Smooth transitions make a big difference

Whenever you and your child move to a new program or setting a smooth transition will benefit both of you. Having a transition plan helps make that possible. Here are some tips to aid your planning.

Help your child understand the coming change

  • Talk about the upcoming change with your child well in advance
  • Read children's books about moving or changes with your child. Here are a few examples:
    • The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn & illustrated by Ruth E. Harper & Nancy M. Leak, published by Tanglewood Press
    • I Love You All Day Long by Francesca Rusackas & illustrated by Priscilla Burris, published by HarperCollins
    • Little School by Beth Norling, published by Kane/Miller Book Publishers
    • Friends at School by Rochelle Bunnett, photographs by Matt Brown, published by Startbright Books
    • Moving Day! (Helpful Hands Series), by Jess Stockham, published by Child's Play Intl
    • Big Ernie’s New Home: A Story for Young Children Who Are Moving by Teresa Martin & Whitney Martin, published by Magination Press
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Learn more about the new setting or program

  • Ask about your role as parent on the first days that your child will be in the new program. Find out how you can work with your child’s teacher or caregiver to best help him with the transition
  • Find out about the schedule (starting time, ending time, expectations about dropping-off and picking-up your child, calendar of special events and holidays, etc.)
  • Ask how to pay for things in the new setting such as meals, snacks, supplies, etc.
  • Ask how snacks are provided. In some programs parents share responsibility for sending snacks. Be sure to let the program know if your child has any food allergies
  • Ask the teacher how you can communicate about your child, and how often. For instance, some teachers use a spiral notebook that goes back and forth between teacher and parent to exchange messages
  • Ask about any supplies your child will need in the new setting, such as diapers, changes of clothing, school supplies, etc. 
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Take your child to visit the new program

  • Plan ahead with the teacher or a staff member any activities or daily routines you would like for your child to see during a visit to the new program
  • Visit the new program together (with siblings if appropriate). Take a tour of the building and learning spaces. Take photos of your child during this visit if possible and use them when you later talk about the transition
  • Be sure to meet some key people that your child will be interacting with in the new place (e.g., director or principal, teacher, paraprofessional, therapists, librarian, bus driver, etc.). Take photos of your child with the people he meets if possible
  • Find out where key rooms and areas are, such as the cafeteria, restrooms, library, classrooms and playground. Take photos of your child in these rooms
  • Ask to learn about the daily schedule and the daily routines so you can talk about them with your child. If possible, take photos that will help illustrate the schedules and routines for your child
  • Ask the teacher to show your child some of the toys he can play with and where they are in the learning environment. Again, take photos
  • Make a book or a social narrative about the move or new program. Include photos or drawings that are meaningful to your child and that help him understand what will happen. Use the photos you take of your child in various places in the new setting to illustrate the book or story.
  • Ask if your child can bring a favorite toy or comfort item on his first days in the new program
  • Meet some children your child’s age while visiting the new place. Make sure your child watches what other children do in the environment, and talk about it with your child
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Help your child get ready for the new setting

  • Show your child how to use any materials on the supply list that he is not familiar with. Practice using them in fun, engaging ways
  • If being around other young children will be a new or unfamiliar experience for your child, find experiences that will help him become more familiar with it
  • Show or teach your child how to ask for help
  • Practice short separations from your child by leaving him with a responsible adult
  • Practice following simple directions
  • Encourage your child to make simple choices, such as which shoes to wear, which of two toys to play with, or which of two foods to eat
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Enroll in the new program

  • Find out what you will need in order to register your child, identification documents, immunization records, for instance. (Also see How to Enroll Your Child in a Texas Public School)
  • Share your child’s records with the new staff and make sure records are sent from a previous program, if needed
  • Inform the new program about any other resources, supports, or services you and your child have in the community so they can collaborate
  • Make sure that the receiving staff has access to specific information about your child’s needs
  • Make sure any needed medical equipment or devices your child needs will be available for him in the new setting
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Get involved in the new program

  • Be an active participant in any transition planning meetings and events
  • Find out if there is a primary contact person for transitions in the new program and get that person’s contact information
  • Get involved, participate in activities and parent organizations
  • Attend open-house events
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More ideas

  • Make a Student Introduction Portfolio to help people at the new program get to know your child. Texas Project FIRST offers tips for creating a Student Introduction Portfolio
  • Keep a file of the people or agencies you have contacted about your child, programs you have investigated, and the outcome of your contact or discussion. Use this downloadable work sheet (PDF) from the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY) to help get a file started
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