School Year Transitions

This summer our child had to transition with two new aides. His one on one after school aide went back to school as did one of his social group facilitators. Plus, there was the start of school, where our child has two teachers and not just one (they teach a split week). Now, you must admit that our child dealt with some serious transitions lately!

Of course, we have been down this road many times in the past. And here are some things we’ve learned about our numerous aide/facilitator/teacher transitions.

They will happen. You might as well get used to them. Try not to be surprised when an aide goes back to school or takes a higher paying job. They have lives, too. We’ve lost some very good aides/facilitators simply because their lives changed (And, don’t forget that many aides and facilitators are young females who eventually want to have babies of their own). Try not to take this personally because I believe most of the time it’s not personal. It’s just life.

However, you can try to be prepared for possible transitions. Try this… When you first meet your child’s aide or facilitator, be upfront with them. Let them know that you understand that their lives may change one day. And, politely ask them that if something did ever change with their status, would they please give you as much notice as possible? Hopefully, it will be at least two or three weeks, which should be enough time to find a suitable replacement.

Always meet with your child’s new aide or facilitators before they start working with your child. We have developed a kind of radar over the years. We really can tell if someone will only last a week or two. I can’t quite explain how we know but by now there is a certain person we look for, or we try to come as close as possible.

What do we look for? On time for the meeting, polite, listens when you discuss your child but also asks questions and seems interested, preferably has some experience, energetic, talks to your child and perhaps even has a bit of an “instant” connection, loves kids (you’d be surprised with this one), and does not seem to have any immediate red flags.

What would those be? “My 20 year old car just barely got here.” “Do I have to drive this far to get to your child’s school every day?” “I prefer working with girls.” “You really want me to get your child to engage with other kids?” “I get off at my other job at 4pm, can I be just a little late every day?” “Can I bring my own kids to play with your kids?”

Ideally, when you know a transition is coming, you would like to “double up,” the old person works with the new person for a period of time. Even if it’s only one session, the outgoing person and the incoming person can then share valuable information and experiences. Most aides and/or facilitators are very professional and understand how helpful it is to the new person if the outgoing person shares their experiences with that child.

This happened to our child just two weeks ago in his social skills class. The old facilitator invited the new facilitator to join the group for two sessions.

In a social skills group, this transition is very important and must be handled carefully because it will affect of the balance of the entire group. It begins, of course, with your child, but a social skills group typically has up to six kids and two facilitators. What would happen if one of those children also had trouble with the transition? Or the new person? In our case, the outgoing facilitator understood this and wanted the smoothest transition possible. And, it was smooth.

Finally, in the past, we were able to do other activities with a new person. For example, some aides are scheduled to work only during school hours. If you look at your contract, however, you may notice that these hours extend through the summer, even though there may not be any classes. The contracts don’t always stop just because it’s summer.

Our child had summer school this year and his after school aide was able to join him during those classes because her contract did not specify summer school verses regular school.

After she left (she was our second transition this summer), I was able to schedule the incoming aide to work with my child the week before school began. We had sent our child to the on-campus summer daycare for the last week. (This helps him get his “head back into school.”) Our child and the new aide got to know each other (a little bit) during this week.

Now that I think of it, one of our old aides would come to our house during the summer, and bring her son. She would facilitate between the two of them. Again, this was because she was able to continue to get in her hours during the summer.

As of the first two weeks after all of recent transitions, our child seems to be handling all of the new people in his life well. It helps that he’s used to transitions. And, you should be prepared for them as well.

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