Abstract: A parent describes how she prepared her family before moving into a new house in another community. The steps she took resulted in a smooth transition for her child with deafblindness.
Keywords: family wisdom, transitioning children with special needs, deafblind, multiple disabilities, cultural competence
Many years ago when I left Mexico to come and live in the United States, the move happened so suddenly that I didn’t stop to think about what it implied. It was during Christmas vacation and the worst part was that I wasn’t aware I would be leaving so soon. I did not even have time to say goodbye to my classmates and friends. I arrived here to a totally different place—a different culture, a different language, and different people. It was very traumatic and scary, and I felt anxious trying to adjust to my new environment.
A couple of years ago I made another change in my life— my family and I moved from Los Angeles to Riverside, which is about 50 miles to the east of L.A. When we were looking for the house it never occurred to me that this would be a big change for my kids, especially for Norman, my 8-year-old who is deaf-blind and has multiple disabilities. Right after we found the house we wanted and knew exactly where we were going to live, I suddenly remembered all that I had been through years ago when I came to the U.S. Deep down in my heart I was concerned about Norman; because of all of his special needs this move was very likely to have a great impact on him.
Keeping in mind the fact that the move would be a challenge, my husband and I started to plan a transition to make things easier for Norman. We knew there were factors working against us like timing and distance (timing because it was during school session, and distance because the new house wasn’t around the corner from our old house but instead many miles away). Nevertheless, we were excited about the move.
When designing our transition plan we considered all the factors involved, such as home environment, school for our daughter, school program for Norman, etc. We then asked ourselves, How can we do this? How can we make sure this transition works? And the big question—How can we make sure Norman’s new school program is the right one for him?
First, we did not move right away to our new house. We decided to have Norman stay in his old program for the remainder of the school year (since it was almost vacation) in order to minimize the number of changes in his life. We thought this might make him confused with so many things happening at the same time. We chose instead to visit our new home as often as possible. We even spent some weekends at our new place, exploring and getting familiar with the new home, the neighborhood, and we also visited the new school.
Soon after, I visited the new school program and met the person who would be Norman’s new teacher. I explained to her all about Norman’s needs and asked how she felt about having a child with deaf-blindness in her class. I inquired all about other related services, and the possibility of meeting with the one-to-one assistant before school started. The next step was to take Norman to the classroom so he could meet his new teacher and she could meet him.
When the school year started, I went with Norman to school for the first few days. Even though we had all met before, everything was kind of new for Norman as well as for his teacher and one-on-one aide. Me being there in the classroom and showing the school staff how to communicate and work with Norman made everything much easier. Norman didn’t feel that I had just left him there and the teacher didn’t feel so lost. Shortly after that, his educational team and I met to discuss all the information related to Norman.
Thinking about what was best for our children—along with all the planning, time, and effort—made this transition a success. We finally moved into our new home. Norman is progressing in his new program without any major complications. In addition, our daughter likes her new school, too. And they even got a dog named Buster.