Our Son had a Positive Transition to High School: Why? Good Planning, Respect for Parental Knowledge and Excellent Teamwork
High school was coming fast and just the thought of it filled me with dread. Our son, Corbin, was still only attending school part time in the 8th grade. This was due to many factors and was agreed upon by all parties including us, his parents. He had support of an Educational Assistant (EA) though we felt the EA was not a good match for Corbin and was part of the reason he was not flourishing at elementary school. Thinking of high school was daunting particularly because he has a lot anxiety and does not do well with change. The idea of him at a school with 1200 students was enough to put me in a cold sweat.
Another parent I knew from Windsor-Essex Family Network guided me through part of the process. She was the one that had warned me they might try to “k code” him. A class with the code “k” stands for “knowledge” and is a non-credit class. A student who is “k coded” may take a locally developed or open course but they are not earning a credit.
In the spring of Grade 8, we went for a meeting with the head of special education for St. Joseph’s high school and the special education coordinator. They were both exceedingly nice but as expected they wanted to “k code” Corbin. Their reasoning was sound – given that he wasn’t very successful in elementary school they didn’t want to set him up for failure. My reasoning was I’d rather give him a chance to show us he could earn credits. My husband Adam and I held firm to refusing to “k code” him and the educators respected our choice.
When they told us that they couldn’t guarantee Corbin would have an EA, particularly if he wasn’t k coded I stuffed down my desire to scream and rant. Instead I looked at the Special Education coordinator and said “I know you know my son and what he needs to succeed” and to the head of special education I said “you know your teachers and which ones would be a good fit for a kid like our son. So we’ll leave that in your capable hands.” And I meant it. I was going to believe the best would happen for our son. We had all worked together to give him the best transition possible.
Plans moved forward to make Corbin comfortable with the move. His elementary school and high school worked together to make times for him to go to St. Joe’s to get comfortable. Also St. Joe’s has a Grade 8 day where all the grade 8’s go to the high school and get put into teams and they do activities and walk around the school as an orientation. The visits to St. Joe’s were dictated by Corbin’s comfort level. As long as he wanted to do more visits the elementary school arranged them. By the time summer rolled around and we attended the school uniform sale several staff stopped to say hi to Corbin.
On the first day of school he had an EA for each class and he had very understanding and flexible teachers. Of course Corbin had to be flexible about the courses he took the first year so they could match him with the right subject and right teacher. The compromise was worth it as he received all his credits the first year.
Also in Grade 8, in preparation of high school and beyond, we did a process called a MAP. Corbin invited a group of people (adults and peers) to support him as we planned for his future. According to Inclusion Press, the creators of this process, Maps is “a series of empty container questions that ask a person to tell us some of the milestones on their journey, so we can get to know them, dream with them, and begin to build a plan in the direction of their dreams.” That gave us insight into what would be important for him in high school – such as not being isolated and wanting to be part of a team. We continue to work on Corbin’s dream, goals and actions identified on his Map.
Corbin benefits from having a quiet place to go when he needs it and the freedom to hang out with friends when he wants to so he thrives at St. Joe’s. So much so his second year he tried out for and made the football team. Corbin “hangs out” with different groups of friends at lunch and can often be found “working the door” at the cafeteria for which he earns free pizza for making sure everyone stays in a neat line to enter the café.
As it stands today he has earned 14 credits. Every class he has taken he has earned a credit.
He has yet to write his Literacy test – that will happen this school year and he has more than half of his community service hours done. Corbin is thriving in his high school, in ways we never could have expected but have always imagined.