School Advocacy

Should We Stay or Should We Go? When to Switch Schools

Your child is struggling academically and/or socially, so you’re considering switching schools. But the weight of the decision is heavy and the potential impact is huge; you want to make absolutely sure a new school is the answer. Here is a list of systemic problems that may make the switch unavoidable, plus preliminary steps for every parent.

Stressed student

Systemic School Problems That Require Action

The decision to switch your child to a new school should not be made lightly. If he or she is already experiencing behavioral and social problems related to ADHD and/or learning disabilities, the lengthy process of being inserted into a new environment could worsen the issues. However, if you’ve noticed systemic problems with the current school district, a school change is likely the best option.

If you answer negatively to the following questions, consider a school change seriously:

1. Safety: Is the school located in a neighborhood that’s problematic? Are there guards at the door? Have there been security issues in the past that remain unresolved?

2. Class size: What is the average number of children in each class and how many teachers are put in each class? Is this above or below the district and state average?

3. Bullying: How does the school respond to bullying? Is there an active anti-bullying program? Is bullying an issue for your child?

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4. Gifted Program / “Co-taught” Class: These are classes that include typical learners and students with learning issues in one room with a regular instructor and a special-ed teacher. Does the current school attempt this level of inclusivity?

5. Responsive administration: When there is a problem, how difficult is it to see the principal? What about the superintendent or head of guidance?

IEP or 504 Plan for ADHD: Does Your Child Have One?

If you’re considering switching schools but haven’t encountered the systemic problems above, you should first either get your child an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or refine your child’s already existing IEP.

If your child doesn’t have an IEP plan, start by determining if he has problems that could be addressed by one:

[How Do I Create an IEP for My Child? Find Out in this Free Resource]

  • Does your child have test-taking anxiety? Could extended test time or a separate, quieter location help?
  • Does your child have a medical problem and need to have medication administered in school? Would a special seat in the classroom or periodic breaks help this condition?
  • Is the curriculum too intensive for your child? For example, if your child is struggling in French, an IEP may permit your child to skip the foreign language requirement.
  • Are substantial behavior issues, such as temper-tantrums, common with your child?
  • Might your child have such significant needs that he or she could benefit from an individual one-on-one aide?

If your child already has an IEP or 504 Plan but problems persist, meet with her teachers and make sure they are adhering to the plan. If the issues your child is facing are not resolved after this meeting, you should convene a meeting of your IEP or 504 team. The goal of this meeting is to determine if the school is unable or unwilling to address your child’s problems. If the answer is yes, you should start the process of looking for a new school.

This content came from the ADDitude webinar by Susan Yellin, Esq., titled “A Parent’s Guide to Changing Schools: How to Find the Best Match for Your Student with ADHD or LD” That webinar is available for free replay here. She is a member of the ADDitude ADHD Medical Review Panel.

When to Switch Schools: Next Steps