Checklists for successful transitions of children and young people with vision impairment
Wednesday, 2 November 2016
Lynn Donovan and Emily Hopkins-Hayes from RNIB Pears Centre share their suggestions for successful transitions in and out of services for children and young people with vision impairment.
High quality transition is critical for the success of placements for children and young people and their families. In special education, it is not uncommon for young people to experience more points of transition than in the mainstream sector. To add to the complexity, most of them also require some level of residential care.
When all local and local authority (LA) options for education and/or care have been exhausted, it may be necessary to look towards the non-maintained and independent sector. It can be strange and unfamiliar territory, so we have made some suggestions about what has helped the families and children we have supported.
One of the most important aspects of a transition plan is to know exactly who should be involved and informed, and therefore what you should expect of them. Some people may not have the authority to make decisions you feel need to be made. Remember this is rarely a choice, because every setting has its own policies and procedures.
Start early – LAs may tell you there is no need to start looking for next steps until a particular point. However, in our experience it is the young people who have proactive parents and carers who go and find what they want for their child, who often end up getting just that. Make sure you use the Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) process to clearly state your aspirations for your young person, and theirs where possible, from the outset.
Ask your LA to consider a full assessment by your desired provider as soon as possible to either rule it in or out – this will save time and prevent panic as the deadline for transition looms. They will first ask you to consider local providers and you must have a good reason for not using them, if you don’t think they are a good fit for the child (can they deliver the aspirations set out in the EHCP?).
It is critical to maintain good communication – this may just be by way of an email update to keep everyone informed, but you may need to make particular contact with key people such as commissioners and social workers. This extends to the young person, where you can give them notice of visits, meetings and assessments so they have time to prepare and think of questions they might want to ask.
Connect professionals – if the child has an occupational therapist or a habilitation officer, put them in touch with their opposite number in the new provision.
Know your rights – it is important parents and young people feel empowered to ask for what they want and need. There are places you can gain information and support such as Special Needs Jungle and GOV.UK. Every region also has an independent support organisation, which has been tasked by the Council for Disabled Children to offer support to young people and families trying to navigate their way through the current landscape.
When you have identified the appropriate placement, share as much information as you can with them about the child – ask to see their policies and documentation so you are prepared for what might be different.
Make sure that a formal and thorough assessment has taken place and you are satisfied that the placement will meet the needs of the young person – ask the provider questions about specifics, such as how much therapy will be given weekly, what level of QTVI input will they guarantee as a minimum, and things like who provides clothing and pocket money if it’s residential?
Be completely open about the child – the right placement will not be put off by negative behaviours etc, but a placement may be unsuccessful if things are not clear from the outset.
If time and distance allows, try to have numerous visits to a new placement both with and without the young person – it’s ok to be nervous and ask questions, but bear in mind it will take a little while for things to settle.
Make sure the family has discussed with the provider what the expectations are in terms of visits – for example giving notice and transport for home visits. It is also important the family understands any financial implications, such as benefit entitlements that may be affected in terms of a residential placement.
Introduce familiarity where you can – for example, if the child had a certain type of seat, plate or cup at their last school or at home, let the new provider know so that they can set up a secure and familiar place for your child to feel quickly acclimatised to. We have sent bedding from the previous night ahead to the new placement to make the new bed with, so that the young person’s room will smell like them. Also, if your young person has devices they use, like iPads and switches, make sure they are passed on quickly so your young person can communicate as they are used to and avoid becoming frustrated.
Don’t expect miracles overnight – most good providers will tell you they are not there to ‘cure’ the child, but rather they are there to help them become more independent, safe and communicative. It can be frustrating to see the child not make the quick improvements you had hoped for, but these are more likely to happen over time.
Respect other people in the provision – most home and learning spaces are shared spaces, where staff are meeting the needs of lots of young people. As tempting as it is to jump in and fix something, unless you see something dangerous, trust the staff to do their jobs and let the young people make mistakes.
There are no hard and fast rules, and what works for one young person may not work for another. However, following some of our suggestions may set you and your young person up for greater success and less anxiety at these difficult times of change.
At RNIB Pears Centre
In our setting, we have a transitions officer who acts as the first point of contact for new referrals into our school and co-ordinates the sharing of information between our services. This has been a new step for us, but it has been very successful and brought families and children reassurance at times of high anxiety.