Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Transitions are Tough!!!

Okay, so this isn’t necessarily about special education, per se, but in a way it does relate. Let’s talk about transitions. There are a number of transitions that take place in the lives of children. Going from home to daycare, entering kindergarten, going to a new school, or moving homes and schools, are all transitions that children face at one time or another.

Being an educator, and having dealt with personal change in my own life, I always felt that I understood transition and change pretty well…. until an experience my own family had recently, involving a rather abrupt school transition. To make a long story short, the school we had chosen for our son, which we loved for its small environment, personalization, caring and thoughtful teachers, and its great admiration and utilization of the outdoors, abruptly shuttered its doors the day after the holiday break. This closure forced 70 children and their families to find new school and daycare placements basically overnight.

As angry and disillusioned as I am, I am hurting for my young son who is now working on a month of trying to transition to a new school program mid year. He is quiet and shy, slow to warm up to new people and new environments. Once he does acclimate, he does great! He is always well loved by teachers and peers, and succeeds in most things he does in terms of school. The abruptness of this transition, though, has really affected his ability to cope. He is trying to deal with lots of anxiety, tears, and lack of confidence, while trying to break into an already well formed second grade class in a much bigger school. Although we, his parents, chose the new school carefully in hopes it would match our son’s personality and learning style, every morning starts anew with tears and the mantra of “I don’t want to go to school”.

So, we as parents, force him to go each day, leaving quickly at drop off so as to not prolong the agony for either side, because we have been assured by his teacher that he is fine during the day. We have put our trust in her and this new school, as it should be, but it has been difficult since the last school we trusted crushed our confidence.

Instead of providing answers to questions in this blog, I am looking for answers. I am trying desperately to be positive and help my son overcome his fears and anxieties. For instance, really focusing on having him breathe deeply when he gets upset, and to tell himself that he can do this….he has before, he can again. And telling him that before he knows it, he will feel a part of this new school, and that we love him no matter what and just want him to try his best. But for now, it remains difficult, and I keep uttering the mantra “this too shall pass”. I also think about my son’s friends who have gone on to other schools, and how they and their families are coping and grieving, what to many of us would see as a “loss”. I am hopeful that, eventually, one day, I and all the other parents will be able to say, that although difficult, this transition led to bigger and better things!

It also reminds me to remember, in my professional life, how very difficult transition is for children and young adults, especially for those with disabilities. This is why an IEP has a “transition plan” component…..to give the team and the family time to plan for the upcoming transition to the adult world. Unfortunately, my son’s former school did not give us this time to plan, which is, I think, one reason it has been so difficult!

If nothing else, this experience has made me that much wiser and thoughtful in both my professional and personal life, and hopefully I can use the knowledge gained to assist others in the future.


Anonymous said...

Even if there was nothing criminal about the abrupt closure of your school, the failure of the administrators to give you and your family time to prepare for a change amounts to criminal negligence. They should be held accountable.

Angela Keef, M. Ed. said...

There is a group of parents working on that with the NH Attorney General's office. They are doing a forensic audit, etc, but the school has filed for bankruptcy, which causes a problem, I guess. But thanks....we are trying!!!

Joyce said...

My son Clifton who was in Miss Joslin's class did not do well with his transition into public. He went for three weeks and every night he would come into our room in tears. When I picked him up after his first day I could tell by his body language that there was a lot wrong inside. He was very quiet. Later that night he ran into his room, shut the door and burst into tears. We encouraged him to give it sometime, hopting that it would work out. Things got worse and he is now home. We are looking into Burnham Brook School and Sant Bani which has an open house this Saturday. We recognize that with Clifton he has to be in a place he likes and feels safe in order to be happy and to learn.

Angela Keef, M. Ed. said...

Joyce, so sorry to hear about Clifton. It makes me very sad. I have heard great things about Burnham Brook, and it is pretty small, so not too different from HIS in that way, I think. We chose Shaker Road....which I think will be good for him, but it will take time. I hope things improve quickly for you all. Tell Clifton Max says hi...

Auburn Montessori School said...

As you know, I have had the tears and trauma with my daughter at every turn when it comes to school for years. I know each school she attended had it's positives, all were chosen carefully with her nature and learning style in mind. Some experiences were tolerated better than others.
What I did learn, as a parent, is how frustrating it is to hear, "Oh she's manipulating you, she's fine here all day" No child is that manipulative. Some kids are so unwilling to let new people in, they will pretend to be fine to avoid embarrassment, and appearing weak in the herd.

So as a teacher, I have learned to look beyond the obvious, to watch the child closely, and to stay nearby -but not to invade the fragile grasp on normalcy, but to give a nod and a smile as often as I can. And more importantly, I have learned to really listen to the parent who always knows the real deal.
And yes, this too shall pass, and what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. But these unnecessary lessons are a bitter pill to swallow.