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When I was told that my child was not meeting developmental goals, I trusted his school to help us create a path towards reaching them.
Instead, he was removed from general education classes, given unsupervised computer time to "improve skills" and ostracized by classmates who did not see him as part of their community any longer.
I watched a loving, open young person go from having friends and being part of a larger community to becoming bitter, withdrawn, anxious and depressed. He hated school, his family, his friends and society in general.
It was the most horrific experience: one I now want to change for every other family in the special education system.
Hello, I am Jean Roberts Guequierre. As founder and lead transition catalyst at Alpha Transitions, I help families and students with invisible disabilities take back control of their future.
My son's experience compelled me to study Special Education myself.
I started studying for a Master’s of Fine Arts in Education with an emphasis in Special Education at a highly regarded university. During my studies, I found that the traditional education system supported the idea of integrating children with invisible disabilities into the general education classroom.
However, there has been a a distinct disconnect between lip-service to this idea and actual on-the-ground results. Children are pulled out from mainstream classes every day and forced to live a different school experience from their general education peers. That is the norm.
students in Special education classes Are not achieving their goals, And teachers are focusing on remediation (fixing the "deficits"). this leaves out the essential component of self-efficacy.
Self-efficacy, I found, is the connection between successful actions and results which encourages a sense of the value of work and the promise of seeing what one's strengths can get them through when times are hard.
As part of my program, I moved on to student teaching. When I told the students that the subject I was teaching them would be useful when they go to college, my supervising teacher pulled me aside and said, “We don’t talk about college. We are trying to get them up to the same level as their general education classmates.”
I thought, "My god, just like my son, the only thing these students hear is that they are behind. No one helps them decide where they are going."
I didn’t want to be part of the system at all. I wanted something more.
I thought that working as a transitions advisor in higher education for students with disabilities would be the best way to assist them, so I achieved a Master’s of Science in Administrative Leadership: Higher Education Administration. And again, I found similar barriers for students with disabilities.
Research showed that when students are shifted into less challenging (non-college preparatory) classes in middle school, albeit by well-meaning teachers, those students do not develop the knowledge, study skills and self-efficacy they need to transition into higher education--even if they do wish to pursue higher education.
Thanks to my intervention as a concerned parent, And as a teacher, broken dreams will not be my son's story. They do not have to be your child's, either.
The question is, where will you place your trust?
The paradigm of education sets your child up to be unprepared, and even the most involved of parents may not know it is happening.
It is a matter of misplaced trust. I have experienced this first hand. Within higher education, if a student does not know what is available for support from the college or university, that student is much more likely to quit, without even seeking help.
The assumption within higher education is “You are an adult, if you need us, you will find us.” This is not true in all schools, but that is the crux of the problem.
how many students simply stop attending classes because they do not know they can have accommodations for testing and for how they receive information?
If your child does not have the self-efficacy skills and awareness of resources necessary to advocate for their needs, college or a carer may not be in his or her future at all.
For your child, these secondary- and post-secondary education attitudes are the confirmation of the bias that they have learned from all their educational experiences: another reminder that they "cannot succeed." That they are somehow broken.
This message will reflect in their life. It will determine what employment positions they will pursue, how big their life will be, and what they see in themselves that is good and valuable.
Do you want your child to step into adulthood believing he or she is broken? Or step into it with the confidence and self-efficacy skills to create the future he or she truly wants?
My goal in creating Alpha Transitions is to bridge the gap in knowing about your rights, knowing how to be the best advocate for your child, connecting to services that would benefit your child and assisting them in seeing and planning for their potential rather than feeling broken.
At its essence, transition planning should be a process of knowing what you want to do and developing the skills and self-efficacy to make it happen.
My transition planning bridges secondary education and post-secondary life, so your child can find his or her path to the peak.
Welcome to a world of opportunities.