How I Did It! Navigated My Child’s Transition: Erin Harris
Transitions occur at various points throughout the journey of life. We asked three mothers to share with us about their experiences navigating various transitions with their child(ren)? It could be into the pre-school, elementary school, middle school, high school, post-secondary, college, vocational training or day programs. Here are three mother’s perspectives on their own transitions….
Listen to our Podcast: Navigating Transitions How I did it!
Family Snapshot: Mother to four children: twelve-year-old daughter, eleven-year-old son, a seven-year-old son who has been diagnosed with Down syndrome, hearing impairment, has a cecostomy tube and presents with an intellectual disability, and a four-month-old daughter.
Our Transition Experience: We have transitioned our 7 year-old-son twice, so far: Once into kindergarten and now into grade 3. We consider grade 3 a transition. It’s the same school, but it’s to the intermediate side of school. Our son will have a new teacher and an hour more of school. The dynamics of the classes changed because there is less play-to-learn time and more expectation while sitting at a desk. The two things I would pass along to help with a positive transition are:
- Give yourself a year to plan for the transition, and start initiating conversations with the school to get a feel for what things are going to look like. Start talking with professionals early and meeting early. This ensures there is time to plan. It also makes sure time for training is available, if necessary. We spent a solid year planning for each transition.
- Make sure the professionals have the opportunity to have a “sit-visit” before making recommendations. Inclusion, in my opinion, is only possible when the environment is accessible and the appropriate furniture and equipment is provided.
I’m actually a resource teacher so that experience helped me to facilitate the transitioning for my own son. I was very concerned about him going to school….so, it was on my mind a lot. Even so, we had a few challenges with our son. He has difficulty eating, and he learns language through sign language due to his hearing impairment. So the extra time we planned for resulted in our educational support workers to have training in sign language as well as choking training if he were to begin to choke in school.
Lastly, I want to emphasize that you HAVE to be your child’s biggest advocate. Here’s one way I was I did that: Harding Medical was organizing a conference for physiotherapists and occupational therapists and they asked me to come and speak about inclusion. I chose to present about providing inclusionary practices in the classroom and how external professionals could facilitate that. I really had to advocate for his OT and his speech language pathologist and physiotherapist to be able to come and do a site visit before he went into kindergarten. When his occupational therapist came to the school, she recommended equipment for his learning environment and for the cafeteria where he would be eating. I was glad she came because she didn’t realize how high the tables were in the cafetorium. A specific chair had to be recommended that would be high enough for the tables so that he could eat with his peers. It couldn’t have been done in isolation where she would’ve made that recommendation from her office. She really needed to be there to look at the cafetorium as well as what the classroom furniture looked like.
You almost have to go through every single minute of the child’s potential day in this new environment and think about what the barriers might be, what equipment is needed to promote inclusion, and you need your team to be onsite to do that. Especially take a look at the “not-so-obvious” stuff, like even looking at the playground, how children are getting out to the playground, and what items are on the playground. The more you can see your child’s day through their eyes…… the better chance you will have at making that experience a success.
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