Guest post today from Brie over at Breezy Special Ed. I love, love, love hearing from high school teachers. That’s where my kiddos are going next and I want to make sure they are ready! Thanks for sharing your insight, Brie!
Transitioning from middle to high school can be a pretty big and scary change for anyone, and even more so for our students with special needs. As a high school teacher, here are a few suggestions I have on how to make this transition smoother for everyone involved.
Plan a visit (or visits) to the High School – Give the students a chance to walk around, see their new classes, and meet their teachers. Take pictures so the students can refer back to those! Try to find something new and exciting and/or something that will be similar that the student can look forward to or identify with those things. Not only is this a great opportunity for the student to see where their going, but it’s helpful for the high school teachers as well to get to know the students that will be joining their program.
Collaborate with the Teachers – As a high school teacher who gets new freshman every year, I can say that communication between teachers helps so much! All those helpful strategies you have that didn’t quite make it in the behavior plan or IEP, please pass them on so we don’t have to re-invent this wheel and so that we can better help the student succeed. Also, take a good look over all aspects of their IEP before you pass it on. One part that seems to be overlooked frequently is the transportation plan, we often get ones that look like they haven’t been updated since the student was in elementary school.
Introduce New People / Places – Depending on how your school is set up, your students might have been with the same peers and adults all day every day for the past 3 to 8 years! To have their comfort zone completely change for high school can be a bit overwhelming. But if you can make new people and places more of a common thing, it might not be as scary. Can your principal come in and greet everyone some day? Can a parent come in to read a story? Can you switch classrooms with another teacher for a class period? Can you take a trip to the library? The computer lab?
Take a Look at their IEP goals – Depending on your state, some courses aren’t required for students to take each year. So when a student comes in with a history or science goal, and they aren’t taking that class that year…you see the dilemma. Math, language arts, and functional/life skills goals are good categories to focus on when writing your goals for your 8th graders. And a site note for math goals, as functional as recognizing coins might sound…if they aren’t doing it by high school, they probably aren’t going to get it (and when are they actually going to be counting coins), so I try to focus on another aspect of money that will be more functional for that individual, such as dollars or using gift cards.
Introduce Age Appropriate Activities – Things that seem perfectly okay for a middle school student aren’t always appropriate for students in high school. For example, I can’t justify giving a student “tickles” or a “bear hug” for their sensory needs, especially when some of those students will grow up to be 250-pound highschoolers. If you have been doing that, I wouldn’t completely stop, but provide the student alternatives in addition. For students who need the deep pressure of a hug we might sandwich between two beanbags. For students who ask for tickles, we might direct to vibrating hand massagers. And yes, even in high school we have students who love watching “The Wiggles” or “Barney”, but the more exposure we can give to students to more age appropriate activities, the more likely they’ll be able to find something else age appropriate that might interest them.