Making the Transition to Mainstream
Making the transition to a new school can be difficult for any child, and going from a specialized school to a mainstream environment can bring challenges for the child and parents. But just like any transition, it is important to be proactive and patient. Take advantage of the many resources available to help you and your child transition, be there for support and, most importantly, listen to and talk with your child regularly to know how he or she is feeling about the transition.
- As early as possible, set up a time when you can visit the school with your child to begin the process of making the new school familiar.
- Find out who the other children are in your immediate neighborhood that attend your child’s new school, and set up a play date. Don’t force the children into being friends, but providing an opportunity for your child to meet other kids who will be attending the same school can go a long way to easing the transition.
- Begin teaching your child how to be a self-advocate. The earlier this process starts, the faster he or she will become confident asking for what he or she needs.
- Work with your child on an “elevator speech” about hearing technology, including hearing aids, cochlear implants and FM systems. The sooner your child can talk confidently about his or her hearing loss, the quicker other students will understand and accept the hearing loss.
- Work with your child to develop responses if a classmate says something mean or makes fun of him or her. Sadly, not everyone is accepting but helping your child to stand up for himself or herself goes a long way.
- Remember, it may take a little longer for your child to adjust to his or her new school. Stay positive and encouraging.
- Gently work to push your child outside his or her normal comfort zones, but allow things to happen naturally. You know your child best and what motivates him or her. Be patient, but don’t be passive.
- Let him or her know that making new friends doesn’t replace old friends. Help your child stay connected with old friends. In time, look for an opportunity for both sets of friends to interact, such as at a birthday party or a BBQ.
- Reassure your child that other kids have the same fears.
Work with the School
- Set up a parent-teacher meeting with all of your child’s teachers prior to the start of the school year to review your child’s IEP, discuss communication strategies that are helpful for your child, and introduce teachers to the technology your child will be using in the classroom and the troubleshooting plan for that technology. This meeting will help build lines of communication between you and the school.
- Volunteer to chaperone a field trip early in the year, or volunteer in the classroom or for special school events. This is an opportunity to strengthen relationships with teachers, reinforce your child’s self-confidence and observe classroom interactions.
- Attend parent-child conferences and check with the teacher regularly on your child’s progress. Talk with the teacher to set up the best way to check on your child’s progress. Teachers are usually more than happy to talk about your child’s progress, but they may have a preferred way of sharing progress reports.
- This is an especially important time to continue talking with your child. Keeping lines of communication open between you and your child will help to identify and manage any problems.
- Encourage your child to participate in school-based or community based extracurricular activities with other students. The more opportunities he or she has to participate in school activities, the more opportunities he or she has to make friends, easing the transition.