back-to-school-tip-15I had a school official ask me once if I thought it was possible for my son to get a high school diploma. This took me aback. In fact, it really upset me initially. It was during a transition meeting from elementary to secondary school. It was the first opportunity for the secondary school team to meet me and sit down with my son’s elementary resource teachers to discuss his learning profile and the support he would require when entering secondary school.

I maintained my composure long enough to boldly answer that I thought the question was a little bit premature, that yes of course it was our plan to ensure our son had everything he needed to leave secondary school with a diploma. I believed my son could do it, despite what the paperwork in front of him implied. I emphasized there was more to my son than what was on the paper and that once he met him he would know what I meant.

The school official explained that the reason for asking the questions was to get clarity on the goals for my child. He indicated that a plan moving forward for a child being supported both academically and socially could look different than one that emphasizes life skills and social culture.

I understood what he was saying. But it still stung a little and I remained taken aback about this for some time.

Fast forward… I have come to my own clarity. I now know that this gentleman was trying to accomplish in that meeting was to ensure we were all on the same page about the long range vision for my child. Where did I see my child after leaving highschool? Was it community, work, or post secondary education? I couldn’t blame him for asking. My sons IEP from elementary school did highlight many areas of need.

Thankfully I did hold my composure. I had taken some time to consider my vision for my child, (perhaps informally but I had done it prior to the meeting) and that made it easier for me to openly and confidently answer his question.

Now I want you to do the same. I want you to write your own vision statement for your child. Better yet, write one with your child. After all, it should be student centered.

What is a vision statement?
A vision statement helps us get clear on where we see our child in the future. It’s not about what we are doing or how we are going to get there. It’s about the there… the destination. When my child is out of school he/she will _____________. When my child finishes elementary school he/she will____________. When my child enters grade 1 I envision she/he will ____________________.

Why a vision statement?
Can you imagine trying to get somewhere for the first time only you don’t know where you were going? Think about it. You don’t know what city. You don’t know what country. You don’t know if you need a train, plain or automobile or could maybe even walk there. You couldn’t pack your bags. You wouldn’t know how much money you needed. I think you get the picture.

Now imagine if you weren’t travelling alone. Imagine you thought you were going one direction and your travel companion thought you were going somewhere completely different. What do you think would happen?

A clear vision ensures that everyone involved will know exactly where we are going and be better prepared to contribute to how we are going to get there. If professionals on your school team do not know where you as the parent envision the destination, we will most likely have difficulty getting to a consensus on how to get there. When people are working on different visions, conflict is almost certain to erupt.

You know what they say! Keep your eye on the ball!

In order to get clear on how to get somewhere and what you might need, you need a vision. Today I want you to get out your notebook and start writing down in point form what it is you see for your child in the long term. Think big! Think bold! Your vision is about what your child wants for their life and what you want for your child.

If you need some help think about incorporating some of these topics into your vision statement:

What does your child’s social world look like in the future?
What does home life look like? Living independently? 
What opportunities do they have?
Are they employed?
What is happening for them in terms of community? Volunteering? Organizations?
Think about education? Post secondary?

These are just some examples. The vision for your child should incorporate all of the same things you would wonder/dream about for any child, regardless of their special needs but because it us about THIS child, the vision may look different because they are unique.

So take some time today to write a vision statement for/with your child. Once you get clear on what you hope for in the future, it will be easier to communicate that with clarity to other professionals working with your child.