Transition Can be Difficult – Parents Can Help

Ask the Experts by Pete Pullen

Q: How do I prep my student who learns differently for the new school year?

A: For many students including those who learn differently, change and transition can be difficult. Every student will be starting a new grade, a new school, or both. Those are all significant changes that children of all ages experience each year. Students typically struggle in three areas when starting their new school year: 1) Organization 2) Anticipating what is coming next, and 3) Anxiety.

Parents can help their students in these areas by doing the following:


  • Create checklists for school start-up such as a checklist for school clothes, school supplies, doctor appointments, school forms, etc.
  • Work with your student each week on completing the checklists.

Anticipating what is coming next:

  • Articulate in a simple written outline of the new routines that your student will experience in the year. Include the new morning routine, after-school routine, new homework routine at home, etc.
  • Create a specific time at home each week to talk through the new routines that will occur in the new year.
  • Prepare a plan for the first day and first week of school. Sometimes students will allow you to roleplay with them to help with the social and emotional aspects of the first days of school.


  • Anxiety impacts each person differently, so it is important to always take the time to help your student verbalize or communicate in some way the sources of their anxiety.
  • Once the source(s) of anxiety are identified, help your student secure the information is needed or take the steps needed to reduce anxiety levels.
  • Allow your students to vent about their anxiety can help reduce anxiety when done in a supportive and non-reactive manner.

Pete Pullen is the Head of School for Eton Academy in Birmingham, Mich. Eton has served the Greater Detroit Area for over 30 years educating students in grades 1-12 who learn differently. Students may have an identified difference such as dyslexia or ADHD, or need a smaller, more individualized education. Visit for more information. Eton Academy is a member of The Family Center’s Association of Professionals.

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