Ages 3-14
AGES 3-14

Transitioning into the school system.

You are entering a period of growth and change for both you and your child.

For many parents the first major transition will be from Early Intervention services, which are home-based and family-centered, to an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for your child provided in a classroom environment. 

It is critical to work with educators and and service providers to set measurable goals and objectives for your child. Integrated public schools and some private schools will support your child's IEP by building time for specialists into your child's school day.



The importance of gaining the knowledge and skills needed to understand your role and rights in the process and to most effectively advocate for your child cannot be overstated.


AGES 3-14

Unique planning requirements

  • Learn as much as possible about your child’s diagnosis.  Their abilities are yet to be discovered.
  • Build and maintain relationships with physicians. schools, therapists, teachers, provider agencies, and your neighborhood community.
  • Get to know your local and state officials, legislators, representatives and senators and how to contact them.  Investigate how programs are funded.
  • Register with your local police and fire departments, and let them know you have a child with special needs living in your home.
  • Get to know your state’s laws on public education; make sure you have a clear understanding of your child’s
    entitlements and your rights and responsibilities as the parent.
  • Check your local school and provider agencies for parent support groups, educational workshops, and/or parent advisory councils.
  • Make sure that your budget includes out-of- pocket expenses for medical therapies, babysitters, advocates, legal and financial services and other unexpected expenses.
  • If you experience difficulty in working with your public school system to provide the supports and accommodations needed for your child to thrive, don’t be afraid to hire an advocate to help guide your negotiations.
  • Review your current financial and estate plan at least every 3 to 5 years, as well as any time your situation changes.
  • You may face some challenges during the school years, such as:

    • Helping your child develop a social network.

    • Obtaining an appropriate education program, while helping your child to be included in the everyday life of the school.

    • Helping your child learn about their body changes during adolescence.

    • Working with your child, beginning at age 16 or earlier, to develop transition goals that reflect your child’s dreams and desires.


Planning Pointer



Transition to school is a very important period. After a child reaches age 3, the school system is responsible for offering educational and related services. If a child has special health care needs, such as a chronic illness, a disabling condition, or a frequent need for medical technology, check out eligibility for your state’s program that is based on the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 (TEFRA) or its Special Health Care Needs Program, informally referred to as the “Katie Beckett” Waiver. EI staff will be of great assistance to explore such options, as well to help with the transition to school.

Trying to take this all in?

You can download a printable PDF of this page. 

Jake's family


When Jake was 3 1/2 years old, he attended a preschool program. We were still unclear about his disability, but he had limited interest in verbal communication, and he made little eye contact with his peers and with us. The school program was providing him with only one communication activity per week through a speech therapy session. We talked to the special education coordinator, but she stated that only the director of special education can make a change, and that we had to have the change written into Jake’s education plan.

After 6 months of going back and forth with no results, we decided to contact the social worker at the EI program that Jake had attended for 1 year. She agreed to meet with us and brought in an educator for part of the meeting. The two of them helped us identify missing elements in Jake’s present school program. The social worker also connected us with a parent who was involved in educational advocacy in the same school system as Jake.

After meeting with the parent advocate, we decided to hire her to assist us at the team meeting, which would be to review Jake’s current educational plan. At that meeting, the director offered us a compromise for Jake’s communication goal, which we accepted pending a 3-month review. We also stated that if progress was unsatisfactory by that time, we would then ask for a mediation session with the school district on Jake’s plan and push for the activities that we felt would be optimal for him. We were successful.

If it were not for the assistance of this parent advocate, we would not have accomplished so much on Jake’s behalf. There are so many factors that have to be considered, and we are still new to this. Her involvement made such a difference for all of us.


Check out the Knowledge Bank- with our compliments!

We are committed to sharing free educational resources with all members of the disability community. Our Knowledge Bank has a catalog of  information, along with downloadable checklists and tools, to help you begin your planning journey. We also publish the Special Needs Planning Blog to keep our followers up to date with information and events. And you may sign up to access all of the resources in our Knowledge Bank for FREE!

Ready to start planning?


  • The Special Needs Planning Guide, How to Prepare for Every Stage of Your Child's Life, Haddad/Nadworny, 2021, Brookes Publishing.

Affinia Financial Group conducts business under the Special Needs Financial Planning name. Advisory services offered through Affinia Financial Group, LLC,  a registered investment advisor. 

Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual, nor intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax or legal advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with a qualified tax or legal advisor. There is no assurance that the techniques and strategies discussed are suitable for all individuals or will yield positive outcomes. 

The experiences described here may not be representative of any future experience of our clients, nor considered a recommendation of the advisor's services or abilities or indicate a favorable client experience. Individual results will vary.