I was asked to fill out a questionnaire on transitions for an interview a student was doing for a class she was taking. For many youngsters, transitions do not happen easily starting with the first time you try to leave your infant with another caregiver to the day your grown child holds the key to his first “home away from home”. If you are raising a child with special needs your child will most likely have difficulties with transitions. What can parents do? How can educators help? This post has tips on the importance of starting the road to independence early and why parents must plan, prepare, practice, and have patience.
Even though families should enjoy the present and their children at every age, the job of a parent is to prepare their child/children to be independent one day in the future. This preparation should start in toddlerhood but parents should make it fun. Childhood is for playing and the power of play, for most kids, fosters language, physical, cognitive, and social development.
Transitions and Children with Special Needs
Preparing for transitions starts early and does not end before a child reaches adulthood and hopefully is able to live without the help of his parents or other caregivers. Parents have to remember they are raising kids to GO not to STAY! Their childhood is to give kids roots and wings! When parents are raising a child with special needs, most will need help from the school system or therapists to teach their child life skills to transition to each step towards adulthood.
Preparing your child to accept transitions is accomplished one day at a time and one small step at a time. If parents notice their child is not developing according to the norm they must have their child evaluated professionally. Once results of the evaluation have been discussed and the child has been found to have a delay in development then the child and his parents should qualify for help in preparing this child for the many transitions in his life from going to an Early Intervention Program, to kindergarten, to school, and finally to starting his adult life.
In the excellent parenting book, Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew: Updated and Expanded Edition by Ellen Notbohm, you will find very important advice for young adults as they transition into adulthood. The advice is not autism-specific…proving once more that this book if for everyone.
Ellen Notbohm explains that the goal of parents should be to equip our children with the skills necessary to progress toward productive, happy, independent adulthood. Being a self-sufficient adult who will be OK when his parents have passed away is a long process with many players involved. Like the author says, “…the quality of his tomorrows depends on each today that comes before it…”
Parents are the only constant in their child’s life and they must learn to advocate for the support and accommodations their child needs. Parents need to know what’s going on in their child’s school, ask questions and advocate for them because they know “the big picture” from day one. Parents are the tread of continuity in their child’s development. Parents are the ones who know his likes, dislikes, his triggers, and his potential. Parenting a child with special needs is a great responsibility and perhaps the most difficult job an individual may have.
Transitions and IEP’s
Children with special needs often have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The IEP team must discuss transitions and have a plan to make transitions easier for all concerned. The goal parents and educators must strive for is a successful transition from school to a productive adult live. Preparation for this must start years in advance through successfully transitioning from home to school, room to room, person to person, school to school, etc.
Parents should check out their countries’ special education laws regarding the rights of children with special needs as it applies to IEP’s and other programs that benefit children who need special accommodations and support.
Tips To Make Transitions Easier
Here are a few simple tips that may be helpful when assisting a child with/through transitions:
- Sharing Social Story™ both in school and at home prepares the child.
- Reading and discussing a good children’s book can make the “unknown” more
familiar so the child is not anxious about what is coming up.
- Having an event marked down in a visual schedule and talked about before it happens makes a change less upsetting.
- Providing a familiar item like a photo of their family carried in their pocket or having a favorite fidget or chewy like KidCompanions or SentioCHEWS Chewerly will provide comfort and ease anxiety.
- Knowing in advance that if the child has problems with a transition he can go to a “safe person or a safe room” will make him more apt to go along with his group.
Guide Books To Develop Skills Needed to Transition Into Adulthood
On our Special Needs Book Review site we have written about a few manuals that are used in life skill programs to help with transitions.
Susan Traugh is the author of the self-directed program providing high school students with the skills they need to transition into adulthood titled Transition 2 Life (T2L). See Special Needs Book Review post about this wonderful text written specifically for mild-to-moderately affected special needs teens here. Transition 2 Life (T2L) was her first effort. This manual consists of seven units written in a workbook fashion covering essential transition skills as defined by federal transition mandates.
Enthusiastic teachers and parents encouraged Susan Traugh to provide more materials, which is why the 12 volume Daily Living Skills Series was written. Like Transition 2 Life, the series was written as workbooks for students. Teachers may photocopy at will for their students. Daily Living Skills workbooks have the same student-friendly tone as Transition 2 Life and are written in middle-third to low-fourth-grade vocabulary.
Folks using Susan Traugh’s educational resources will appreciate the simple, airy pages with lots of bullet-point information.
Special Needs Parenting:
A Very Difficult Job
Parents are the only constant in their child’s life and they must learn to advocate for the support and accommodations their child needs. Parents need to know what’s going on in their child’s life and his school, ask questions and advocate for them because they know “the big picture” from day one. Parents are the tread of continuity in their child’s development. Parents are the ones who know his likes, dislikes, his triggers, and his potential. Parenting a child with special needs is a great responsibility and perhaps the most difficult job an individual may have.
READ ALSO Special Needs Book Review’s post on books mentioned in this post and find the links where to buy those books:
- Second Interview with Ellen Notbohm: Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew Updated Edition