I thought I would share the social story that we used to break the news to our daughter that she is going to a new school this Fall. There is a bit of back story that I will share here first. In my ideal transition plan I did not want to tell our daughter that she would be changing schools until sometime in May. I wanted her to have minimal distractions from her Kindergarten year during which she had made fabulous progress both academically and socially. Sometime in April, however, we started hearing some things at home that made us nervous. Our daughter would say, "We got to go to the big kid playground today, and that's where I will play when I'm in first grade." One might need to know that our daughter is VERY literal in her language and very concrete in her thinking. If she has been told that a certain playground is where she will play, then she assumes that really is where she will play and she begins to formulate important, specific plans of what she will do when she is there. Fortunately I had already started collecting photos and writing text for a social story to tell her she'd be going to a different school. The publish deadline for that story got pushed up about a month. We knew we had to tell her, and soon, or we'd be pushing back the tide of important plans she was already considering. We also asked the staff at the old school to revise their language to help her understand that the playground at her new school would be LIKE the one they'd been visiting, and to remind her that not everyone would go to the same school next year.
Without further ado, here is the story (edited for privacy):
- My name is [her name]. I go to Kindergarten at [name of "old school"].
- On school days my parents drive me to Kindergarten.
- I go to room 3 for Kindergarten, and [teacher's name] is my teacher.
- I play with my friends from room 3 at the Kindergarten playground.
- I will go to Kindergarten for the rest of April, all of May, and the first part of June.
- During the rest of June, all of July, and the beginning of August I will have Summer vacation. In August I will start first grade.
- I will go to [name of "new school"] for first grade.
- Because [new school] is close to my house, I will be able to walk to first grade.
- Sometimes I might get to ride my bike to school for first grade.
- There is a first grade playground at [new school]. I already play here sometimes with my family.
- If I have questions about my new school I can ask Mommy or Daddy. They will help me find out the answers.
We chose to read the story during "snuggle time" before school the next day. After reading the story with Daddy, the child went off to get dressed - the next step in her usual routine. Mommy and Daddy were sitting there kind of debriefing when she came back in and said, "So-and-so doesn't live close to school. Where is she going to 1st grade?" She proceeded to list all of her friends and ask where they were going to school. Some of these we had answers for and some we did not. A couple of friends were in similar situations but had chosen different pathways. She also wanted to know WHY? (Her favorite question these days). We told her there is a rule about children attending schools that are closest to their home. Then she wanted to know who made that rule, and we told her it was someone who did not know her. She took her story to school and shared it with her friends, which made it easier for her to tell them what was going on. School staff read the story with her several times over the next few weeks.
She was quite sad for the rest of that day, and tried all sorts of negotiation strategies to make us change our minds. I was glad we were settled in our decision. It was very hard to see her so sad. That was the second night in this process that I went to bed in tears myself. The next day was better. Gradually as we have spent more time getting to know her new school she has become more excited about the idea, but she is still worried that none of her friends will be there. We will have to work hard to find some new friends at the beginning of the year. This is still my greatest fear, too.