Transition Triggers are NEEDED for Crisis Schooling

behavior iep parenting special education special needs teacher May 04, 2020

Triggers. We usually think of the word "trigger" as a negative. We get triggered and the result is anger or meltdowns. Especially when we are discussing Special Education, behavior plans and supporting a child in a successful school day.

Today, we're going to reframe the word "trigger" into a good thing. Something that you need. An action your child might be craving because it will help this new confusing world feel just a little bit easier.

We've heard a million times how this disruption of routine has upset everyone, specifically students who thrive in routines. We can't get the old routines back, just yet, but we can break down what the routine did, what purpose it served, and work together to implement a trigger. Not a full routine, a trigger.

Remember, when this crisis started and everyone was posting cutesy rainbow colored scheduled with breaks and work time, all while making a homemade dinner from scratch. This was going to be their new routine. It didn't work. At least not for anyone that I know and most special needs families knew it wouldn't work. They didn't even try. That's ok!

Everyone jumped into trying a new routine, but let's face it, this new normal is lasting longer than we thought and these routines are still being worked out. Last week on Podcast Episode #19 (listen here) I talked about things you can do during the day to ease your stress and overwhelm, but what about starting and ending your day... how's that going for you?

If you're like most people right now, everyday is a big blur. We don't have a beginning or end. The demands of the day seem endless. The start to the day is either slow going and the morning disappears, a struggle that leads to exhaustion or a quick jumpstart that leaves you burnt out by 2pm.

That's why it's important for us to step back and look at the beginning and end of your work day. Yes, this is for everyone... for IEP teams, students and families. I absolutely know that you're working all waking hours, but I'm talking about your specific work day. The one where you are expected to show up and connect with others through zoom, google classroom or at least power through a few worksheets.

In our old routines we had triggers everyday. The most simple one was coat, shoes, bus (or carpool lane), out the door and then repeat to come back home. That commute to school was a trigger that there were different expectations on the other side. The commute home was a trigger to afternoon and evening routines at home.

We've lost our natural triggers that we've all had for years. Gone. Vanished. These were more important than we ever realized for our days to be productive and manageable.

You don't need a color coded schedule and an overpacked day to power through these last few weeks of the school year. You need boundaries (those are in Episode 19) and positive triggers to transition.

A few ideas for Triggers to Transition:

  • A walk around the block at the beginning and end of the work day.
  • Get out of pajamas and put on real clothes at the same time everyday.
  • Pack up your school supplies in a backpack and bring them to the table. Then pack them back up when you're done.
  • Use a favorite song in the morning and a different one in the afternoon to sing and dance to as you transition to your first activity and leave your last activity.

A quick silver lining - when you take action in your end of the day trigger for transition, stop the homework, stop the zooms (unless they are for fun), stop the google classroom uploads. Be done. The upside to crisis schooling at home is that you can pick your end time and stick to it. No homework after 3pm with a clear rule not to let school work interrupt your dinner and steal your peace during the evening is absolutely possible. You just have to make the choice.

As founder of the Master IEP Coach Mentorship + Network it is extremely important to me that we are not just focusing on WHAT is in the IEP, but that we get serious about HOW that IEP document works in the real world.

We can write the prettiest IEP with the best of intentions, but if we are not being real about what may or may not happen over the Summer and into the Fall, then our children and students miss out on what could've been a success because we were too busy ignoring reality.

I'm training hundreds of Master IEP Coaches this summer to get ready for our new real world. We will be making sure that students have IEP goals that make sense for our digital world, distance learning plans that are more than just crisis schooling and absolutely tapping into the power of parent input statements.

The purpose of an IEP is to meet a child's unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment and independent living. The shift to make this happen in a world that may or may not be attending school on campus full time in the Fall needs to happen now. 

From setting up students to be successful learning at home to preparing as an entire IEP team for a transition back to school, we're covering it all and I'd love to have you join us. Get the full details and next steps here:


Write Better IEP Goals. Reduce IEP Conflict. Get Paid for Your IEP Expertise.

Learn More About Becoming a Master IEP Coach®