Transition (and transition planning) is not a one-time, singular activity marked by an IEP meeting or goodbye party in the classroom. It is a process, and success can only be achieved when that process is thorough and includes status checks and follow up before it can be considered complete.
Auburn Public Schools started the official process of determining if Nicky’s placement was appropriate by having an independent evaluator conduct a complete eval of both the educational and residential components of his program. This was even after we, his parents, met with Auburn and discussed our concerns, AND after the Director of Special Education himself went and spent several hours observing the program. The idea of having an independent eval was his (the Director’s). He felt that an evaluator with no fiduciary, emotional or community influences, who is also a professional clinician, would be able to provide the school with a report that would be difficult to argue with and easier to defend when it came time to develop the new program (that we knew would be extremely non-traditional).
The report supported and substantiated every concern that we and the school district had, and more. It was so negative, in fact, that we decided not to provide a copy to the placement administrators because we weren’t sure they would not try to retaliate in some manner. Often this is the motivation behind inaction by families (a topic for another post). This report became the catalyst for the transition that took place last October.
We are now 8 months past Nicky’s transition, and Nicky has experienced a complete life change. Auburn continues to be in charge of the program for another 16 months. Over the last 3 months the team has seen the initial transition through, day by day, and has worked hard to make it a success; now, at last, we are able to shift our focus to the future. We all know that the process is nowhere near complete. We are determined to make the next 16 months count by working on goals that provide Nicky with the best possible outcome when he turns 22 – the maximum levels of independence in vocational and living skills, the minimum levels of interfering and dangerous behaviors that can be achieved.
While we all know that this is a work in progress, Auburn once again leads the way in progressive thinking; they hired that independent evaluator again, he came and observed Nicky’s new environments last month, and we now have a new report in hand. The comparison of the first to the second reports is astonishing. The evaluator even notes that in over 20 years of working as a consultant, he has “very seldom seen the degree of turnaround that has been noted in Nicky’s case.” More quotes from this report will be provided on this blog at a later date.
Here’s what this follow-up evaluation has achieved for the team: validation of their hard work, recognition of their achievements, encouragement, sound and achievable recommendations for the future.
For us, Nicky’s Mama and Papa? – the priceless validation of our undying belief that the beautiful spirit of our son is truly and deeply full of love of life. That Nicky has the ability to be a better person, to make a contribution to the world, to be happy and make others happy. And all the rest, of course, but most importantly we are rejuvenated and ready to help Nicky continue to progress just as we knew he could.
Anyway, back to the point of this discussion: transition planning is meant to be a continuous work in progress that begins as early as possible and should remain the ultimate focus of all educational goals. It requires hard work, regular tweaking, data recording, evaluation and re-evaluation, COMMUNICATION, creativity and individualization. If you’re an educator or administrator and think this is the harder road to take, think again. If done thoroughly and correctly, this is the easiest road and the outcomes are going to be the best. Hopefully everyone sees the value of successful outcomes!