Directions needed? Scan this for help

When a student moves from a familiar school building to a new one, it can be scary to navigate a new floor plan.

For special needs students, the change can be particularly disruptive. Whether it is changing elementary schools or moving from elementary to middle school, special needs students can have a tough time figuring out the new hallways, finding where restrooms are and how to move from one classroom to the next.

To ease those worries, Franklin director of special education Mindy Staton created a book that shows the layout of the new school. Pictures of teachers, principal and school nurse are included, along with how to move through the lunch line, which she said can be a big concern for the special needs students.

This year, Staton incorporated QR codes into the transition books for students to be able to hear the principal or teacher talk before even meeting them.

“I just think it makes the student even more excited about it because it’s interactive, and they get to know the teacher and the principal before they even get there,” Staton said. “It makes them so much more comfortable because they already have a face (to attach their name to).”

The principal and teachers can smile, introduce themselves and talk about what they do at the school, so the students are familiar with them, Staton said. This allows students to be excited about coming to a new school instead of anxious, she said.

QR codes on the cafeteria page open up to a video of a student walking through the lunch line, so students are already comfortable with the steps involved, she said.

Not every special needs student has an iPad or laptop, but Staton wants that need to be met in the future. If all students have their own technology to carry around throughout the day, QR codes can be scattered throughout the school building in areas that could cause anxiety, she said.

For example, a QR code in front of the library could remind students to use a quieter voice and that the library is not a place to socialize with friends, she added.

Staton originally introduced the transition books — without QR codes — when the high school opened less than 10 years ago, since it was a large, new layout for students to get used to. One student who had a long bus ride to school every morning received a custom transition book that included landmarks, traffic signs and other stops along the bus route so the student knew how many more stops needed to be made before arriving at school, she said.