Friday, August 27, 2010


I've got a whole list of posts swirling in my head to write -- I guess I ought to at least get something written, and maybe the rest will fall into line in the coming days.

It's interesting -- in the world of developmental disabilities and special education, the word transition has come to have a specific meaning: it's the big Transition from school out into the adult world. There are transition-planning manuals, and transition-planning conferences, and transition-planning laws (in Wisconsin, for example, transition planning has to start in the IEP team at age 14, and at that age the student must be invited to participate as a member of the IEP team.)


We've got a huge transition going here, folks, but it's into school instead of out of it.

Transition-into-kindergarten planning for Joy started a couple of years back, when we made the decision to wait an extra year, so that with her early-summer birthday she'd be one of the oldest kids in the class instead of one of the youngest. Back in February, I described the steps we took to get Joy some formal kindergarten practice, spending several hours of each Tuesday afternoon at the school with her early-education therapists.

In April, we had a big summit at the elementary school to put together Joy's IEP, the Individualized Education Program that spells out goals for the upcoming school year, and what services she'll receive that will help her work toward those goals. Looking back now, I guess I never did blog about that meeting. It was a huge meeting -- Joy is going to have a LOT of staff working with her. She's going to have one-on-one attention all the time, safety reasons being paramount but also because that's what it's going to take to work with her in a classroom -- and the school district seems to have quite the commitment to working with kids in the regular classrooms, as much as ever possible.

So far, things seem to be falling into place pretty neatly. Joy was assigned to the teacher whose classroom she got to know in the spring, a fellow with a gentle demeanor who has been assigned clusters of kids with IEPs for the past couple of years. One of her (typically-developing) classmates will be from a family we're in good contact and on good terms with, so that's a fine development. Her special-education lead teacher has had the chance to visit her at daycare for a couple of hours, and will be visiting at home the day before school starts to get acquainted. Joy has had a couple of visits to school, seems comfortable in the classroom (at least when there aren't any other kids there, heh), got to meet the new principal, and got to try potty-routine in the hall-bathroom.

We've got another summit with school staff coming up Monday, not an IEP meeting but a chance to share a home-grown document full of details about the amazing progress Joy has made over the summer, and tips for lunch, and a list of the songs she knows and can fill in words for.

And a list of the new challenges. There are some big ones, and it's more than a little scary.

The top two are: head-banging, and hitting/hair-pulling/pinching of peers and adults.

Just what you want your kid to develop in the months before kindergarten, no?

I think I'll just leave that there. These are switches that we desperately want to flip the other way, as soon as possible. A new environment and routine might do just that -- or it might escalate these behaviors to whole new heights.

Meanwhile, this is all quite a major transition for me. I wrapped up my summer-job yesterday, so I will truly be going back down to half-time again, as opposed to the 75% time that I've been squeezing in for close to a year. All those work hours will now take place during school hours, so I can do drop-offs and pick-ups for both girls at school, and eliminate the need for after-school paid care. A very different routine for me.

Think good thoughts for us. This transition may not be THE big one, but it's pretty much the biggest one so far.


jess said...

oh, honey. i'm with you. these 'small' transitions are anything but. i find them monumentally overwhelming and consistently want to run away from home this time of year, every year.

it sounds like you're doing all the right things though and setting the stage with an obviously receptive team. everything flows from there.

wishing you luck!

tracey (aka rainbowmummy) said...

thinking good thoughts. xxxxx

DQ (Amy) said...

Transitions happen all the time, as you say, not just the 'big' one for adulthood. Our behaviour management therapist suggests that transition planning should happen for each big change, in particular moving to kindergarten and up each grade thereafter.
It certainly sounds like you have much of the practical preparation in place, the emotional transition will unfold as you go - for all of you.
I will be thinking of you all, having been through this in February, I understand the mix of anticipation - the excitement and the worry.

Anonymous said...

I see a small benefit in the timing of Joy's new challenging behaviors arriving before the new school. If they had arrived at the same time, would not the interpretation have been that she was responding to school?

That fact points me in the direction of something that is going on within Joy - a maturation, possibly?

I do not think we - thinking and educated adults - pros and parents alike - can fully interpret head banging and hair pulling on others. I am not convinced of the several typical reasons given for these behaviors. Perhaps not helpful - saying conventional wisdom might be wrong. But conventional wisdom has provided few solutions for both those behaviors. Some children seem to go through a phase of each and sometimes the end of the phase is associated with a same-timed change in the child's life. I wonder if these behaviors stop due to maturation - ?

Meantime, protection from injury is paramount. Where do you stand on a helmet?

If I recall correctly, you keep a tremendous amount of data on Joy. I think that would be most useful for guiding decisions among the few solutions offered.

Hoping for a short phase of these challenges. And possibly, school will be the solution. (!)

Lynn said...

The word "transition" instills me with as much dread as it does for my daughter. We have a honeymoon this year because she has the same placement as last year. But next year will be a big one for us. Is there ever a good time relative to their behaviors? I know it's always something around here. I'm thinking good thoughts for you!

Big Daddy said...

My son turns 13 in a few weeks which means if we lived in wisconsin, he would be participating in next year's 'adult' IEP. That would be productive. He would insist he is going to be storm chaser and the meeting would go south from there. No doubt transitions are a challenged but we get through them all one way or another.

Professor Mother said...

Transition implies from something to something else- if only that "something else" were familiar and known... I wish a "new normal" for you all as soon as possible...

This was at the bottom of one of my newsletters today- and I thought of you. Sounds like you need it!

"Joy is the daughter of peace."

--Finnish proverb

JoyMama said...

Thank you all so much for the good thoughts!

Barbara - thank you for the perspective on the timing. Had not thought of that. Re maturation, and helmet, and other head-bangy thoughts - I will be addressing in another post soon.

Big Daddy - the storm chaser thing reminds me of a story I heard in a class, about a woman with disabilities who wanted to be a pop star... and her team helped her turn that desire into some very satisfying and ongoing karaoke performance at a sympathetic local establishment. Who knows how storm chasing might unfold?

Professor Mother -- bless you for sharing that proverb! (I've got some work to do, if I'm supposed to be "peace"!)

Mimzy said...

Wishing you wonderful thoughts on your first day of school! Can't wait to hear how great it goes!