We thank April Remfrey for this important article. April is an American special needs consultant living and loving life in Switzerland. She helps globally mobile families as they search for the best school for their child with special needs. Get to know her better on her website: www.remfreyeducationalconsulting.com
You and/or your spouse has landed a job which will take your family to a new land, culture and adventure! Congratulations!
After the euphoria subsides, the reality of organizing a substantial move sets in. Not only are you planning a big move, but simultaneously trying to find appropriate housing, setting up bank accounts, signing contracts AND trying to find the best new school placement for your child(ren). Add to the mix a child with learning needs that fall outside of the general education bubble creates yet another layer of stress.
Often times parents are making school choice decisions based on a website, a 30-minute school tour, and some parent comments/reviews found on social media. Might I suggest you don’t have to settle for these light touch approaches? It is appropriate for parents to setup a meeting, a quick phone, or video conference call with not only the admissions director but also the director of learning support or an equivalent person. This meeting will not only help answer questions you have, but it will also answer questions that the school has about your child.
I find the application process quite lacking when it comes to students with special needs. An informed placement decision should be based on detailed information from various sources who have experienced the child at home and at school rather than the typical few reports. For instance, when a diagnosis, such as ADHD or Autism, is provided in written form without extensive details, many unfortunate assumptions are made about students’ presentation, limitations and needs. It is your job as the parent to paint an accurate picture of your child and it is essential that parents are given the opportunity to provide detailed information, in order to assist the school in their decision making process.
Telling your child’s story in a clear and concise way keeps the plot alive from one school to the next. It ensures that all the good strategies that are working now will carry over to the next school. The narrative needs to keep being written!
As an educational consultant, I assist families with linking past schools and successes with their new school. Although using an educational consultant can help minimize your to do list, there are many things you can do on your own, and information you can gather, to enhance your child(rens) school transition.
I suggest starting sooner than later. Even if you aren’t currently planning a move as the school year comes to an end, I strongly suggest collecting the following information because you never know what the future holds! It’s always better to be prepared.
For each of my clients I create a learner profile which includes:
- Strengths (typically noted in an IEP or education evaluation – a summary of this information is helpful)
- Weaknesses (typically noted in an IEP or education evaluation)
- How much extra help your child receives per week in minutes (typically noted in an IEP)
- What your child needs to be successful – strategies (should be collected from parents, classroom teachers, SPED teachers, aids, etc – often noted in comprehensive IEPs)
- Current teacher reports that include essential information for future teachers.
Goals and objectives (IEP) as well as report cards are typically sent on to a new school. However, these reports do not paint a clear picture. When I was a classroom teacher, I wanted concrete information to help me prepare a classroom which would foster children’s needs from day one. Asking the teachers that know your child best to write a letter to the new teachers outlining their tips and tricks, can make a world of difference. Not only will the new school understand that you are an active participant in your child’s education, but also open and willing to work with teachers.
As parents, we unknowingly filter information when we pass it on to new teachers. Taking information directly from one teacher to the next allows teachers to speak their own lingo without the need to write it in parent language. Provide an email address or postal address so the letters your child’s teachers are writing can be sent directly to the next school.
Moving schools is never an easy process, but when the right information is provided in a timely manner, it will increase the chances of a positive transition. Don’t let the story of your child’s education get lost. Proactively collect important information to communicate to the next school and everyone involved will thank you!