Where Did You Go?

If you leave me now
You’ll take away the biggest part of me
Ooo oh, no, baby please don’t go

And if you leave me now
You’ll take away the very heart of me
Ooo oh, no, baby please don’t go.
Ooo, oh, girl, I just want you to stay
(Peter Cetera, 1976)

When Ashley was in the sixth grade, she had a new intervener assigned to her. Also known as a one-to-one instructional assistant, Mary Beth was to be Ashley’s eyes and ears during the school day. The transition from Amy, the previous intervener, to Mary Beth, was handled extremely well by my school district. Amy remained in the same classroom as the “classroom instructional assistant”. That meant she would be around as Ashley adjusted to Mary Beth, and if Mary Beth had any questions, Amy was always available to answer them. For once, Ashley did not have a support person just disappear one day to be replaced by someone new the next – a situation that happens often to our children with significant disabilities.

Preparing our children with significant disabilities for these transitions can be a difficult task, especially when the transition occurs quickly. How do you explain to a young child who lives more in a concrete frame of mind that one of the special people in their life is moving on? How do you explain that someone new will be taking over? How do you help your child develop a positive relationship with the new support person when they have a tough time understanding where the old support person went?

What about family and friends that move away, especially if the distance is so great that seeing the departing person will happen very infrequently if at all? And, how will I explain to Ashley when her beloved brother, Chip, goes off to grad school? I can’t think of a picture symbol that would explain those concepts.

Often, for typically developing children, letters and phone calls can be exchanged after a transition. Parents of typically developing children may struggle with explaining the transition, but words can usually be found. What happens to the child who can’t hear the words or can’t understand the words?

It’s obvious from this post that I have more questions than answers. If any of you have suggestions or just wish to share their experiences with transitions, I would love to hear what you have to say.

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