Transition (noun): The process of change from one form, state, style or place to another.
Summer is quickly drawing to a close and in your community, if it hasn’t already happened, soon a big transition will occur for many families. The new school year will begin with new teachers, new classrooms, and new friends. But what does this transition look like for families who have been in early intervention? Many of them may be making a big transitional leap from supports and services for infants and toddlers to early childhood special education through the public schools.
Some families eagerly await this new journey.
They look forward that their child will have opportunities to interact with other children close in age. Other families are excited that their child will be exposed to new learning and activities. Some families find that the consistency and predictability that school offers is a good match for their child and their family.
How about those families for whom this transition is emotionally challenging?
For some, this is the first time in their young child’s life that the parent will be separated from the child for a more extended time. Parents often share their fears and anxieties about who will feed their child or read his cues because he is not yet speaking. Safety is also a concern if a child has limited mobility. What if another child steps on him? Transportation can be anxiety producing.
In early intervention, we continually strive for seamless transitions but how do we support the family? Here are a few tips:
Allow ample time on early intervention visits to give the parent time to share concerns – Listen for subtle cues that the parent provides about what is producing the most anxiety. Once I heard a mother talking very excitedly about her child going to school but she repeatedly brought up that she was worried about him choking during lunch. After we addressed that specific concern, she planned to follow up with her son’s soon-to-be classroom teacher to share her questions and fears.
Suggest a “field trip” to the new school – With school authority permission, the parent and child can play on the playground or walk around the school grounds. One parent asked the principal’s permission and she and her child visited the older sibling during lunch. This served a dual purpose in that the older sibling had special lunch visitors but the child who would soon be transitioning had the opportunity to “practice” being at school.
Try some coaching! – Ask the parent to imagine a really good transition for her child. What would that look like? What would work well? What might be some challenges to anticipate? Develop a joint plan to start addressing some of those successes and barriers.
Are you preparing to help a child and family transition to early childhood special education in the near future? What suggestions or tips can you share with colleagues?