Successful Transitions – throughout life
The principles of Enabling Good Lives (EGL) underpin the current system transformation for disability services in New Zealand. So, what do EGL principles have to do with successful transition? It can be useful to see how closely a transition pathway, community service or post-school provider align with these principles. These principles should underpin current disability supports and services.
Types of Support
If you want general information on what support is available, check out ‘A Guide for Carers’ (He Aratohu mā ngā Kaitiaki). The Guide provides practical help for whānau, aiga and carers who assist family members who need help with everyday living because of a health condition, disability or injury.
The Ministry of Education (MoE) provides a wide range of supports from a very young age to the end of school. If you have concerns about your child’s educational needs, you can contact the Ministry of Education for information and advice by calling 0800 622 222 or contact the closest Learning Support office to you. They can guide you through the process and talk with you about the various support available for children with learning support needs attending early childhood centres or primary, intermediate or secondary school.
The type and level of support provided at school will depend on whether your child is assessed as having mild, moderate, high or very high support needs. You will need to work together with all those involved to determine what type of support your family member will receive. It may be useful to understand the Ongoing Resource Scheme (ORS) and how this works.
It’s important to start this process well before the child starts school. In the Care Matters ‘Mapping Educational Opportunities’, you can find information on services to support children and young people with learning support needs (pg. 14).
Going through a transition will almost always involve managing some type of change. This can be a challenging time for families who may be unsure or unclear about the future and the choices and supports available. How transitions are managed will have a significant impact on the individual and family.
There are three things that can help ease the transition process for families, these are:
- Goals – it is important that parents can describe their son or daughter’s strengths and achievements, express individual concerns and articulate the goals and aspirations they hold for their child.
- Resources and information – parents need to have access to information, such as who to contact, when to approach the school or provider, what support is available and how to access these resources.
- Attitudes – parents need to be able to gauge the attitudes, values and expectations of the school (or provider) and the extent to which they will meet the needs of their child.
(Hanline, 1988; Johnson et al., 1986; Vincent et al., 1980.)
General tips for Successful Transitions throughout Life
Below are some general tips to assist families through any key transition:
- plan-ahead and start early
- ensure the individual and their family/whānau drive the process
- have a plan (ie, education, transition or career plan)
- as the individual gets older – allow them to direct the process and ensure they have the right communication tools in place to do this
- ensure the focus is on the individual’s strengths and achievements – not just on what is difficult or challenging
- ensure the process identifies and overcomes barriers to the individual’s learning and support needs
- having easy to access and clear information on what supports your family member will need to get the results they want (ie, flexible learning environment, building modifications and accessibility, developing suitable routines, use of technology, a quiet space, etc)
- an environment that is welcoming and fosters a sense of wellbeing, belonging and security
- an environment that fosters friendships and relationships with others
- an environment that encourages everyone to work collaboratively and share information
- an environment that encourages good communication channels between all those involved (ie, school and home)
- an environment that believes in continuous improvement through reflection and review
- an environment that fosters inclusion (ie, school and community life)
- having the right personal and professional support around you and your family
- having other people you can talk with who understand or share a similar journey
- knowing that upheaval and change will happen and putting things in place (or having emergency procedures) to help keep everyone safe and well.
Successful transition to primary, intermediate and secondary school
Schools have a responsibility to provide systems, structures and strategies that welcomes all students so they can achieve their learning potential and have a positive school experience
In reality, students with complex learning needs are not always included in the school community. As a parent, you may need to educate the school, the teachers and the child’s peers on how this could be supported. The Learning Support Coordinator (LSC) is the resource person in a school who leads and coordinates support for students with additional learning needs so that students get the most out of their school years. They have a range of duties, including liaising between families/whānau, teachers, teacher aides and specialist providers, testing students and analysing results, and completing a variety of administrative tasks. If the school you attend does not have an LSC, contact the Learning Support office in your local area.
Successful Transitions at School
The following table outlines some of the key strategies that enable successful transition at school (and includes links to Enabling Good Lives principles). A successful transition involves being treated as an equal, valued and contributing member of the class and school and participation in the full range of culturally-valued roles of that setting (MacArthur, Purdue & Ballard, 2003; Rietveld, 2002).
The needs and roles of the family are likely to change as the young person they care for gets older. Families are often central to proving continuing care, guidance and support during transitions throughout one’s life.
Transition between activities and changes to routine
Not only do we need to plan for those key transitions but also the smaller everyday transitions that happen throughout the school day for the student. This could be changing from one activity to another, changing teachers and classroom at secondary school or going from school to home and vice versa.
