Transition Planning – A Personal Perspective from a Parent
The day your child is diagnosed as “special needs” becomes an unforgettable turning point in your life as a parent. From that moment on, your memories are “before & after” diagnosis. It cannot be helped. Your world has been turned upside down and the typical worries you had before that moment will now be seen from a completely different lens.
Each parent in the special needs community knows the depth of anxiety and fear that comes with the diagnosis, and we know the challenges our child and family will face from that day forward. One primary concern I had then, and still do now, is about transitioning my child from the security of school to what comes next. The supports that coincide with schooling suddenly disappear, and it is the family’s responsibility to create a new routine for the student. Planning for transition can be an overwhelming process, and it is imperative to prepare for this time as if you are looking for new employment.
My experience is not any different from anyone else. My husband and I stressed about where our son, Connor, should go after graduation from Harbor School. We had enjoyed the comfortable routine of school from September to June and then a six-week program of Summer Session. Connor attended Harbor School for 17 years. As graduation year approached in 2018, I began to research what options were available for him. I spent his last year of education creating a “To Do” list and went to work. Quite a few things need to be done to prepare for any Day Program that your child may be qualified to attend once they finish school. You need to complete the final Educational Evaluation.
Then apply to DDD (since your child is now approaching the age of 21). Next is to take the NJCAT Evaluation (a mandatory needs-based assessment which creates a “Tier Assignment” for your child to determine budget allocation), research a Support Coordinator Agency that works for you and then look into potential Day Programs that are a good fit for your child. You will also need to consider transportation to any program.
It is a lot of work, but if you tackle this list, it will make transitioning your child easier when graduation day arrives.
I did take advantage of any and all services that Harbor School provides. The most helpful person was Blanche Stetler who is the Parent Liaison at Prime Time Center in Eatontown (1 of its 3 locations). I cannot adequately express how helpful Mrs. Stetler was during this process. She made sure that I knew what applications, assessments, and paperwork needed to be completed, and helped me research and find the best program for my son after graduation. I found that by creating a “working” list and tackling each action, item provided me an outlet to reduce the anxiety that comes with transitioning your child.
Preparing for transition is not easy. Each family has to approach it in a manner that works best for them and most importantly, their special needs child. The experience for my family was fairly smooth with respect to timing. I was able to have Connor enrolled in a Day Program and set up a transportation system that began in July soon after graduation in June. This was a big priority for me in that I did not want his routine to be disrupted. Connor did have some issues early on at his new Day Program, but with help from the staff (he attends Prime Time Center) and our family, we have come into a new routine that works well for him.
My advice is to access every resource available to you and prepare as much as possible before graduation day so that you can manage the transition experience with minimal anxiety.
Harbor School a private special education school in Monmouth County, New Jersey
Our mission at Harbor School is to help all of our special needs students with learning, social, language, behavioral, and other disabilities. Our highly skilled staff are committed daily to helping each student reach their full potential.
We would be more than happy to discuss your child's specific needs and challenges, so please call us at 732.544.9394, or request a tour at Harbor School in Eatontown, NJ. We are located just minutes off of the Garden State Parkway at exit 105 and conveniently located off of Route 35 and Route 36 in Monmouth County, NJ.
Principal-Harbor School, Eatontown, NJ