Transitions between School Settings

Key Points:

  • School transitions can be challenging for any child recovering from concussion.
  • Caregivers are in a great position to support their child during transition times.
  • Alternatives to post-secondary education can be considered for the child who is still recovering from concussion.

Transitions can be Challenging

The following school transitions can be challenging for adolescents who are recovering from concussion:

  • Grade to grade
  • School to school
  • Start of a new school year
  • Between semesters/terms when courses change
  • Following breaks (eg. summer break, spring break)

During school transitions your child will have to adjust to new courses, classmates, teachers, schools, and expectations, which can all be points of anxiety, especially while recovering from concussion.

Planning for these changes, and articulating your child’s needs during these times, can make adjusting easier and less stressful.

Differences between Settings

The process for “Return to School” can be applied to all settings (elementary, secondary, and post-secondary) but differences will exist between these settings, including:

  • the level of monitoring
  • accommodations available
  • who is involved in the support team.

See Your School Support Team for more information.


Elementary to Secondary

The transition from elementary to secondary school results in more social and academic demands.

Consider the following prior to your child’s transition to secondary school. Help your child:

  • Attend orientation session(s) to become familiar with new setting and staff
  • Access the school website to become familiar with school routines and rules
  • Select appropriate courses for the upcoming term/semester based on recovery progress
  • Communicate with the school counsellor as an introduction, and to notify them of the injury and resulting symptoms
  • Visit and walk through the school when it is open but empty, as a strategy to become more familiar with the physical environment, timetable, classes, and locker location.
  • Request a transition meeting with pertinent secondary staff (eg. learning support team, school counsellor, and/or grade administrator) if you anticipate the need for individualized programming and formal supports.
Secondary to Post-Secondary

Post-secondary students are expected to be independent, and take complete responsibility for themselves and their health.

Encourage your child to complete the following prior to starting their post-secondary education:

  • “Special Consideration for Admission” form if your child’s concussion has impacted their grades, and subsequent eligibility for admission to the post-secondary institution.
  • Become familiar with the application process/deadlines/requirements for post-secondary programs
  • Determine appropriate course load based on recovery needs
  • Determine appropriate course selection which allows for balance and pacing
  • Become aware of important dates and deadlines for courses (eg. withdraw without impact to your academic record)
  • Contact the Disability Resource Centre at their institution to determine if they qualify for educational support
  • Investigate on and off campus living arrangements to determine what will meet your child’s needs
  • Sign up for a guided tour/orientation of the post-secondary institution, if available
  • Here's an example from UBC for Special Considerations

Alternatives are Okay

Adolescents have many career paths and options available to them following high school graduation. This can include jumping into the workforce or continuing their education; both can lead to a happy and independent life.

However, if your child is planning on continuing their education, and is recovering from concussion, sometimes post-secondary plans are best to be postponed and/or altered depending on your child’s injury impact and needs. This is not your child’s fault - and these situations are beyond anyone’s control.

In this case, it’ll be important to understand what the school’s process and deadlines are for deferral.

The good news is that your child can return to school when the timing is right, and your child is feeling their best.

As disappointing as this may seem, your child may not be aware of great alternatives. Support your child to consider the following:

  • Attending an alternate post-secondary institution as a ‘stepping stone’ to their original plan. This is a great way for your child to stay involved and to be able to practice self-management and learning strategies in a less stressful environment.
  • Getting a job. The skills your child will acquire from paid employment opportunities will be helpful in their transition to their original post-secondary plans, and adulthood overall.
  • Take a gap year. Gap years are intended to give students opportunities for experiential learning through a break from academics. This is a great way for your child to discover themselves, and allow more time for healing and future planning. A gap year can take many forms including: travelling, pursuing hobbies/interests, and paid and/or volunteer work.

Refer to Return to Volunteering and Part-Time Work for more info.

Promoting Independence

It can be both exciting and terrifying to watch your child go through transition stages, especially when they are still recovering from concussion.

Caregivers are in a great position to support their children through these different stages, ultimately promoting independence, confidence, and preparation for adulthood overall.

The following tips may be helpful in supporting your child through transitions:

  • Encourage self advocacy
  • Provide praise for effort, growth, and courage (rather than grades)
  • Allow time for your child to settle into new environments and routines
  • Encourage positive risk-taking
  • Keep communication and connection strong
  • Continue to connect your child with appropriate resources when needed (counselling, tutoring, accessibility services)

Helpful Resources

For career exploration, your child may be interested in the following links:

For post-secondary educational programs in BC, your child may be interested in the following:

For trades-related occupations, your child may be interested in the following:

For post-secondary funding information, your child may be interested in the following:

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