Janet Miller | July 21, 2013
Everything I write about is my opinion and based on lots of interaction with other parents/specialists. I have been very active in this community and wanted to share with others what I have learned as many parents have reached out to me for advice. Again you need to thoughtfully consider what I outline as you know your son/daughter. I am strongly urging you to start your own transition and consider this as you read what I write. Transition is as much for the parent as for the your adolescent.
I wanted to respond to a few questions I received following my last blog. Districts can put pressure on families sometimes to select a track: diploma or services. I have a friend who was asked to make this decision in middle school. Sometimes you know but many times there is still so much growth going on that you want to be sure you do not box your child so that there are not options when you get to high school. If the student can handle the academics then you should work towards a diploma at least the first year of high school as will be an indication of what they can handle. You can clearly also word this in an IEP under comments. If you are considering a diploma you should also transition your son/ daughter to some type of regular high school if you really are preparing them for college or even independent employment. This is more real world and will force them to integrate into situations that will prepare them post high school. This may not always be the case but something you should seriously evaluate. This all goes to what you are considering post high school. This may not be until the junior year when you have a better sense of what type of learning and social environment they can tolerate. If they still need a lot of support in later high school years then services may be more appropriate.
This leads me to the topic I want to talk about today. As parents we want to protect and shield our kids from disappointment. Truthfully though we all face disappointment and so better to expose our kids to this when we can be around to help them navigate and also just appreciate that all part of life. This is particularly true as we want to transition them to more independence. We have to let them do things that we may not know whether they can manage but know that a critical skill that may be needed for independence. We can also be strategic with how we introduce them to new skills and situations. More often than not we do not want to do this as we do not want them to fail. Failure is only negative if there is no learning going on and if there is no understanding of how to move forward. What I am speaking to is true for all kids not just those with special needs. As parents though we just tend to shield and protect our kids with special needs more.
My son wants to do more on his own. He is doing things and not always successfully. He now phones in his medication refill to the pharmacy. The first couple times we did together. He then did on his own and pressed the wrong numbers. He got frustrated but he also learned that not a big deal and is now doing correctly. When attempting to take a bus to Autistry he was tasked with figuring out the schedule and route. He got confused and did not understand that there was a to and from route. He showed up at the wrong time and again got a little frustrated but worked through this and the next day got the right location and departure time. He also learned a lot about bus schedules. These may not seem significant risks but they were situations he needed to manage on his own and was not successful at first. When my son worked for me several summers ago I gained a lot of insight. His first day of work I had a meeting. I was worried as he was on his own but created very structured schedule and told him to ask my assistant if he had any questions. I did not want to go to my meeting as my son had never been left alone in a work situation. My meeting ended up being 2 hours long and when I got back to his desk he had not only completed the work I had given him but had sought out my assistant when he needed help, identified a few problems that had never been brought to my attention and even had limited his break to 15 minutes on the computer accessing the internet. He was successful but it took everything in me to walk away and go to my meeting.
As we move our kids toward employment there will be skills that will be a challenge and we need to be sure that if they are not always successful initially at a task that they are able to manage their frustrations and approach in a different way.
C and I are through 3 weeks of the employment program at Autistry. They had to understand how to complete a W9, importance of personal identification for employment. They both need to complete timecards to record hours and then deposit their paycheck into checking account. Both C& I are learning team work and together successfully built a trailer which will be needed to transport wood for a shed that they are just starting to put together. They are focused and respectful to each other and Dan. They are learning how to take direction and constructive feedback from their boss Dan. These are skills many young college graduates struggle with, taking direction and being open to feedback for improvement.