Engaging Families, Practical Strategies

It’s Almost Time for School!

 

Transition (noun): The process of change from one form, state, style or place to another.8268520736_258600bbdc

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?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

28 Comments to “It’s Almost Time for School!”

  1. I think this is great! All these really make the parents feel cared for and valued. It is extremely important to allow room for questions and concerns during home visits. Any type of helpful resource for the child and the family is helpful and should always be offered and given especially when they are feeling a real anxiety for their child.

    • So important to be there emotionally for families during transition. What kinds of resources have you or would you offer families to help them with transition to preschool?

  2. I would advise everyone in the process to first and foremost be patient. It is also very important that the parents have a very clear plan about what they’re child is going to be doing next. Also easing their child into their new environment and exposing them to it early will help with nerves.

    • Yes, patience and an understanding that transition can be the first time many parents are letting their child go just a little bit is essential!

  3. Make sure to keep an open mind! There will be many new opportunities to tackle and experiences to live through. Something I think would be helpful in transitioning to a new school year would be creating a schedule to follow every morning. This would allow children to fall into a rhythm that would ultimately reduce stress of changing environments.

  4. I believe that taking a field trip to the school is a great idea! It allows your child to see where he or she is going and enables them to become more familiar with the school. This is a great opportunity to make going to school sound like a fun and exciting thing to do. I also believe that talking to the teacher about your concerns is a good idea because this will enable them to be aware of your fears and to address them properly.

    • Yes, actually seeing the preschool environment can really help parents visualize where their child will spend time and with whom. In our area, it can be challenging to set these visits up in the public school system due to security and confidentiality. Have you run into that in your area?

  5. I think this transition is important and requires a lot of encouragement from parents. This is a step towards their children increasing their independence and functionality in the real world. However, I do understand that this can be difficult, even painful.

    • Yes, it’s a big first step! My state (Virginia) is the only one in which two year olds can go to Part B preschool. It can be especially hard for a parent to put a two year old on a big school bus! Although I have met some feisty two year olds who are so ready for preschool and things can go wonderfully!

  6. When a family is struggling with the transition out of early intervention services, it is so important to meet them where they are and understand their concerns. Validating a family’s feelings is the first step to a successful transition in my opinion. Following the validation, though, I think you should start providing concrete solutions to help reduce the family’s anxiety. In addition to what the post already discussed, connecting families with support groups or other caregivers who have children with disabilities or developmental delays can help parents feel more empowered to pursue transition with a support network behind them.

    • Thanks Megan. I love your idea of connecting families with others who have been through the transition process. And yes, validating feelings is so important. It really is a big step to send your 2 or 3 year old child off to school…especially to put them on a school bus. The bus can be one of the scariest parts for families…

  7. The transition to a school can be nerve-racking, as can the process of selecting a new school. It’s always helpful when the service provider offers to come along to school visits and interviews with the family to offer support. Service providers can be an extra set of ears since the family might be too nervous to take in all the information at once. It’s helpful for families to know that they do not have to deal with the transition alone.

    • I complete agree, Nicolette. ANY new situation can be intimidating so knowing you “do not have to deal with [it] alone” can be such a comfort. Thanks for your comments.

  8. 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?

    One way to help families with the transition from ECI to school services would to be to have the parents contact the school and maybe connect the families with one another. They would not be so isolated and they would have another family whose child will be going through the same program and they may have the same concerns or worries and just want another family to validate those.

    • Hi Alicia: I always think linking families to each other (with permission) is such a great idea. So nice to be able to talk to someone else who has similar questions and concerns. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Not in yet in the near future, but if I was a provider I would suggest to have a conversation with the child’s teacher before school to talk about concerns and interests. I would also suggest to do a practice run at home. The child can play pretend classroom and imagine what school would be like. I would also suggest talking to the school administrators and see if the child can be placed in an inclusive classroom setting.

    • Make-believe or pretend play is a great strategy to help prepare the child for the transition to school. AND, I’m always in support of inclusive classrooms. Thanks, Theresa.

  10. Something I would do is ask to tour the school with the family so they can be acclimated to the school. I would try and set up a meeting with the childs teachers so that the parents could discuss what has worked for them in helping their child. I would also remind the parents of their rights and talk them through the transition phase and how this phase will be different.

    • Good for you, Yesenia, for remembering the all-important rights and procedural safeguards for transition and all aspects of the EI process.

  11. I think patience and an open mind are the most important things regarding this. Patience is important for all new transitions with a child and I think when transitioning into school it’s especially important to have a clear mind to allow for new ideas regarding the child’s schooling. I loved the field trip idea. This would allow for the child to see school as more than just learning and as an exciting time.

    • Glad you liked the field trip idea, Paige. It was a huge success when I did it with some of the families I worked with. Patience and clear-mindedness are helpful so many aspects of our work with families! 🙂

  12. I think it would be very helpful to prepare children’s minds first. For example, the family and the team can talk about anything about school, so that the child has a prepared mind and have an idea what to expect before they step in the classroom. Children will experience the greatest changes during the transition period after all .

    • Such a good suggestion, Bilan. Sometimes we focus on preparing families using our best family-centered practices. I like that you considered how to prepare the child for this transition.

  13. Some helpful skills that a child could work on before the transition to help the child be “school ready” would be: how to follow directions, share toys and materials, have self-care skills, mobility and getting needs met through communication.

    • I like some of the skills you considered for a child to be better prepared for transition, Caitlin. One thing I always talk to my students about is that no one really likes to share. I try to think about “my turn/your turn.” Just some food for thought.

  14. I definitely believe that the process if enrolling and going to a new school (or even a new area) is overwhelming for the child and the parent as well. Therefore I think that being understanding and patient are key steps towards becoming acclimated. In addition, I believe that preparing the child and allowing them to become comfortable in an as much as an inclusive place is essential.

    • You know, if you think about your comments of “being understanding and patient” as key steps, this really is true for SO MANY aspects of effective family-centered practices. Thanks, Kimberly.

Leave a Reply

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.