From Preschool to Kindergarten/Elementary School

What to Expect

It seems that your child just gotten used to preschool, and now it’s time for the next transition. As with all transitions, it helps to have a well-thought-out plan, and to know a little about what to expect from and for your child. Talk with your child about what goes on at school; stay on top of her day-to-day activities, challenges, and successes. When it is appropriate, support your child’s growing independence at home and at school.
Your concerns may be slightly different from those of your child’s medical home or teachers. This page offers an outline of the possible concerns with your child’s education and transition.

Meet with the New School Team

Before your child starts school, you’ll want to meet with his “school team.” This team will likely be made up of his future teachers, those involved with setting up his Individualized Education Program (IEP), and a school health or accommodation team. You may also choose to invite your child’s therapist(s) and preschool teachers who know your child. This team, along with you and your child, will work to look at and document concerns during this transition. You’ll set up a plan for handling these issues, designating who is responsible for carrying out actions, and setting goal dates for completion and/or re-evaluation. Some school teams also fill out a student profile, addressing your child's individual needs and health issues. You’ll also want to use this meeting to update child’s health care plan.

Points to Address in the School Plan (IEP/504/Health Care Plan)

This checklist can serve as a guide for making a school plan. Before you meet with the transition team, you can prepare for the meeting by writing down your thoughts and questions. Of course, there may be other plans and discussions based on your child’s needs, but we hope this will help you get started.
  • Are the required courses well-matched to your child's abilities? Will your child be able to succeed in the general curriculum or will they be in a special education class? Are there any classes they may have difficulties with and need accommodations for, such as physical education (P.E.) or computer keyboarding?
  • Does your child need any individual accommodations to make sure that she can access and understand the general curriculum, such as books on tape, adjusted reading level, homework accommodations, etc.?
  • Are there safety or mobility issues? (Does your child need to go to classes up or down stairs? Are trailer classrooms accessible? Can he get to and open his locker? Can he have extra time to get to class?, etc.)
  • Keep in mind your child’s social skills, communication, self-help, and self-advocacy skills. Will she be able to get her lunch in the cafeteria and sit with friends, or will she need help? Is bullying a worry, and how will it be dealt with?
  • Should pre-vocational skills be introduced or encouraged?
  • Are there any health issues your child will need to make changes for, such as adjustment of medications for longer school hours and homework time?

Common Family Concerns

As your child enters kindergarten or elementary school, you may be nervous about the change in her setting. As your child takes on her new role as “student,” you and she may find that this new role comes with new worries. How will she get along with her new peer group? Will she like her new teachers? If your child is medically fragile, do you agree with the care she will have at school?
Your child may have new responsibilities, like taking the school bus, or doing homework. These are normal concerns, and it’s likely you may have more. The best way to address these worries is to talk about them with your child’s teacher, health team, and, of course, with your child. Talking on a regular basis with your child and their education team is always helpful in easing your mind and keeping you "in the know" about what is going on at school.

Common Teacher Concerns

Your child’s teacher will likely share some of your concerns, but will have their own questions and concerns, too. Some teachers have not worked much with children with special needs or health issues, and as you know, each child presents their own challenges. Teachers often express that they need to know more about what special care your child needs. You can help your child’s teacher by listening to their questions and concerns ahead of time, and helping them to understand your child's needs.
A few common teacher questions include how to use needed special equipment, wondering about your child’s learning challenges, behavioral issues, or if they are able to work in a group. They may wonder who else will be involved in caring for your child at school, and whether your child will spend much time away from their classroom, in special education, or working with a therapist. As always, talking often with your child’s teachers can help both you and the teachers more easily meet your child’s needs, and better know the challenges that each of you face in helping your child reach his educational goals.

What Might You Expect from the Medical Home?

During your child’s transition into elementary school, your child’s medical home will still be involved. They may be helpful in looking at and asking for needed accommodations for your child. For example, your child may need an aide in the lunchroom (to watch for choking while eating), they may need an augmentative communication evaluation or device, or a letter from your medical home may be needed to ask for accommodations needed in physical education classes. You might ask for their help to work with the school on changes in health or needs, and for helping to keep the IEP up to date.
Based on your child’s needs and health problem, this might be a time when you start helping your child to work more directly with his medical home. During appointments, your child’s doctor will likely encourage self-care by teaching your child about his special health care needs and medications. They may encourage your child to take part in hobbies, sports, activities, recreation, and groups, such as Scouts or Special Olympics. And of course, they will answer your questions, and suggest ideas and resources that can help you to help your child at school.

Suggestions to Help Your Elementary School Student

  • Let the new school know, well before of the first day, of your child's health issues and needs.
  • Take your child to visit the new school and classroom before the school year starts.
  • Learn the layout of the new school; find bathrooms, classrooms, the lunch room, the main office, and the nurse’s office.
  • Meet the new teacher and establish preferred means of communication, i.e., phone call, meeting, email, etc.
  • Meet with the school nurse to come up with a health plan.
  • Take your child to meet other people she will see at school, such as the office clerk, lunch workers, or custodian.
  • Teach your child routines needed for the new school, such as where to wait for a ride home, where to go if the ride is late, or how to alert his teacher if something is wrong.
  • Talk about transportation, health, and cost issues in IEP meetings.
  • Learn about school rules and your rights and responsibilities.
  • Celebrate your child’s growth and successes.

Resources

Information & Support

For Parents and Patients

Center for Parent Information and Resources (DOE)
Parent centers in every state provide training to parents of children with disabilities and provide information about special education, transition to adulthood, health care, support groups, local conferences and other federal, state, and local services. See the link for Download a List of Parent Centers across the USA to find the parent center in your state; Department of Education, Office of Special Education.

State Education Contacts and Information
This page has contact information for state school resources in any state, including adult education, arts, child care, higher education, humanities, libraries, PTA, special ed, tech-prep, vocational rehabilitation, vocational-technical, and other education offices in each state.

Authors & Reviewers

Last update/revision: September 2019
Current Authors and Reviewers:
Contributing Author: Gina Pola-Money
Reviewer: Tina Persels
Authoring history
2013: revision: Tina PerselsCA
2008: revision: Alfred N. Romeo, RN, PhDR
2005: first version: Robin PrattCA; Barbara Ward, RN BSCA; Cheralyn CreerCA; Karen Ekker, RNCA; Carolyn Green, RNCA; Lynne Larsen-MillerCA; Elaine PollockCA; Kathryn PostCA; Helen PostCA; Lisa Samson-Fang, MDCA
AAuthor; CAContributing Author; SASenior Author; RReviewer