According to Turnbull, Turnbull, Erwin, Soodak and Shogren, (2015) Early intervention (Part C) programs focus on services that are family-centered from birth to age three and individual family service plans (IFSP’s) are an important part of the transition process. In addition, pre-school programs (Part B) have more of a school-based focus on education and the child’s individual education plan (IEP) becomes the main instrument that parents will work from with the school to ensure that their child has access to the same level of opportunities for optimal learning to take place.
They further report on studies that looked at the transition experience of children from early intervention preschool programs and noted that they had great difficulty when transitioning to a new school. This was mostly due to not knowing what to expect in the next school environment, a break in communications and supports in place. Parents cannot reduce all problems that come with transitions but they can try to reduce the stress associated with change. Plan ahead, talk with those individuals on the educational and medical teams that may be involved with the transition process and be better prepared.
Here are some other things to consider:
- Be prepared to see a possible increase of challenging behavior around the time-period right before, during and shortly after the transition. Your child has many thoughts and feelings at this time, help him or her manage these appropriately.
- Exchange as much information as you can between the school and the proper medical or intervention professionals as needed well before the transition takes place.
- Visit the programs/schools that you are considering as you plan to enroll your child.
- Try to identify one person that will be your focal point for communication and support at the new school.
- Talk with other parents who may have children at the school already.
- Stay informed- join the school newsletter, email or face book page.
Remember that your child may have many new feelings, fears, anxieties, stresses, and concerns about moving on to an unfamiliar place. Talk with your child about how they are feeling and what they have control over and what they do not. Let them know that you will be their “champion” during this time so that you can help make things go as smoothly as possible for them. This may help to reduce some of the stresses of the situation until they are more comfortable with the change. Focusing on your child’s comfort levels will reduce anxiety!
We can agree that transition periods are difficult on families and difficult for children at any age. As a parent, you have expectations and want your child’s needs to be recognized and supports to be in place to ensure the best learning environment so that you child has opportunities to succeed. As explained, your child is going to have many emotions as they leave something that is safe, familiar and comfortable (many times the home environment) to start at a new location, with new people and many new things that may be unfamiliar. As a parent, ask questions about the quality of the support that your child will receive the frequency of that support. Ask what you may need to know if this is your child’s first transition into a school setting where they are coming from being at home with you during the day.
Find out about the developmental assessments that may be used, the resources available to you as a family and what the core curriculum or academic and social content is that is being taught within the school. These are all good questions to ask early on - before the transition occurs.
Additionally, families with children with disabilities may experience transitions in different ways and may have an additional set of concerns and questions specific to their child’s disability. Also, at times, unexpected transitions can occur that place higher levels of stress on families. Families and children can have multiple risk factors and not enough support, which could also create difficulty during transition periods. To minimize problems that could arise, a significant amount of planning, collaboration with professionals and mutual respect and communication is required for successful transitions to take place.
Finally, understand your child’s development and the typical milestones with regard to growth and development. See the third drop down tab on the website that offers more details about developmental milestones.
Know that these milestones are merely a guide. Developmental milestones are a range showing achievement at levels of development. I would to caution parents who take the milestones list as a steadfast rule of measurement. Some children reach these milestones early and some children reach the same milestone many months later. At times, there are children that are in the middle with a select few milestones reached at a certain age while others at that same age are not reached. If you have any questions about your child’s development, it is recommended that you explore your concerns with your child’s pediatrician. They are familiar with your child’s personal medical history, the family and the child’s growth. Be informed and be prepared.