  • Visit and attend transition program, if graduation has been postponed to age 21
  • Ask for information about adult service agencies; follow-up with referrals
  • Keep adding to that education folder; include information about transition planning



  • Baby Watch Early Intervention-Utah Department of Health801-584-8201; 1-800-961-4226.
  • Center for Persons with Disabilities, Utah State University435-797-8137; 1-866-284-2821.
  • Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired801-323-4343.
  • Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing7-1-1 for Relay Services. 801-263-4860; 1-800-860-4860.
  • Division of Services for People with Disabilities (DSPD)801-264-7620.
  • Division of Rehabilitation Services (Vocational Rehabilitation)801-538-7530.
  • Utah Developmental Disabilities Council 801-533-3965.
  • Social Security Administration801-524-4145.
  • Utah Parent Center 801-272-1051; 1-800-468-1160.
  • Utah State Office of Education-Special Education 801-538-7587.

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