April 18, 2016
Is your child transitioning into Kindergarten in the fall? Or perhaps middle school? What about high school or (gulp) adulthood?
Every single one of FACT Oregon’s staff are a parent of children and adults who experience disability. With that in mind, we thought we would share a few things staff found worked for them in those stages of transition, or what you should do now to prepare for the fall.
Emily: Our transition to Kindergarten was interesting, as we moved to a new state the summer between ECSE and Kindergarten. My only tips would be to start early, communicate with the school often, and know there will be bumps in the road!
Anne: I made sure that staff training (by me) was written into the IEP, so I had a chance to sit down and train the school SLP, the para-educator, and the classroom teacher on my son’s speech device before the year started. School personnel may have lots of expertise, but they will not have expertise on your child or their pre-existing equipment. It’s good to recognize the areas where you are the expert, and figure out specific ways to impart that information to the school team.
Nicole: I was extremely nervous about my son’s transition to kindergarten. Looking back, when we chose a classroom for him, I feel like I went into it more worried about my emotional mama heart than really listening to what my son wanted. I was focused more on his medical fragility instead of what would EMPOWER him! That’s why it’s so important to have a solid person-center plan BEFORE your child goes into kindergarten. It’s never too early to have them start advocating their own north star! Also, talk to other families who have already gone through this transition – they are the best resources!
Whitney: This is kind of advocacy 101, but when we transitioned from elementary to middle school, even though I liked the IEP that we were heading in with, I made an appointment with the Learning specialist who was going to be working with my son to introduce myself. I had a 45-minute appointment, so I came with basic questions (not IEP-related) all typed up and ready to ask. (I think I may have emailed them to him before so that we could get the most accomplished at our meeting as possible.)
The great thing about it was that he got to know who I was, and it put a face to the “crazy,” I mean, the mom. It really helped in developing that relationship right off the bat. I even brought in lunch because we met at lunch time (but that is not really necessary – I just really like food!). We are now transitioning into high school, and I plan to do the same.
Christy: My son is transitioning to 6th grade next year! Yikes… It’s so easy to freak myself out about it! A few of the things we have done or are planning to do:
- Visit the new school before school is out… More than once! Fifth graders have a scheduled visit, so we are going to go before and after that visit.
- At our annual IEP meeting, we planned to get together again in June to set up the schedule and services.
- We shared his one-page profile with the new special education teacher and middle school director, and still plan to meet the principal.
- We are adding an accommodation to his IEP that he tours the school again in August and can meet his teachers.
- My biggest tip: hold on to your vision for the future, and remember to breathe!
Loreta: My son returned to public school after 7 years of being homeschooled, so I didn’t know what to expect to happen in the transition. What was crystal clear to me, however, was that I was going to listen to HIM and what HE wanted from school, and make that a priority for his IEP team. Creating his person-centered plan with our county caseworker also helped me identify areas of strength and possible future employment. This, together with my son’s lead, are the backbone of his high school adventure, and it’s been nothing short of stellar.
Lastly, because my son relies on a letterboard to communicate, I would recommend these tips for parents from Ido in Autismland. They are so spot-on! Our school had never experienced a student who used a letterboard to communicate, but they were very open to it. I’m happy to say that a number of teachers and students wanted to learn how to use a letterboard, and are now engaging my son in natural, peer-to-peer conversations. I feel like we’re creating a “new normal.”
Karen: In preparing for the transition to adulthood, start early. (Although it’s never too late to start either!) In late middle school and early high school, be thinking about what adulthood looks like for your child. What is your vision for their future?
Have conversations with your child about what their hopes and dreams are. Ask lots of questions: What do they want to do after high school? Do they want to go to college? Do they want to volunteer? Do they want to have a job, and if so, what kind of job? What are their skills and interests? Do they want to live on their own – at what age? Do they want a pet? With a roommate? Do they want to get married?
Create a person-centered plan that focuses on these topics for adulthood: employment, social, recreation, living arrangements, housing, etc. Build an action plan towards those steps, and incorporate them into the IEP and transition goals.
Utilize the transition specialist at your high school. Start educating yourself on what happens when your child turns 18.
Go to trainings or read up online about SSI [Supplemental Security Income] which your child can become eligible for when turning 18. If not already in DD [Developmental Disabilities] services and if your child is eligible, start the application process prior to turning 18. The case manager of DD services will become your go-to person for information regarding adulthood and services.
Explore and understand VR [Vocational Rehabilitation] services that will help your child to find employment.
Talk with a parent who has a child a few years older than yours – most helpful!
And my biggest tip – don’t ever lose hold of your vision for your soon-to-be adult child, or allow anyone to discourage you from it.