Transitions can be very small, such as changing from math to reading within the same classroom, or very large, such as graduating from high school and moving to college. While all students will manage transitions differently, they can be especially difficult for students with disabilities. Planning ahead and letting the child know what is coming can be very helpful.
For example, it a class is getting ready to move on from one subject to another, letting a child know that they have three minutes to find a stopping point helps them prepare for the transition. Setting a timer may be more helpful for a student that finds this difficult on a daily basis. For bigger transitions, such as moving from middle school to high school, advance planning can be helpful as well. Discussing what middle school will be like and what things they will miss and not miss from elementary can ease the transition. Visiting the middle school and allowing the student to have a “practice” day can also ease anxiety around the change.
One of the biggest transitions students face is graduation from high school and moving on to college or employment. For students who are looking for a job, there is a lot of preparation work that the special education team helps with. The student can spend time in community-based instruction where they undergo on-the-job training with a teacher or aide. Often, the students will rotate through four to five job sites where they have different responsibilities. Responsibilities, which are dependent upon each student’s abilities, may include stocking shelves, folding clothes, greeting customers, or bagging groceries. They may spend half of the school day at the same site for six to nine weeks and then move to the next site. This allows the student to explore where they would most enjoy working and what responsibilities they can handle. By preparing the student for independence, staff can help them to enjoy a more fulfilling life and provide for some of their own needs.