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Thread: ? about transition planning

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2006

    Default ? about transition planning

    Hi Brice. Thanks for all your work here, amazing stuff.

    DS, age 9, is in a substantially separate classroom in a different district. He has Aspergers and struggles with anxiety, especially around big transitions. I won't fill you in on our entire saga, but it's been a long road. We would much prefer for him to be in a general education setting in his home district (which was horrible for him!), but he is where he needs to be right now. He is understood, and he has supports to help him when he goes to general ed for specials, etc. He is extremely bright and is doing just fine academically.

    Anyway. Come June, he will have been in the same mixed-age class for 2 1/2 years. In September, he is moving up into the classroom for grade 5-6. Different teacher. Different counselor. Some different kids. His anxiety can get off the charts during transitions like this. At our recent parent conference, we requested a clear transition plan. Last year, the staff had told us the two classrooms would be doing things together this year, with lots of cross-pollination among the two groups, which would ease the transition next year. It hasn't happened. We asked for this to begin and for, at the very least, the last month of school to be dedicated to the transition. The class counselor (who is about to go on maternity leave) would have nothing of this. She said, "We just have to assume the first three months of fifth grade will be rocky." I pushed a little, but she wouldn't budge.

    Yes, now that your jaw is out of your lap, here's my question. Obviously, we are going to act on this immediately. The counselor really cares about the kids and she "gets" them, but she is a bit of a control freak and wants authority to begin and end with her. Her comment is nagging on me. So. Do I write to her now and contest the comment and tell her that we need a clear plan? Or do I write to the whole team and request a team meeting to address transition to fifth grade? I would also request that the teacher and counselor for next year be at this meeting.

    If I request a team meeting, I know the email goes to everyone. If I do this, should I quote the counselor? I really want to say, "That kind of rigid, inflexible thinking is self-defeating and does not do a service to DS, who has grown so much and deserves positive expectations from adults." Notice I am mimicking the things educators say about Aspy kids: rigid, inflexible. That might tweak her and make her feel as if we are taunting her, but the thing is, IT'S TRUE! If they are working to help my ds learn to think in new ways, it does not help if they are inflexible, for whatever reason. I should say that I don't think this is a staffing issue, although they would say it is. There are six kids in ds' class, which is staffed by a full-time counselor, a teacher, and three aides.

    Anyway, I would love your input on what to do. We want to do whatever we can to smooth this transition, and we will not accept that he will suffer for three months. Anxiety leads to explosions, not good. DS has come so far, he is doing so well, we refuse to believe he will regress. Plus, how can she predict such a rocky road when the actual transition is nine months away? It sounds as if she is assuming he will not grow any further, when he has already gone from a kid who refused to go to school, then refused to read or write, to a kid who is above grade level in all subjects, except writing (he's at grade level). He also has two good friends in his class.

    Thanks for reading. I look forward to your advice. I just would love to hear what you think we should write and to whom.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2012



    Your questions are terrific. Thank you.

    Today I will try to break your questions down and give you the short answers. Expanded answers that talk about how to do it will follow during the next several days.


    The school is going to transition your son from the mixed-age class he has been in for two and a half years and into a different school district. The new school district classroom is intended for fifth and sixth grade students.

    You want to know how you can work with the school district team members to make that happen in a way that benefits, not harms, your son.


    1) Should you ask for a team meeting?

    SHORT CAUTION: Strategic timing and tactical planning is critical.

    2) Should you send your request for a team meeting by email to each school district member of the team?

    SHORT ANSWER: Yes, and No.


    (A) Yes, send a written request for a meeting.

    (B) No, do not send your written request as an email message.

    (C) Write your IEP meeting request letter with your word processing program. Address that letter to the LEA or special education director; cc everyone else.

    (D) Attach your letter to your email message. The body of your email message doesn’t need to say anything more than you attached your letter asking for an IEP meeting to the email message.

    (E) Address your email message to the LEA or to the director of special education at both school districts that are involved (you can cc other team members)

    (F) Print your letter and mail it to the LEAs or special education directors; no need to cc anyone else.