Some of things that can help a student through these day to day transitions include:
- having activities throughout their day/week they feel good about and can look forward to
- having strategies in place to deal with changes to routines and workloads (ie, extra demands of school life as the child grows and develops)
- describe what will happen next, before the new activity or significant change occurs (ie, you can use social stories to describe the change)
- where possible have consistent activities and routines so the student can predict their day and/or understand when the next activity will happen (ie, through visual cue cards, calendars or story boards)
- plan ahead – visit the school beforehand, meet the teacher and other students, practise the route to and from school and what happens at drop off and pick up times
- if the person feels anxious have something or someone that the person is familiar with, this could be a key person or teacher, something they enjoy doing with their hands (tactile) or something they enjoy listening to (music). For some students being able to have a quiet space or to wear noise cancelling headphones may also be beneficial.
- use music, cue cards, visual scheduling boards, photos to help the student transition from one activity to another
- model, describe or demonstrate the desired behaviour you want
- re-direction may work for some students when they are feeling anxious or overwhelmed.
If your child is showing signs of challenging behaviour, you can get a referral to Explore through your local NASC service. Explore works with families under the premise that challenging behaviour is a form of communication. They support the person with the behaviour and their family/whānau and support networks to develop strategies to reduce the impact it has on their lives.
Helpful tips from other families about Individual Education Plans (IEP):
- Have an agenda for the IEP meeting.
- In advance of meetings, make sure you get information about other sources of help, such as support groups, specialist agencies and medical information.
- You can get attendees to submit reports or ideas prior to the IEP meeting (you typically have one hour for this important meeting).
- IEPs help the teacher to inform their lesson planning. A few key goals are highlighted, and these will be incorporated into the curriculum level your child is working at.
- Parents can submit a ‘parent reflection’ document to the IEP team prior to the IEP meeting. List all the subject areas and ask questions and make observations, eg, is there a possibility for more handwriting opportunities, etc.
- Ensure you have all the specialists mentioned on the IEP document, otherwise the Ministry of Education won’t fund them, eg, OT, Physio, SLT, Psychologist as well as any specialist programmes, eg, Numicon (maths programme), music therapy, etc.
- Goals from an IEP should be embedded into everyday classroom practice.
- Never go to an IEP alone.
- An IEP should explore curriculum subjects – ensuring your child has the right curriculum will help them be more settled.
- Try to ensure the IEP focuses on a range of competencies and not just about the key competencies to do with behaviour (ie, ‘managing self’ and ‘relating to others’).
- Some parents discuss the key competencies in relation to the core curriculum subjects, which can be effective. For instance, if a child is doing maths, you may want the child to get the Numicon kit out themselves, etc.
- An IEP template is available on the TKI website.
Helpful tips from other families about Learning Support Coordinators (LSC):
- The LSC often has to do all their learning support work in around 3 hours a week, usually in addition to teaching.
- It is helpful if the LSC can move some of the more administrative tasks to the school administration team (ie, arranging meetings and writing up minutes). By removing some of these tasks, the LSC can use their time to look at programmes, teacher knowledge, adequate classroom adaptations, initiatives, playground audits, and resources, such as visual aides, etc.
- The LSC should be reporting to the Board of Trustees on the achievement of students with learning support needs. With the changes to the Education Act, the Board of Trustees are more accountable for the inclusion of students with learning support needs.
- The LSC can include disability awareness talks at the school (annual talks informing students/staff about disability) but it may be that the Principal needs to get involved in this as the LSC’s hours are limited.
- The Principal should be informing any new staff about the behaviour profiles of students with learning needs so that all the staff are aware.
Transitioning from School into Adulthood
Over the years, you have watched your child grow, moving through different milestones to arrive at the end of their secondary schooling. Transition from school refers to the time your child leaves secondary school and enters the adult community to live or work. This transition is probably one of the most exciting and most challenging! What’s next? What does the future look like? What support is available? Who will provide that support? And so on…
The student isn’t the only one transitioning, you are too. You are entering a new phase of life, growing older, confronting your own future as your child prepares to launch into adulthood. At this stage transition should be designed to help the student move from school to a quality adult life. The school must make sure the student has all the information they need to make decisions about post-school options such as training, work placements and higher education.
Successful transition for students at this stage might include:
- having a job or valued role in the community
- continuing with higher education
- moving away from home
- having the skills for successful daily living (ie, money management, cooking, paying bills, social communication and interaction, etc)
- increasing their autonomy and independence
- having constructive and reciprocal relationships with the community and various community groups or activities
- the ability to use public transport
- having friendships
- having romantic relationships and/or starting a family
- having good physical health & wellbeing.
