Preparing For the Move – Transition Planning

Is your child ready for this transition? His or her readiness and how to plan will depend on your child’s personality. Helping prepare for the move to a new home will depend on your child’s level of confidence, desire for independence, communication skills, cognitive abilities, the circumstances of the move, and many other factors.

Do you know how your child feels about independence? Your child might become the driving force behind the planning process, or your child might declare that he or she never wants to live without you. As with other life transitions, prepare your child for this transition early rather than as response to a crisis.

Proper planning and attentiveness to your child’s emotions helps to ease the transition.

Transition Planning as Part of the IEP Process

The educational process marks several milestones. The first day of school, transitioning to high school, and graduation day, are all transitions ideal for you to begin working on residential plans, even if your child is likely to remain in your home until later into adulthood.

For example, high school naturally lends itself to talking to your child about what will happen in adulthood. During the teen years is when children think more about what their lives will be like as adults.

Use school transitions to gain clues about what your child wants for the future, and begin to lay the foundation for your child to live outside the family home. This foundation will help alleviate fear and anxiety when your child is faced with a changing living situation later.

Network for Resources Early

School-based transitions are opportunities to begin planning residential transitions. School personnel and transition staff should be able to provide information and connect you to resources for residential planning.

As your child approaches adulthood, your guidance will be needed to find individuals and resources that will become part of your family’s circle of support.

Understand and Include Your Child

Not everyone has the same transition opportunities. For example, older adults may not have the benefit of a school transition process or transition planning. Regardless of previous opportunities, the following will help your child feel more confident and sure of the transition.

Involve your child in all phases of the process.
  1. Enable your child to make decisions and take as much control of the situation as possible.
  2. Further instill confidence by demonstrating your own confidence in the plans being made.
  3. Encourage suggestions from current service providers and county board staff. Their knowledge may be helpful for working through the transition.
  4. Assess your child’s comfort level in planning for the future, including:
    • Anxiety Level – Observe your child’s responses to other changes such as a new job or changes in routines at home to decide how early to begin talking about a move. Some people prefer to have a lot of notice while others become more anxious the longer they have to dwell on the upcoming change.
    • Abstract vs. Concrete Thinking – Individuals with cognitive challenges sometimes have difficulty understanding abstract ideas.  Visual cues may help your child comprehend new information. For instance, waiting until you’ve actually found a house may help your child better understand the concept of moving.
    • Time Concepts – A person who has difficulty understanding intervals of time such as a week or a month might better understand the future in relationship to events (e.g., “after New Year’s”). A visual cue such as a calendar with a countdown might be helpful.
Many strategies can ease the anxiety of a transition. Attention to your child’s responses to other changes can provide clues as to how best to facilitate a residential move.

Parent Transition

Another important part of the transition process is for you and other caregivers to prepare themselves for letting go.  Although family members will always be an important part of your child’s life, the move to a new home involves letting new people, such as support staff, take on your old tasks.

Thus, you must let go of a certain amount of control and take a major leap of faith that staff will handle the responsibility well.  If you’re present on a daily basis, the staff will never understand how to support your child. Give staff the best information you can, and mentor them until they get to know your child. Then, step back and let them learn through experience.

Accepting the Reality of Control

For many parents, developing family directed housing for their child builds the expectation that they will have greater control. Parents know their children better than anyone else and have a vested interest in making certain that their child enjoys a safe, happy lifestyle.

However, many parents report that they were surprised by how the level of control they ultimately had. In fact, all parents have only limited control over their children’s lives. 

Learning these limits is part of every parent’s growth, but some limits are unique to working within the social-service system. Make sure you have a realistic expectation of your role in all of the following:

Your child’s wishes and desires.  Everyone, no matter how much control their parents exert, ultimately develop their own ideas.

Fiscal limitations.  In addition to working within personal budgets, you will encounter limitations with public funding for services and supports.

Government regulations.  Many regulations accompany public funding. In addition,  local housing and employment rules regulate support staff.

Conflicting philosophies.  The personal philosophies of the people involved in your family directed housing influence all the decisions in developing and maintaining the home and supports.  Conflicting philosophies can create disagreement among many parties and require compromise.

Group compromises.  Because housing and supports are expensive, many people will find that working with a group of families essential to controlling costs.  Different preferences and needs require compromises.

There is a difference between having complete control of your child’s life and ensuring his or her safety and happiness.

Despite these limitations on control, are the time, energy, and money invested in a home worthwhile?  Families who have been through the experience say, “Yes.”

Your close involvement and influence help ensure a  good quality of life for your child.  You can, however, prevent unexpected disappointments and frustration by remaining realistic about the level of control that your family will have.

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