Families play a crucial role in being the main advocates for their children. This means that families should be active participants in planning for the successful transition from school to work for their child. It also means that families are usually responsible for making sure things happen within the school if transition planning is not happening. Families, therefore, should be prepared to make sure that transition planning happens, and to be actively involved in the planning process.
There are a number of ways that families can be involved in transition planning, including:
- Be aware of what happens within the school system regarding how decisions are made for your child. For example, some students with disabilities are required to have an education plan (in New Brunswick called a SEP) that sets out goals and objectives. If your child’s school or school district does not have a separate transition planning process, it may be necessary to ensure that transition goals become part of your child’s SEP.
- Follow up with your child’s school regularly to ensure that transition goals and plans that are developed are being implemented. The best way to get plans implemented may be to develop ongoing and positive communication with the teachers and other professionals who are responsible for implementing the plans.
- Monitor and evaluate the plans to ensure that they are working and results are being achieved. Sometimes goals that are set are not achieved even though the people responsible have made their best efforts. At other times, not enough effort has been made. Monitoring transition plans may also involve making changes to plans as they are implemented because your child’s wishes have changed or the plan was not fully appropriate.
Focus Primarily on Your Child’s Strengths and Interests
Achieving successful transitions from to work and adult life will be more likely if plans, goals and actions are based on a person’s strengths and interests. Sometimes, people with disabilities get to be known by the things that are “wrong” with them. When this happens, people are often seen to have very little potential. Others tend to make plans to “fix” those things seen to be wrong.
When you focus on your child’s strengths and interests, very different information about your child is often revealed. This information is important when determining what motivates your child.
Focusing on strengths and interests does not mean that specific needs or limitations of your child are ignored. Nor does it mean that the goals you set for your child should be unrealistic. You need to be honest about things the things that may limit your child’s ability to move forward. At the same time, be prepared to think about how these limitations can be faced and possibly overcome.
It often helps to write down the things that you know or discover about your child’s strengths and interests. Share this information with other people who will be involved in the planning process.
Encourage Your Child to be Active in the Transition Process
There are several ways to encourage your child to be active in the transition planning process:
- As families, you can help build confidence in your child by having positive attitudes and expectations about his or her life and future. Remind or help your child to talk about or express his or her desires and wishes. Talk to you child about his or her future after high school. Learning to make decisions and speaking for him or herself can be one of your child’s education goals. Encourage your child’s school to help your child develop these skills.
- During meetings to discuss transition planning, make sure your child is present and sitting at a place that makes him or her the focal point of the discussion.Make sure questions concerning your child’s wishes, fears or other matters are addressed to your child. Give your child a chance to respond in a way that he or she finds comfortable. Before and after meetings, talk with your child about the meeting.
- Encourage your child to talk with people his or own age about the future.Sometimes, people find it easier to relate to others who are in similar situations.