The autism field is a tough one. I have the utmost respect for anyone that chooses to go into this field. The dedicated therapists, teachers, administrators and assistants that have come into our lives have no idea what a lasting impression they have left not only on our son but on our entire family.
Unfortunately one of the biggest challenges in this field is turnover. Teachers and therapists will come and go for various reasons – they move, get married, have kids, and so on. Whenever I get the dreaded email that one of my child’s “people” is leaving, I feel such sadness.
These people have been woven into the fabric of our lives and when they’re gone, they leave a huge void. They know my son so well and have learned over time how to not only address his challenges but to help him learn new things and reach his full potential.
A new person will enter into our life and when they meet my son for the first time, they go through what I call “the honeymoon phase”. This person usually overlaps with a current therapist or teacher that knows my son and is familiar with his behavior plan. When my son is doing well, he does really well and can sit and attend to what is being taught. The new person sees this and can’t imagine him exhibiting any disruptive behaviors.
Then a week or two after seeing this new therapist, my son may start exhibiting some challenging behaviors which seem to come out of nowhere. The new therapist has witnessed the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of his behavior and the honeymoon phase is over.
Sometimes when there is a change in one area, it will affect all the other areas. For example, if there is a new therapist at home, my son’s behaviors may crop up at school as well.
Over the years, here is what I found most helpful whenever we have a transition in teachers or therapists:
1. Explain to your child in simple terms who he will no longer be seeing and if the person is still there, facilitate a good bye with that person. If the person is already gone, explain to your child that this person is no longer there and tell him who the new person is.
2. Give the new person a copy of your son’s behavior plan so they know how the rest of the team is addressing his behavior. Let them know if there are current behaviors to be on the lookout for.
3. Discuss potential things that the new person can do to build rapport with your child such as playing his favorite game, reading a favorite book together or even enjoying a simple snack.
4. Let all other providers know that your child has had a change in his team so they will be on top of monitoring potential behaviors. For example, if one of your child’s teachers at school changes, you should let his home program know and vice versa.
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