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Comments on Smooth Transition and Family Case Management

Copyright 1999 Roger N. Meyer

All Rights Reserved



       [A parent asked about the training required for a school professional (an SLP) to conduct travel training for her transition age daughter.  This is my response.]


     If it takes special training to make the SLP aware of your daughter's disability just for the purpose of travel training, I'd suggest the training is more for the SLP than for your daughter.


     All the more reason to spread knowledge of AS around the community where your daughter will be navigating once she finishes school.  The time is NOW for the family to start to find resources out there who are just plain folks but who have hearts as big as horses, and there are many, many folks like that, providing you don't overload them with requests, and you spread the "work" around.


     As an example, she might be able to find an age mate or "buddy" to help her.  At 16, she is far more conscious about "how she looks" than you might imagine, and having an adult working with a teenager over travel training issues may be much more difficult than you might imagine.  If she is like most teenagers, the worst thing she fears is being thought of as stupid, and the second worse thing she fears is being patronized.  I'm not saying that this is guaranteed, but unlike with most "specialists" trained by the universities rather than on the streets and in the school of common sense and hard knocks, your daughter stands a much better chance of making mistakes with an age peer than with any adult, no matter how "expert" that adult is in matters PDD or otherwise.


     The smallest thing, the slightest misunderstanding, and the resentment and misunderstanding that can arise from even the most well-intentioned mistake by an authority figure will provide a degree of embarrassment and shame you can only begin to fathom.


     Why take the chance?


     As the parent, you have a perfect right to reject the service provider, and you can do it for precisely the reasons I outline above.  You can honestly say that you don't know the person, and that trust, essential to making one's way around the real world, is a sine qua non of this type of a relationship.  From this point forward, it is important for your daughter to form real relationships with people who will be waiting for her once she leaves the K-12 system.  Providing this basic training by an expert simply prolongs dependency.  Trust, not expertise, not someone "covering her case," will be the basis of her relationships in the real world, as it is now.


     There isn't anything your daughter can't learn that a sensitive person of her own age can't teach her, or perhaps someone just a couple of years older.  If she has acquaintances at school, this would be a perfect opportunity for a buddy arrangement that would be a win-win for everyone.  She gets peer acceptance; the buddy gets kudos from her parents and the school folks for doing a community service, and maybe even compensation to boot.  Or it can be another family with parents willing to take the time to teach her the ropes, or it can be a few people, each of whom she has formed a bond with already.  Even if an age mate isn't trained, it doesn't take much for a job development service which provides job coaches or shadows to train the person for travel training another person.  If not a peer, than someone else from the community.  The secret to effective transition planning is to get the kid connected, now, with resources she will use in the community outside of the educational connection.  In fact, the faster she gets away from anything identified with "special education," as a young adult, the better she will be.  She will be able to make choices, and negotiate them with someone who isn't trained in being a controller and an enabler (in all the worst senses of the term). S he won't have to put up with someone who really thinks such work is beneath her dignity as a trained, professional expert special educator. Believe me, with the title goes another one, often, labeled "snooty."  You may not see it unless the professional is really stressed out, but with many educational professionals, it's still all about "us" and "them" and guess who the "thems" are?


     I'm sorry to come down to hard on special educators, folks, but most of them don't have a clue about transition issues.  They think in a protective box, where the environment must be bent to suit the needs of the individual student (if they are good educators, anyhow).  The trouble is the real world isn't like that.  There won't always be people around protecting her, and shielding her from the harsh realities of insults and stares and just plain tough-titty times that adults experience day in and day out, disabled or not.  It is better than she finds a companion to do this essential work who embodies the value of the work, not just the title, and where there is a chance of a relationship, albeit a functional one, developing out of the work that is not connected with special education, or school, or teachers, or any of that.


     The relationship is based on all the subtleties of "getting along," something the school doesn't do a very good job of teaching our kids.  And this is all about letting go, as I indicated in my first post.  There aren't always going to be those experts around, and even if they are around, they may not be the right persons for your daughter.  So much of survival in adult life is built on the chemistry of the small intangibles that extend beyond the school door.  Indeed, they begin beyond that door and continue throughout life.  Better she learns to recognize them, the good ones and the bad ones, now, while she is still pliable enough to benefit from the lessons of misjudgment carefully and lovingly corrected, than to be thrown to the wolves once the experts "age her out."  The harshness of transition all at once, once K-12 is over with, is crushing to many kids, and many adults I know wish those times never happened.  But they did, and they did at a time when we knew less about what makes a transition to adult life a likely success rather than a crapshoot.



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