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Relocation Consultations: What Do You Need to Know About Moving 

This is the time of year when I receive inquiries for Relocation Consultations as families prepare to move to a new state, city or town. Parents have many questions especially when they have a child with special needs. For those moving to or within Massachusetts, I provide in depth conversations about the special education services in different communities based on the needs of individual children. However, much of the information is relevant to families outside of Massachusetts. In this article, I share helpful information for all families who are relocating.

 

Here are the top five questions posed by families about moving to a new town.

 

  1. What features of a school system should I consider when moving with my child who has special needs?

Although every school district is obligated to provide for the special education needs of its young residents, there can be variation across cities and towns. One consideration is the size of the school district. Generally speaking, larger school districts offer more specialized programs because they have more students in their population. Smaller districts can have some highly individualized learning opportunities. You can often find out about the size and scope of the special education department on the school district website.  You can also look at state-wide databases to see the per pupil special education expenditure which is a marker of the financial resources available to students with special education needs. Also, districts submit data on their special education population to the state on an annual basis. This link provides a sample of special education data for the city of Boston and you can use the site to search every school district in the state. https://profiles.doe.mass.edu/gis/sped_map.aspx?orgcode=00350000&

 

Gathering information about school districts will make it easier to decide which city or town is right for your child and their special education needs.

 

2. Who can I contact or connect with in the area to learn more about the special education community?

Most towns have a Special Education Parent Advisory Council. SEPAC is a group of parents representing families who have children requiring special education in meetings with school administrators and school committees. SEPACs also provide programs and information to families. This link provides a description of SEPACs – https://fcsn.org/masspac/.

People on the SEPAC boards are very knowledgeable about the special education services in their cities and towns and can provide helpful resources. 

 

3. Does the new school system need to follow my child’s current IEP?

Yes– the new school system is required to implement a comparable IEP without delay. However, the new school district will often meet with the family after they get to know the child and make revisions to the IEP or request additional evaluations to best meet the needs of the student within the state and federal guidelines.

 

4. How do I enroll my child in a new school and can I send the IEP to the new school in advance of the first day of classes?

Most school districts have a registrar at each school. If you are not sure who to contact, reach out to the central office or the superintendent’s office for your new school district and they will direct you to the right person. The new district may require supporting documents providing proof of residency and birth certificates as part of the enrollment process. You may be able to provide your child’s IEP to the registrar as well. However, it is helpful to send the IEP to the office of the Director of Special Education for your district. Schools spend the summer planning, scheduling, and getting ready for the start of the new year. It will be helpful to your child’s transition if the school has your child's existing IEP and other school records as soon as possible.

 

5. What are some things I can do to help my child with the transition to a new school?

Moving to a new state or town can be challenging for some children. Most children prefer predictability and moving requires a lot of adjustments and changes. In planning for the transition, consider your child’s developmental level. The older the child, the better they can understand the transition process. 

 

Most schools will let kids tour the school buildings and meet some of the staff prior to the first day of school. For middle and high schoolers, you can often obtain their schedule and they can walk through the school and find their locker and classrooms in advance. Younger children might benefit from playing at the school playground over the summer as a way to familiarize themselves with the school. 

 

It can also be helpful to provide your child’s new teacher(s) with key information about your child. You can write a brief description of your child including likes, dislikes, strengths, and important information from their IEP. You can also attach a picture of your child and email this information to your child’s teacher(s) a few days before the start of school. Providing a synopsis of your child helps teachers prepare to meet your child on the first day.

 

With thoughtful planning, the transition to a new school can be smooth and seamless. Most children are resilient and adapt fairly quickly to a new school but some need more time and care. Your child’s teacher or guidance counselor are helpful partners in the transition process. 

 

If you are moving to Massachusetts (or to a new city or town in MA), you can use the form on the Contact page to schedule a Relocation Consultation and we are happy to provide more individualized information for your family.

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