With another school year under way we are getting used to early hours and school routine. Often transitioning to this time of year is a bit easier with preparation. We start getting the kids to bed earlier before school starts to prepare them for the early alarm clock. In doing so we hope to avoid the ‘morning grumbles’ and make sure there is time for a good breakfast. We all know that the best-laid-plans aren’t always a sure thing, but can be worth the effort in producing the desired outcome.
Transition plans through school ages 14-18 (and sometimes through age 22) are much the same. We are familiar with the idea of helping our child prepare but don’t always know exactly what he will need. Let’s go back to that school routine for a minute. Will my child need a simple morning call, “Hey, it’s time to wake up,” or does he need more of an impact by adding a loud alarm clock? Does the alarm clock need to be across the room? Does he need a follow-up support of you checking in on him to be sure he didn’t dive back into bed for “five more minutes”? This scenario is much like planning for transition for you child with disabilities.
The way to plan for the best outcome is to be aware of the child and who he really is. What does he need? What can he do? What does he like or not like? Under what conditions does he perform best? These can be broken down into PINS: preferences, interests, needs and strengths.
Too often we hear about other children and how they make strides. We think, “Wow, they did this and it worked out well for their child.” “I think I will try that with my Ricky.” We set the same process in motion and it does not work out as well. It becomes frustrating and we give up. We have found that in transition and when working with individuals with disabilities, one fact remains unchallenged: you will not often find that one student is just like the other. Throughout education and all aspects of life, planning is most comprehensive when it is person-centered. When we sit down and really get to know the child, we can then create a plan that will guide him toward future success.
Much of this can happen during transition planning meetings where the team discusses the Individualized Education Plan (IEP), the student’s past and current level of performance, as well as his preferences, interests, needs, and strengths.
It is very important that you say where you want to see your child in the future. When planning for a young transition-age student (ex. 14-16) the future planning may be quite difficult. You are unsure as you have not seen enough academic, social, vocational progress to be sure about where he might be in the future – but don’t let that deter you.
Your child, wherever possible, should express for himself where he sees himself in the future. Often we see future planning that includes being an actor, a doctor, a veterinarian, a mechanic, a video game designer, or a pro athlete. This is fine in the early stages of planning. We have all been there, too. Once your child progresses through transition, we hone the post-graduate goal to the assessed strengths, skills and interests that will lead to the most achievable goal.
Simply taking the time over a few days or a week to break down your child’s day and add his PINS – preferences, interests, needs, and strengths – can provide invaluable input in the planning process for transition. Describe what your child can do and what your child struggles with. Once you have all of this information, it is much easier for the IEP team to determine what needs to be prioritized for the school year in order to make progress work toward the transition goal.
Transition planning lasts anywhere between four to eight years. Make the most of it. Bring your child to the planning table and encourage him to share who he is or provide that information to help the IEP team to determine the logical steps for making progress toward his future.
Often times I attend IEP meetings where the parent/individual does not seem to feel that she is an active part of the planning. We’d like to change that. We want to encourage you to share your valuable and formative information. This process is, and always should be, a team approach to creating a transition plan.