School Age

Navigating Life's Transitions
School Age

School age is a time of several transitions, whether starting elementary school, beginning at a new school, or simply moving from one grade to the next. At the same time, children are going through rapid intellectual and developmental changes. Even at this young age, it’s helpful to identify goals and plan for the future, so you aren’t simply reacting to every change during this transition.

You can begin your planning by considering the three primary factors below. While each of these factors will impact the others, the one you start with will be specific to your family.  

Learn more about these guides, including how they’re organized and how to get the most out of each guide, on the Transition Guide Home Page.

School Advocacy

Students who qualify for services from HCDDS may have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a similar support plan at their school. You’ll work closely with your local school district on your child’s IEP, ensuring they have the support they need to succeed at school. As you work with your school, you might need help to advocate for your child’s needs and goals. 

The HCDDS Transition team has created an in-depth Transition LiveBinder full of family resources. The “IEP Section 5” tab of the LiveBinder includes helpful information about navigating the IEP process. there you can click on the tabs under “IEP Section 5” to explore these resources.

If you need support as you work with your IEP team, contact your school district’s parent mentors/educational advocates. If you don’t know your school’s parent mentors, you can find a list here

You can find additional guidance and resources from the Ohio Department of Education

The OCECD is a statewide nonprofit organization that helps parents become informed and effective representatives for their children in all educational settings. Learn more on their website

Making Connections

During this time, it’s often helpful for parents to make as many connections as possible, including with other parents, disability-related groups, and local resources. By building these connections early, you’ll learn from experts and experienced parents and feel equipped for the future.

There are several local organizations for specific diagnoses, including the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati, the Autism Connections, the Spina Bifida Coalition, the Regional Autism Advisory Council, and more. These groups are a great way to connect with others, build a support network, and find valuable resources.

Many local organizations, including those mentioned above, maintain email lists that share events, training, resources, and more. Signing up for several lists, even those targeted to specific disabilities, can provide valuable information and keep you informed about important timelines or local events. You can find links to some of these local resources on our website. In addition, the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital has a mailing list from their Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics (DDBP), which you can sign up for here

If you’re looking for ways to build social connections with your community and don’t know how to get started, reach out to HCDDS Advocacy Coordinator Amber Cowart at amber.cowart@hamiltondds.org.

Thinking About the Future

The possibilities for your child’s future are wide open at this early stage! Think about the future and how you can explore a variety of options now to understand better what will work best for your child. You don’t need to create a rigid plan, but you should identify some broad goals and action steps that will help you along the way. If you need help thinking about the future, contact Family Engagement Coordinator Sean Bostic at sean.bostic@hamiltondds.org.

Charting the Life Course is a set of tools that can help you identify life goals and make a plan to achieve those goals. You can use each Life Course tool alone or as part of a more comprehensive toolbox that can grow with your child. Learn more about these free tools on their website. The Life Course Trajectory Tool is a good place to start.

Learning new skills can take a long time. Begin thinking about the skills your child will need as they get older and how they can start to learn and build on those skills now. These skills might include things like cooking, cleaning, personal care, and more. While the resources are specific to autism, families of all learners might find the resources from ASD Strategies in Action helpful.

Other Considerations

Other important things to consider when you’re planning for life transitions in adulthood might include:

Families may need a short break from daily care. Respite can provide this support. You can learn more about the Family Support Services Program, which includes respite opportunities and is administered by the Southwestern Ohio Council of Governments (SWOCOG).   

At this age, effective interventions can help prevent problematic behavior from continuing or worsening. If you’re concerned about your child’s behavior, reach out to your pediatrician, who may connect you to other resources in your community. You can also speak with your HCDDS Service and Support Administrator (SSA) or Support Navigator about consultation with our Behavior Support Team. Contact our Introduction and Eligibility team if you don’t have an SSA or Support Navigator.

In addition to programs through your school, you might be interested in extracurricular activities. Many local organizations offer unique activities throughout the year, including local sports leagues, activities at your local library, summer camps, or interest groups. Organizations like this include the Cincinnati Recreation Commission, the Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library, Special Olympics of Hamilton County, the YMCA, and many more. HCDDS Community Navigators have assembled a resource list of local activities where people can connect with others with similar interests. You can find the Activity Resources page here

A young girl plays with a toy at a school desk

More Info

If you have questions or are looking for guidance during this stage, contact Lisa Myers, SSA Supervisor at (513) 559-4382 or lisa.myers@hamiltondds.org. If you are not yet receiving services from HCDDS, begin by contacting our Introduction and Eligibility team

If you’d like to dig deeper, the following links provide additional resources. 

Explore the Transition Guides

Early Childhood

See the Early Childhood Transition Guide

School Age

See the School Age Transition Guide

Graduation Age

See the Graduation Age Transition Guide

Adulthood

See the Adulthood Transition Guide

Aging

See the Aging and Future Planning Transition Guide

Early Childhood

See the Early Childhood Transition Guide

School Age

See the School Age Transition Guide

Graduation Age

See the Graduation Age Transition Guide

Adulthood

See the Adulthood Transition Guide

Aging

See the Aging and Future Planning Transition Guide