Letting Go: The First Home to School Transition
Myrna Medina and Gloria Rodriguez-Gil:
At California Deaf-Blind Services we are fortunate to have the opportunity to follow students who are deaf-blind from birth to age 21. Throughout our experience, we have observed how transitions in the educational programs are often difficult for parents. This week we received a phone call from a service provider who was supporting a parent who was not sure if she was ready to send her daughter to school. Her child is turning 3 and soon transitioning from the home-based educational program to the school system provided by their school district. This parent is finding it hard sending her daughter away from home. Her main reasons were that her daughter had a seizure disorder and that she was not sure how much vision her daughter had.
We have found that this anxiety about sending the child to school is shared by many families. Some of the causes may be:
*separation anxiety manifested by the child;
* the fear of a medical emergency away from home;
* worry about whether the school will be as safe as home?
* the child will be out their sight and the parent will lose control of what will happen with the child while in school;
* the child is too young to attend school and ride the bus;
* the fear the child will be left alone and isolated;
* is there enough of a benefit at this age for the child to attend school.
Despite these justified thoughts and fears, our observations strongly suggest that children benefit from going to school at an early age. In school the children can experience and expand their world through a more rich and structured environment, with a variety of staff to teach and support the child throughout the day.
Some specific benefits would be:
*increasing independence and socialization as the child learns how to interact with other people outside of the home environment;
*learning new things as they start experiencing new environments and real school activities;
*having more structured instruction time as compared to a home-based program;
* experiencing same age peer interactions and growing from these interactions;
From our experience serving many different kinds of families, we have found that some of these anxieties will never go away completely, but will ease as families learn more about their child's abilities and disabilities and become familiar with the school. Also, as families increase their abilities to communicate with service providers their fear will diminish, as they realize that they still have the power influence what happens at school. Ongoing parental involvement and leadership in developing their child’s educational plan in collaboration with the service providers, decision making, and periodic school program visits will be critical to their children's education and growth.