With the new semester comes a new challenge: looming transitions. Next fall my students, both the children with autism and those without, will move on to another preschool program or to Kindergarten, depending on need (I wish we could keep them forever!).
This is a difficult transition for any family, I think. All parents want their children to thrive in their education and be prepared for their future. My goal is to assist all my parents in making the best decision for their child and family. Of course, having a child with an exceptionality makes this decision all the more challenging.
I want to make sure that I am doing all I can to provide parents with useful information and help guide them through the decision-making process. How best to do this? I’d like to ask all of you for guidance as I embark on my own decision-making process.
- Each child has different strengths and needs.
- Each child is at a different stage in his or her development.
- Parents are not always fully aware of their rights.
- Parents are not always fully aware of their options.
- I’m not even completely aware of all the rights and options parents have.
- I don’t want to jump to any conclusions about school options (other school districts).
- I don’t want to let my personal opinion influence a family’s decision (unless there is something that I cannot ethically agree with).
- I want to give parents ALL the information I can—But what’s too much? What’s most important?
- I want parents to make the choice themselves without relying too heavily on me (or my team), so that they are well on their way to becoming advocates for their child and family.
What I have done thus far:
- Asked parents what options they are interested in.
- Gathered information (mostly general) about those options.
- Decided to visit potential schools with parents, if they so choose.
- Gathered information about parents’ rights.
- Decided not to let my own opinions guide a family’s decision, but rather to give them the tools they need in order to make the best decision for themselves (see below).
What I plan to do:
- Gather more information about potential schools and parents’ rights and options.
- Summarize this information for the parents in a way that is easy to understand but doesn’t disregard or minimize any of the content.
- Plan home visits with each family (both typical peers and children with autism) to discuss “what’s next.”
- Give parents the tools needed to make an educated decision that works best for their child and family, including:
a) Knowing their rights and responsibilities—that is, the law.
b) Organizing priorities for each child (i.e., academics, socialization).
c) Prioritizing expectations for the school/classroom the child will be in.
d) Knowing what questions to ask in order to learn more about those priorities.
e) Building their confidence in being an advocate and decision maker for their child and family.
How’s this sound? What more do I need? What do I not need?
I strongly believe that the parent’s choice is the right choice, regardless of my own thoughts or opinions. So I want to be sure they are well equipped to make a decision that they are happy with and that leads to success in the future.
Any feedback is good feedback! Parents, colleagues, throw ‘em at me!