• Katie Vahey Gaebler

Transitions are hard. Lead through it with kindness.

Updated: Jan 28, 2021

Right before the first day at school, our ABA Clinical Supervisor Leigh was at our home. We were talking about the back to school time, her plan to join an in-person IEP meeting I had set up, and some program modifications she was recommending our BI implement, to get through the next few weeks. “All of our clients are challenged at the back-to-school time,” she let me and our BI, Conar, know. It’s OK to approach this time more easy, the transition of new routine is hard for everyone.


When I was working full-time as a University Academic Advisor, this was a regular piece of advice I offered. A semester schedule is full of transitions, as is each semester, and generally being a young adult and college student. “It’s important to remember to be kind to yourself in time of transitions, you’re on a steep learning curve, and that’s a vulnerable time.” Now that I’m not regularly dispensing advice like this out loud on the daily, I need to be more conscience to remember we’re all learning, all the time. For someone like Bryson who has a documented learning disability, our reality is the stakes are higher and harder. Therefore, we need to be even more conscious in practicing kindness to ourselves and each other.

I’m currently experiencing one of the biggest transitions of my career that I hadn’t necessarily planned (as changes can sometimes go): I am no longer working in a traditional higher ed environment. I changed jobs less than one year ago from a position I had for 6 years and I felt really good about, in order to cut my commute and be closer to home. But frankly, in this new role the management was poor, I had been lied to about the nature of the position in my interview, I didn’t have the appropriate resources I needed to do the job (logistically or legally), the expectations of the job were simultaneously never clear and impossible to meet, and I had 3 different supervisors in less than 6 months. I struggled with the dichotomy of working regularly with brilliant students (in many of whom I saw ASD characteristics) who needed appropriate support resources, which I could have provided if I was supported, and working among an infrastructure with people who thought they knew better (they had no idea) than to let that happen. It was a stressful experience to say the least, and ultimately an adjudication office from the State of Colorado Unemployment office found my employer to be liable, so I was awarded a payout. I walked away from a toxic environment, and I’m proud of how I handled myself through the end. And it’s hard to recover from being stabbed in the back. I have a lot of identity wrapped up my professional activities, I felt good about doing good work. This blog is in part to maintain some of those activities, albeit on my terms. So, ultimately this is a good change, just a big transition.


In turn, I’m spending my days as a SAHM, managing the needs of 18 month old Wesley and 6.5 year old Busy B. Cleaning, cooking, schedule management, school pick up, daily ABA sessions, implementing nap time: it’s a big important job that I feel loved and appreciated for, and is lacking many days in intellectual stimulation in a way I crave (another reason for the blog). I’ve been in to see a talk therapist a couple of times (along with my daily anti-depressant regime- which has been a good thing), who phrased it well: “women today have trained for a career, it’s much less likely you’ve trained for motherhood.” I spent 9 years in graduate school, thinking, writing, planning, and networking for my career, not for motherhood. Of course this is a big change, and an opportunity to invest in myself to spend my days living my priorities.


We are now officially 2 weeks into the new school year, and were finding our rhythm. Bryson’s school day and ABA sessions are going well. The expectations set for him are now ingrained and he’s able to earn the rewards his behavior plan has in place. I feel so incredibly lucky to have such conscience and kind teachers, therapists, and support staff around Bryson. We’re still having some hiccups with the bus, but we’re leading with kindness with people who can make it right and I know we’ll work through that too. We are fortunate to have district transportation service as part of Bryson’s Individual Education Plan (IEP). A full-length school bus picks him up in front of our house on weekday mornings at (what should be) 8:10am. There are only 3 kids total who ride this bus, but so far it has yet to be consistent in it’s schedule, route, or personnel. We’ll work through this, and I believe within a couple more weeks this should settle too. Since the majority of Bryson’s day is now stable, his transportation and transition into his school day is a big deal, but with consistency and community effort will stabilize eventually too. Having the majority of his day go well is total improvement over our daily challenges 1 year ago, and leaps and bounds above where we were 2 years ago. Keeping the overall growth in mind makes me realized we’ve actually made huge progress, and the more we can keep up consistency the better things will get.


Consistency, rhythm, kindness, and lead to grounding, growth, reward. Transitions are hard. And like all roller coasters, this one of life with autism in our DNA, there are twists and turns, ups and downs, and eventually grounding before the next ride. I’m not one to love the feeling of being on roller coaster (or spending time in a busy amusement park, for that matter), but I like the analogy of with the hard work of riding out the wave, there comes the keys of knowing and enjoying what can come on the other side.

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