My First #SpecialEDChat – Special Education Chat
(Updated April 2019) This was the first of many Twitter discussions I have had over the years. EduTwitter is one of the best free CPD – Continuing Professional Development tools available to teachers and Educators allowing the sharing of ideas from across the world. There is a hashtag that comes up every Wednesday evening #SpecialEdChat – this was an account for discussing special education but nothing was being shared. I thought this might be an opportunity for a bit of hashtag squatting. I tweeted out info about a pop up style chat at that time to see if anyone was interested. Got some great feedback so here we are!
Questions on transition for students with additional needs.
A transition can be very challenging for many young people and in my experience of working with Autistic Children there are many ways we can help at school to reduce anxieties around this issue. I have since written an in-depth post about supporting Autistic children with transition. However, there are times I need support so these questions really are things I want answers.
#Specialedchat – SEN and Transition
Q1 In your experience what is it about change that causes young people the most anxiety? #SpecialEDchat
The first answers concerned not informing the child of an upcoming transition, or if telling them then not preparing them insufficient time for the transition to be processed. Change can be unsettling as routine can serve to reduce anxiety through creating predictability. Also, the loss of a trusted adult or friend can take a lot of adjusting to especially if that change or loss is not understood. Nicole commented on the fact that staff often act in unpredictable ways.
Often events may be out of adult’s control as well which adds to the difficulties faced. Amanda warned that it is important not to overdo the amount of information provided prior to transition. A bespoke plan to deliver the input all learners need is required and much of this comes down to the relationship between the child and the staff in the classroom.
Q2 Should we prepare children for September transition in June/July, or does this cause additional anxiety? #SpecialEDchat
General agreement on this issue is that it really depends on how the child will receive the news. Every child has the right to know what is happening to them. The positive relationships with the adults will help immeasurably in thriving in their new setting. Contact with new staff prior to changing class will help as long as the new associative memory is a positive one, all care must be taken to reduce aversive elements during transition or relationship building so a clear transition plan and handover for new staff is essential. Preparing parents an also help by reducing anxieties at home as the child can be supported and given a clear message about what is happening by all the adults around them.
Amanda made an excellent point “I think preparation suggests it’s a one-off. The constant of transition should be present.” Life constantly throws up changes and we shouldn’t really make a huge issue of one change whilst ignoring the myriad of smaller transitions and changes that happen every day.
Q3 What resources do you use or actions do you take to support transition to a new classroom or placement? #SpecialEDchat
One of the best ideas was very simple and involved photos and names of new classmates to take home + always take a photo of new pupils so that their resources and area can be labelled. Often it can help if a familiar or favoured object/task is ready and waiting to boost confidence. More and more often schools are doing videos or virtual tours so learners can become familiar with the school environment prior to visiting. As long as major changes don’t take place following the video this can be a really valuable transition strategy. Questioning parents to gain an insight into their priorities can help, build strength into the team around the child early. I hope you have found this useful.
Awesome Books that Can Help with Transition.
Stories that explain: Social stories for children with autism in primary school – Lynn McCann. – This book is packed full of practical support, advice and tips for teachers, teaching assistants, SENCos and parents to help support children in gaining a better understanding of common primary school experiences that can cause misunderstanding or stress. This resource provides an explanation of the use of social stories, why they are important, and advice on how to write social stories, including tips on how to present them. The included CD includes a comprehensive and editable bank of stories to share with children to support their understanding of social situations.
Helping Children with Autism Spectrum Conditions through Everyday Transitions: Small Changes – Big Challenges. Jane Donlan .- Facing any type of change can cause confusion & anxiety for individuals with autism spectrum disorders. This book looks at the small transitions in everyday life that can be a big deal for a young person with autism and offers simple and effective strategies to make change less of a daily struggle. Explaining why seemingly minor changes to routine can be emotionally distressing for Autistic children, this book teaches parents practical solutions for coping with common transitions including switching from a weekday to weekend schedule, the changing of the seasons, and sleeping in a different bed when on holiday. With insights from the authors’ personal experiences and helpful scripts, signs and sketches to use along the way, this book shows that with a bit of thought and preparation parents can reduce the stress surrounding change for their child and the whole family.