It’s that time of the year where many of us are preparing our children to transition into a new placement in the fall semester. Whether your child will be transitioning into Preschool, Kindergarten, Middle School or High School we are all concerned about their readiness to adapt to their new placement. I am personally stressed out because my son is beginning middle school in the fall. I keep hearing Greg Heffley from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid in my head saying:
Let me just say for the record I think middle school is the dumbest idea ever invented. You got kids like me who haven’t hit their growth spurt yet mixed in with these gorillas who need to shave twice a day.
This stress is exacerbated by the fact that we don’t know where he will be attending Middle School yet. In fact, the charter school that we want him to attend held their lottery a few days ago and we are waiting to hear if his name was picked. This particular Charter School has a lot of experience working with children who have disabilities and has a full inclusion model. If he doesn’t get in, then we’ll have to look at plan B or plan C for placement next year. No matter where he ends up, I still have this fear that he just isn’t ready for this, but you know what, he has surprised me in the past; so I have to make sure I do my job, to help him as much as possible. My job, as a member of his IEP team, is to write an IEP that will help him transition smoothly into his new environment. This is why you hold a transition IEP for all children moving up. My son’s transition IEP is in April and I will do everything in my power to set him up to surprise me and flourish in this new world called Middle School. I will not hesitate to call another IEP next fall if I think something needs to be changed.
For those of you who have younger children, transitioning from preschool to kindergarten can be stressful as well. Depending upon your child’s birthday and maturity level, some parent’s might consider having their child defer kindergarten giving them another year to prepare academically as well as emotionally in preschool. I see this question asked a lot on various Autism community and forum pages, but I really feel a parent has to come to this decision on their own after analyzing all the facts. Because you know your child better than anyone else, you are the best person to make the decision BUT I highly recommend that you make an informed decision not based on emotion alone. This is where the IEP Team can be extremely helpful in analyzing the proper decision. Some of the questions I would consider:
1. What type of preschool program is your child attending now and can he stay in that program another year;
2. How many hours a day is the kindergarten class versus the preschool program;
3. What is your child’s current functioning level academically and emotionally;
4. What IEP Goals are written for your child;
5. What services are needed to accomplish the IEP goals over the next 12 months;
6. Based on the answers to the above questions, what type of placement would be appropriate for your child (i.e. General Education classroom or Special Day Class)
Usually determining whether to hold your child back in preschool becomes easier to decide after answering the questions outlined above. It becomes less about our fear as a parent and more about what environment will most appropriately help my child achieve his IEP Goals and show progress both academically and emotionally. It’s also important to remember, if your child attends kindergarten and needs some extra time you can always have them repeat kindergarten versus having held them back in preschool.
Also, for those students who attend Special Day Classes, the classroom consists of students from a couple of different grades, so they might actually be in the same class for more than one year anyway. In addition, the class work is designed towards their ability, so holding a child back will probably not make a difference.
As we all know, change is never easy for kids with special needs; which is why we stress out so much when it’s time to transition from what is familiar to the unfamiliar. Our job as our child’s advocate is to prepare them as best as we can and to carefully monitor their new placement. Remember to always call an IEP as soon as you feel it’s necessary to address any problems. Also, don’t forget to breathe that first day of school in the fall…..I’m sure I’ll have to remind myself as well!!