At first glance, transitions may seem challenging-whether you're moving from one school to another, or to an entirely different state or country. With the right tools and information you can make the move a smoother process. This is especially important when your child with a special need has an Individualized Education Program (IEP).
When arriving at your new location, the goal is to meet with school staff as soon as you arrive to facilitate your child's placement and the start of special education services. Therefore, it is important that, at a minimum, you hand-carry a copy of your child's current IEP when travelling to your new home.
When transferring with an IEP, the new school is required to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE). This includes providing comparable services to those available through the current IEP. While the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that the new school provide services, it does not require that the services at the new location be exactly the same as those provided by the previous school. Comparable services are services that are similar or equivalent to those outlined on the incoming IEP. The flexibility in the phrase "comparable services" allows the school to determine how best to provide FAPE using the previous IEP as a guide to the needs of the child.
Once you receive orders to relocate to a new installation, you should begin planning for the school transition for your child with special needs:
- Ways to facilitate the transition. You can reduce educational lag time by being proactive with the losing and gaining school systems by: requesting copies of your child's records; verifying that IEP, evaluation and eligibility determination are current; getting teachers' recommendations in writing; hand-carrying the IEP and other school records; and contacting the gaining school to enroll your child in advance of or upon arrival.
- School Liaison Officers. School Liaison Officers (SLOs) serve as a bridge and facilitator between schools and military families, working with schools to minimize the negative consequences of transitions and inform school personnel and the installation command about issues related to the education of military youth, including special education.
- Transitioning overseas. The DoDEA Special Education website has a list of special education relocation suggestions for families relocating overseas, as well as points of contact for each overseas area. If your child requires special equipment or assistive technology, contact the special education office in the responsible area.
- Specialty Consultation and your installation Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP). For even more support and information, you can contact Military OneSource at 1-800-342-9647 and ask to speak with an EFMP Specialty Consultant. You should also reach out to the EFMP at your losing and gaining installations.