When someone says the word transition, many people immediately think of the time when their children will be done with their schooling for grades K-12 and looking at their next step of life, but in truth transitions occurs every year. For many it can occur with any change of a schedule or new teacher or therapist or for others transitions can be just at the beginning of summer and the beginning of a new school year. To make plans to smooth out the process of transitioning to a new school year, is something I have been doing for my daughter for over 9 years.
My beautiful daughter has special needs, she has global dyspraxia which is a disorder that affects motor planning, which is needed to accomplish motor skills such as jumping and running, writing and coloring, and for Elizabeth talking as well. Dyspraxia can also affect thinking and processing as well as the person’s ability to sequence information to plan out the motor skill steps needed to complete a skill. What this translates to in life, is that every skill has been taught, step by step to her. She practices each skill again and again until it is learned.
Dyspraxia affects her life each and everyday. She also has SPD or Sensory Processing Disorder, which is a disorder that affects how her nervous system takes in information from the senses and turns it into the appropriate behavioral response. For Elizabeth, all things felt wrong or offensive to her, she was frightened of the world. And as such, she cried the first two years of her life.
I offer out a bit of our history, to help you realize that my daughter’s disorders affect her life, in and out of school each day….When she was little, she would crawl under a table when the typical noises and activities of a day would be too much for her. It was at this point that I started to learn that to talk for her, to people who spend time with her, was the key to understanding. Therapy since the age of 2 has helped Elizabeth make amazing gains but she will always have her two disorders and as such, it is vital that those who are with her know as much as they can about her.
Transitions are hard on our children and let’s face it…on us as well. I mean I know I like to have things in order myself, kind of keep the things that are working well…well, the same. But since life does not allow that, transitions are a part of what we must face.
I have found it helpful to see the transitions from two points of view, the first is from the point of view of “What does my daughter need right now to succeed in this transition?” and the second “What does the educator / therapist need to know about my daughter to help them, help her?”
To face the transition to a new school year, I first:
- make up a time table of what I wish to accomplish and when, thereby giving myself something concrete to strive for as opposed to the old “Gee, I really need to tour the school with Elizabeth someday” This arbitrary time frame will be guaranteed to keep you up at night as you think about all the things you need to do. Trust me, many a wakeful night has taught me not to do this.
- I spend some quiet time talking to Elizabeth about the new year. Just some general statements like ” Hey, you have one more month off, isn’t the high school making you excited?” I know it sounds sugar coated but to introduce it this way and so early, works for us, as then we have time to talk about her feelings. It is better to sugar coat it, than say “Oh, wow, Elizabeth, high school is here….this is HUGE!!!”
- I work with Elizabeth through the summer, so as such, she makes many gains in her reading or writing etc… this is all great stuff but only if it is shared. I have learned to make up a narrative to give to the new teacher/teachers. In the narrative I tell them all we have done this summer, what she has achieved, her new likes, dislikes, any new things that work for her learning, such as new apps etc. I have found that a narrative works so much better that talking, as so many times, teachers have heard 25 parents talk to them in a morning. This way they have a copy, you have a copy and everyone is current.
- If your transition includes a new school, please add to your narrative, a description of websites the teachers can go to to learn more about your child’s condition. This I have found helps a great deal.
- I have made up a letter about Elizabeth, her disorders, and how they affect her day. Along with my contact information and my email. This letter is sent out all those who will be with her AT ALL during the day. This allows me to know that all who meet her will understand her and her needs.
- As time gets a bit closer to school, I find that talking to Elizabeth about what her days will be like at school, what time she will get up, when she will get home, what to do if this or that happens, gives her some control over the “new” These type of concrete things seem to help her shape her day.
Since transitions are a part of life, and can make the best of us nervous, it is so important, in my opinion, to have some steps in place to deal with them. Our children are wonderful, amazing individuals, and they deserve the best of every chance to succeed, to grow, to be happy, to live. By helping them feel secure, by talking, planning and showing them the next place on their journey they can feel less frightened and more calm. By educating the educator, you can make sure those who will be with your child are as equipped as possible to educate and care for your child.
Good luck to all on the start of the new 2013-2014 school year.