Transitioning your child from elementary school to junior high school or high school can be a daunting task for many parents. For the parent of a child with an intellectual disability, it can be even more difficult. You need to realize that no school is going to be “perfect”. Every parent has a different vision of what they want for their child and for their child’s education. Each child is different and their needs are different.
When looking for a junior high and/or high school, networking with other parents can be useful. You may also wish to consult with your child’s current teacher and principal. Talk to the elementary school principal prior to the Identification Placement Review Committee (IPRC).
Remember, you know your child best, but you should try to involve your child as much as possible in the decisions as this is one of the most important decisions that will affect their future.
Decide together what you both would like to see your child doing in high school while keeping the bigger picture of what they may be interested in doing after high school in mind.
The following are some suggestions you may wish to think about when looking for a junior high or high school:
Start checking out high schools 2-3 years before your child is going to graduate.
This will give you an idea of what is available and will help you decide when the time actually arrives.
Don’t limit yourself to your community high school.
Visit high schools within a reasonable distance from your home. Nowadays, many students diverge out of their community to attend the high school that will best meet their needs.
Watch for open houses at the schools; there are tours and information nights for both parents and students. If your child is not able to attend with their class, make sure they have the opportunity to go with you. Talk to your child about their impressions and feelings of this new school environment and listen carefully if they are expressing concerns or asking questions. If you can’t answer the questions, try to get the answers from the appropriate school board personnel.
Have a list of questions to ask.
Examples: What types of programs do they have? How many students in the program? Do they offer inclusive as well as segregated settings?
Have the current school set up or accompany you on a visit to the feeder school.
If you are looking to enroll in a school that is not the feeder school, the principal may not be able to facilitate the visit.
Plan your visit for first thing in the morning.
You can learn a lot about a school by the way the students enter the school. Some schools are noisy, some are calm.
When going on a school visit, take someone along.
Write down your impressions and gut feelings then discuss them with your friend. Complete writing about one school before you visit the next one.
Develop a relationship with the school you feel is the best choice.
Establish a contact person for the school.
There is the possibility of turn over in staff and funding changes.
What you saw the first time might not be in place when your child is ready to go. Keep up to date on any changes.
Ask what you can do to prepare your child for high school.
What goals can be worked on at elementary school and at home?