    3) What to do about the school’s counselor who says, "We just have to assume the first three months of fifth grade will be rocky."

    SHORT ANSWER: Rocky Road is the name of a delicious ice-cream. We need to describe the future with words that gives a vision about the solution in the here and now. Adjectives are your friend. Adverbs - not always your friend. In a later posting I will write more on laying a paper trail that any old hound dog can follow.

    Thank you for your questions, Patrice. You can expect longer answers to each of these topics over the next several days.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2006

    Default Thanks

    Hi Brice. Thanks for your reply. We jumped the gun, but I hope that's ok. My husband felt VERY strongly about acting on this immediately. But we also didn't want to burn bridges with the counselor, who does care but is a bit of a control freak. Anyway, we did a conference call with her to call her out on what she said. We told her we were calling a team meeting. Then we sent the letter, via email, with the letter attached and cc'd to the team. I also included the text in the email, whoops! Sometimes people can't read attachments, so we wanted to be sure everyone could read it.

    Anyway, no harm done, we hope. Our sped director follows the letter of the law, and she will honor our request. I hope we didn't do anything stupid, but the counselor is about to leave for maternity on Friday. I would love to hear the rest of your thoughts. My husband was not able to attend the conference, and he is very, very concerned about our son's history with transitions and wanted to act on this today. So the ball is rolling. We have not documented what she said, so I would love to hear what you think. We have a few days before she leaves to create a paper trail, perhaps a thank you for talking to us about this. She didn't backtrack on what she said, but she was very defensive and hemmed and hawed a bit.

    Anyway, our son comes first!!

    Thanks in advance for whatever advice you have.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2012



    Don’t worry about “jumping the gun.” Almost anything that happens between parents and a school IEP team is fixable when the stuff hits the fan. Remember this, though. When the stuff does hit the fan, the stuff is not evenly distributed.

    Don’t worry about burning bridges with the counselor or any other school district employee who is on your son’s IEP team. If the bridge is no longer safe to use, we should burn it if we cannot repair it.

    But we are not talking about bridges here. We are talking about people who are responsible for your son’s educational welfare. We cannot repair people. What we can do is change their behavior.

    Once upon a time, a farmer decided to sell one of his mules. So, he painted a sign. “Good working mule for sale $50.00.”

    In a couple of days one of his neighbors saw the sign, approached the farmer and asked, “Does that mule work hard and follow directions?” “Sure does,” the farmer said. The neighbor bought the mule.

    A few days later, the neighbor brought the mule back and demanded to get the money back because the mule would not follow directions and worse, it had a nasty temper. Well, the farmer said, “Watch this.”

    The farmer picked up a 2X4, smacked the mule between the eyes, hooked the mule to a plow, and the mule followed every command the farmer gave.

    Turning to the neighbor, the farmer said, “First you have to get its attention.”

    I certainly do not condone violence or even violent language. We have far more effective ways to get the attention of the IEP team members than by resorting to raw force.

    Our objective is to get the school district members of the IEP team to follow the directions (the IDEA and Section 504 regulations) and pull the plow.

    How? By being a proactive advocate. That means being prepared to handle problems before the stuff hits the fan. It also means using persuasive negotiation tactics and strategies instead of a 2X4.

    Every letter, every email, every meeting, and every telephone conversation you have with the school district is an opportunity to negotiate on behalf of your son. The kind of negotiation I’m talking about here is not the kind we usually think of: A winner take all bidding game. Thinking this way is one explanation for why special education resolution sessions and mediation conferences fail miserably for parents.

    Successful negotiators know an agreement must serve the interests of both sides.

    An example:

    A parent’s interest is getting the IEP team to add 3 more hours of 1:1 pragmatic language instruction per week to the student’s IEP.

    The school district’s interest is staying within its budget and personnel assignment constraints.

    The two sets of interests seem to be so far apart that nothing the parent can do short of asking for a due process hearing will force the school district to bend.

    The secret for this, or any other negotiation, is to know what alternatives are workable and are available. Once a parent knows their alternatives, that parent is in a much more powerful position to negotiate. In negotiation jargon, this is called knowing what the best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA) is BEFORE beginning the negotiation for specialized instructions and related services. You can learn more about this by Googling BATNA.