When things don’t work out, this can be a very stressful time for parents, especially when the future fails to live up to their own or their son or daughter’s expectations. There will always be bumps in the road, having strategies to deal with this will be important. Keeping things moving forward takes time and energy; it’s impossible to do it on your own, find those key people who can be your support as you support others. Those key people maybe there for a particular task, a season or as a key support throughout life.
Teacher Aide as a Job Coach
You can be creative with the resources you have available; the Teacher Aide can be used as a Job Coach. If the Teacher Aide is used in this way, ensure they have the skills to be able to provide this support. For example, they can work with your son or daughter to learn new tasks, develop visual schedules for work tasks, social skills, work ethics for the workplace and ways to develop independence.
Life Skills and Work-Based Learning Programmes
Most Life Skills Programmes start at the age of 16; check out if the school your son or daughter will be attending has a Life Skills Programme and what they can offer? Programmes are tailored to the individual and their IEP goals or career goals. Such topics can include money handling, meal preparation, cooking, managing household activities, travelling independently and so forth. If the school you attend does not have a Life Skills Programme, you may be able to transfer to another programme in your area.
Gateway is a work-based learning programme, which gives opportunities for senior students (year 11 – 13) to explore the career pathway of their choice, and at the same time work towards gaining their NCEA qualifications.
STAR stands for Secondary Tertiary Alignment Resource. It is additional operational grant funding by the government for all schools with year 11- 13 students. As with the other components of operational grant funding, schools have discretion about how they use STAR funding. However, it is expected that schools use it to provide students with the range of learning experiences needed to support their engagement and achievement and successful transition to further study and employment.
Ministry of Development (MSD) funded Transition Service
Another option in a student’s final year of school (for ORS funded students) is a MSD funded Transition Service. These services focus on the uninterrupted movement of students in their last year of school into post-school education, employment and/or community services and activities. The purpose of this service is to ensure there is a coordinated plan in place to assist the student to achieve his or her post-school goals.
The criteria for students applying for the MSD funded Transition Programme are:
- must have current High or Very High Needs ORS funding
- must be in their last year of school or tertiary education
- must be aged between 16 – 21 years of age.
MSD funded Transition Programme details:
- services are for one year whilst the student remains in school
- enrolments begin in the last half of the school year, before the student’s final year.
Funding for Students with High ORS verification post-schooling
High ORS funding for students ceases when they transition from school. Funding for these young people is provided through a number of MSD contracts depending upon post-school pathways.
Funding for Students with Very High ORS verification post-schooling
Students who have Very High ORS verification may qualify for individual funding from the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) when they leave school through a contracted service. MSD will contact you directly about this.
The following provides a guide as to when students can leave school and possible next steps:
Planning is more than having a will in place, as it involves thinking about and anticipating the future needs of the individual, what they will be doing and who they will be living with. This type of planning often requires the involvement of significant others, including siblings, other family members, family friends, and professionals such a financial adviser and lawyer.
Talking about and being well prepared for retirement, old age and changing living arrangements or health needs can make these changes less stressful when they happen. It’s important the individual and their support network/s start to have these conversations early enough so that a plan is in place long before the major life change, event or transition occurs. This can help alleviate some of the anxiety people may feel by having open conversations, discussing options and voicing concerns.
Planning helps to put things in place to ensure that the person has the best possible future, even in the event of the death of a parent.
Check out the Care Matters resource on Getting Older. This resources includes information on topics such as planning for the future, ill-health and aging, aged care services, grief and loss, and financial and legal information.
Appendix – Useful Transition Resources and Links
Useful websites and booklets from the Ministry of Education (MoE):
- Information from MoE for students with learning support needs.
- Starting School booklet for parents and caregivers of children with special education needs who are about to start primary school.
- Preparing to Leave School contains information about the roles and responsibilities of people who can help with transition planning.
- The National Transition Guidelines provides best practice for specialist educators, schools and parents.
Care Matters resources, including:
- Information for families on The Early Years, The Middle Years, Adulthood and Getting Older.
- Mapping Educational Opportunities – a comprehensive guide and helpful tips to navigating the education system.
- Parent to Parent IEP booklet.
Other useful websites and resources:
- Regional Transition Booklets – Northland, Waikato and Wellington (these booklets are useful to look through for ideas even if you live outside of these regions).
- TKI (Te Kete Ipurangi): Guide to Transitions – managing times of change.
- Thinking Ahead: a planning guide for families (UK). This guide provides ideas for how different people can help parents and contribute to thinking and planning for the future.
- Council of disabled children (UK) has a big list of links and resources for people aged 14+ on transition planning and what good processes should look like (includes information on young people and palliative care, HIV and complex needs, etc).