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Transitions are tough

It seems life is filled with transitions. They can't be avoided so the best thing to do is go with the flow. That's not always easy to do when you have a child; especially one with special needs. The first major transition for Hannah was about to occur: attending a public school preschool. She was approaching the age of three so it was time to transition from Birth to Three into a preschool program. When she was one, and was evaluated for services through Birth to Three, an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) was created that had the goals the service providers would work on with Hannah. Starting in the public schools meant she needed a new plan. This plan is called an Individual Education Plan (IEP). I won't lie; I was terrified. I had no idea what to expect during this process even though the therapists that worked with Hannah tried to prepare me and said they would be present. I walked into the meeting and immediately broke down crying. There were so many people in the room and I was completely overwhelmed. I had this little girl who was nonverbal and still in diapers. I had always been present when the Birth to Three therapists worked with her but now I was expected to leave her with people I didn't know or trust. That was the biggest issue: I needed to put blind trust in strangers to care for my Hannah. She was nonverbal so she wouldn't be able to tell me how her day went or if she was being mistreated. It scared me more than I can express but I knew this was what she needed so I swallowed the fear and moved forward. The people I met were very nice and included me in all decisions. Hannah qualified for speech, physical, and occupational therapy and goals were created to address her needs. I left drained but encouraged. I felt comfortable with these people and had a strong feeling Hannah would be well cared for. I learned, very early on, to trust my gut. If something felt off, I questioned it. If something felt right, I went with it. That's really important and something I want to encourage all parents to follow. To me, my gut never led me astray.

Two takeaways from this are follow your gut and be involved in the process. I'm Hannah's mother so I know her better than anyone. To that end, I was present during the IEP meeting to ensure the goals created were appropriate, specific to her deficits, measurable, and attainable. Don't be afraid to be an active part of the process. If a goal doesn't sound quite right or you need something explained, ask for clarification. This is your right as your child's advocate. Having said that, I invite you to hesitate before asking for every service available if it's not what your child needs. This was my first foray into this new world but I inherently understood this as it can create tension between the school team and you. In addition, I had the attitude that Hannah's teachers, therapists, and I were Team Hannah so communication was a priority. I communicated with them and they communicated with me. This process can be scary and overwhelming; if you feel the need, I encourage you to bring someone with you for moral support and as another set of ears. The good thing is that the process gets easier each time you go through it!!

As always, you've got this and you're not alone.

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