Springtime Planning for Transitions
The sun is beginning to shine, and the fresh smells of spring are upon us. This time of year is always a favorite of mine, whether I am working with clients or walking through the park with my sons. One thing is for sure, this time of year is always busy in school systems. Special educators, parents, and support staff alike generally meet together for an annual Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for the coming school year. For those of you who are unfamiliar with them, IEPs are usually completed in the spring for students receiving special education services. When preparing for IEPs, it is essential for parents and educators alike to think about the conclusion of the current school year and the beginning of the next, and how they will support the child during this time.
During moments of transition from grade to grade, classroom to classroom, or school to summer, many children with disabilities begin to feel uncertain about what is to come for them in the future. This uncertainty can lead to increased in anxiety, which can be manifested in many different ways. As educators and parents, it is very important to plan not only for the upcoming school year, but also for the transitions in between. Here are several suggestions to make those transitions easier and less stressful for everyone involved:
- Communicate with the child that the school year is coming to an end, and that summer will be approaching.This is a good time to discuss moving on to a new teacher, saying good-bye to the current teacher, and ways for maintaining friendships over the summer.
- Include the child in the planning process as it draws near. It is important to ask him/her what he/she would like to learn and from whom in the next school year. For educators, asking for student input is very important. We want our students to feel empowered, that they have an impact on what happens to them in the future.
- Make decisions as a team. It is important for educators and parents alike to make informed decisions regarding placement for the coming school year. Having received input from the child, parents and educators should discuss the best options for success.
- Make a plan for the summer. It is very useful for students with disabilities to see a visual of how the transition will take place. You can draw a map for the summer, or write important dates on a calendar (for example when school ends, summer events, meeting the new teacher, when school will begin again, etc.).
- Guide the child through the transition. It will be important to guide the child in how to say goodbye to this year’s teachers and classmates appropriately. It will also be important, especially for parents, to guide their child through their summer routine whether at home, on vacation, or attending summer school.
- Gear up for the coming school year. During the several weeks prior to the start of school, it is beneficial to take your child to his or her school, introduce him/her to the new teacher, and allow him/her to familiarize him/herself with the new surroundings. It may also be beneficial to set-up a time to meet with the new teacher(s) to discuss the child’s needs, and what he or she can expect during the first days of school. By doing this, you will be able to help prepare your child for what he/she can expect when school begins again.
In following these steps, transitions from school to summer and then to school again can be less stressful and more enjoyable for everyone involved. Helping children learn to think about and plan ahead for transitions is an important component of treatment for Autism, ADHD, and other Neurodevelopmental Disorders. As educators and parents, it is important for us to support our children, and guide them in successfully dealing with transitions.
“Nothing is secure but life, transition, the energizing spirit.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)