    And what does all this have to do with the problem you need to solve with the school counselor?

    Well, the counselor’s opinion or statement is not solvable by force. Moreover, you will come across other individuals who are stubborn during your advocacy for your son.

    I will close here with one sure-fire negotiation technique that works every time.

    Ms. Counselor says, "We just have to assume the first three months of fifth grade will be rocky."

    Pause for a second and then say:

    I know you must have a good reason for saying that. Would you mind telling me what it is?

    Clam up after you ask the question – don’t say a word. Wait for the answer because in situations like this, the first person to speak loses.

    Practice this technique every chance you get in your daily life. Get good at it. When you get it down solid go teach another parent how to do it.

    Thanks again for your question.

    - brice

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2006

    Default Thanks, another question for you (and others)

    What are reasonable requests for transition planning? We would like ds to spend as much time as possible in the new classroom before the end of the school year. We would also like for him to meet with the new counselor and, perhaps, to spend time with the students already in that classroom, maybe for lunch groups. Can you think of other things the school can do to help him make a smooth transition (rather than going down a rocky road)?


  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2012



    You asked, “what are reasonable requests for transition planning?” This question is part of a broader question you asked earlier. I think what you are asking is whether your 9-year old son can get a transition plan in his IEP that will help him transition from a mixed-age classroom to his next classroom, which is a grade 5-6 classroom. Also, the reason for your concern is your son has been in the mixed age classroom for 2 ½ years.

    In addition, when you went to the school counselor for advice she said, “there will be bumps in the road.” Translated, the bumps in the road cliché is another way of saying – “SO WHAT”

    I am not a lawyer, so bear with me while I do my best to patch together an answer to your questions.

    The first snag we run into is the term “transition planning.” The reason it is a snag is the IDEA requires transition planning to transition a student from school to adulthood – employment and college. You can find the IDEA language and requirements at 34 C.F.R. §§ 300.43, 300.324(c), 300.320(b), and 300.321(b).

    Yes, I realize we use the term transition to mean helping a student move from one class to another, from one school in the district to another, and so on. However, if your IEP team wants to get technical, it can delay providing what your son needs because your son is 9-years old, which is not the compulsory age for transition planning. The IDEA requirement says a transition plan must be in the IEP that immediately precedes the student’s 16th birthday. The compulsory age for transition planning varies from state to state.

    First, ask yourself whether this is a transition problem or an access problem.

    Here’s a suggestion. Say to the IEP team that your son needs a smooth transition from his current class to his next class placement. To do that, he will need several accommodations written into his current IEP so he will be able to have meaningful access to an education in his new placement.

    What this means for your son is that by shifting the conversation from transition to meaningful access, you will have a bigger stick and a louder voice.

    Ask yourself what services, instructions, accommodations, or modifications your son will need to have access to the school’s programs and services in the grade 5-6 classroom. Does he need a stepped introduction (transition) to the class he will attend so he will have meaningful access when he officially changes to the 5-6 class?

    I assume that your son is also a qualified individual with a disability protected under Section 504. School districts have less leeway in interpreting what a substantial limitation of a life activity is under the new amendments to Section 504 and the ADA.

    The Section 504 rules that apply to elementary and secondary schools are at 34 C.F.R. Part 104. You can find them here:

    The purpose of Section 504 is to provide students with an equal opportunity to have access to an education. Accommodations, then, should originate from what a child needs to benefit from the school’s program or activities.

    Something else: The school district might say something such as “what you are asking for is not a reasonable accommodation.”

    The term reasonable accommodation applies to employment. I cannot find the words reasonable and accommodation linked in Section 504 for providing disabled students an elementary or secondary level public education by recipients of federal funds. 34 C.F.R. 104.3(I)(1);(2). Authority, 29 U.S.C. 794.

    I hope this helps you put together a discussion with your son’s IEP team about how to write a stepped transition to the grade 5-6 classroom in his IEP.

    I also hope you have some new insight about how to handle the counselor who, in effect, says SO WHAT.


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