Category Archives: Coordinated Services

“Linking Learning to Life”: Strengthening Transition Skills

A Pennsylvania School District has implemented a program that helps students develop employment and independent living skills.  Partnered with local businesses, the district High School has created an on site classroom that provides simulated experiences and career coaching.

Learning to Life (LLtL) is a two-tier secondary transition designed to aid students in making the progression from the classroom to post-school life. Activities are based on the individual’s needs, ranging from those with mild disabilities to students with more significant needs who require extensive support, and consider his or her strengths, preferences and interests.

“The majority of our services were previously contracted with outside providers,” said DiMarino-Linnen. “They tended to be ‘one size fits all’ and students were oriented to a community that was not their own.”

To address the concerns, LLtL considers the various paths students will take in the months and years after high school. For some, the focus is on independent living; for others, post-secondary competitive employment, trade school or college. Planning begins no later than the first IEP when the student turns 14, with a team which can involve the individual, parents, general and special education personnel and an agency representative. Issues such as course selection and the extended school year (ESY) program are addressed.

Read the article here.

Employment Opportunities for Tennesseans with Cognitive Disabilities Looks Bleak

Young adults with cognitive disabilities are increasingly facing unemployment.  This article chronicles a young man on the Autism spectrum who remains unemployed despite having been trained for a job through services provided by public programs.(The Tennessean, March 16, 2014)

….after being notified in November that Tennessee’s Division of Rehabilitation Services “cannot provide ongoing job coaching” for [Seth] Howe, his parents don’t know what to do next.

A state Medicaid waiver could help, but Howe is one of more than 7,100 people on a waiting list for such services from the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

As a result — after years of state-funded special education and vocational training — Howe sits at home, the skills he acquired diminishing with each passing day.

“It makes me extremely angry to know that all this time and money was spent for him to have a life, and he has no life,” said his mother, Lynn Howe.

Only 16.6 percent of Tennesseans who have a cognitive disability were employed in 2011 — down from 21.4 percent six years earlier. The employment rate is third worst in the country, behind only West Virginia and Alabama, and well below the national average of 22.2 percent, according to the American Community Survey.

Nearly 200,000 working-age Tennesseans with an intellectual disability are left without employment.

Read more here.

 

Planning for Adulthood: Aging Parents Face Decisions

Posted in the Buffalo Spree, January 2014

Every parent’s hope is that their children with disabilities will be able to transition to adulthood into a career and be able to live with at least some independence.  For parents of children with disabilities that significantly affect the level of independence in adulthood, planning for their children’s future when they are no longer able to care for them is scary, but must be included in the plan which should also include a plan for any crisis that may occur with the parents.

It may seem that life should get easier as you age, but the reality is, there’s just as much need — if not more — for planning and decision-making. This is especially true for the parents of special-needs children. Today, not only are parents living longer, individuals who are developmentally disabled live longer, which means their parents will be caregivers longer. Parents have more to worry about should they become physically unable to look after their adult developmentally disabled child, and more planning to do in the event they pass on before that child.

“I always say there are five major life stages for a family who has a developmentally disabled child. Birth — when they first realize the child has special needs; when they reach school age; adolescence; college or marrying age; and when the parents begin to think about their own deaths,” said Michael Gross, executive director, Heritage Centers. “The last one is the scariest.”

It is the scariest because the parents, who have most likely been the primary caregivers for their children, face giving up total control to strangers. Barbara DeLong, co-chair of the DDAWNY (Developmentally Disabled Alliance of Western New York) Family Committee, and her husband are parents to 21-year-old Laura and are a prime example of this dilemma. Laura functions at the level of a toddler. While DeLong is still reasonably young at age 56, her husband is 68 and not in the best of health.

….There is a great need for parents to start planning early, says Helen Trowbridge Hanes, vice president of Community Living for Aspire of Western New York. Financial planning is a huge part of the picture, since the majority of the developmentally disabled are on Medicaid, which means they can have limited assets. Assets above the legal limits could cause them to lose important services.

….Planning and decision-making remain a critical part of life for aging parents of children with any form of special needs: whether the child be developmentally disabled, handling mental health issues, or dealing with any other challenges that affect their ability to live independently.

Read the entire article here.

Nemours Develops Transition Video Series for Youth with Special Health Care Needs

A new video series for youth with special health care needs has been launched by Nemours Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children.  The series focuses on transition to adulthood for youth who face taking charge of their own medical care along with seeking employment and living independently.

 The transition from adolescence to independent young adulthood can be an especially challenging time for those with special health care needs. A great deal of planning and forethought is needed to help these patients move from pediatric to adult health care providers, from education to employment and from their family home to independent living when possible.

To help patients, families and caregivers understand the many important issues they face prior to and during this period of transition, Nemours has developed a series of videos now available on YouTube. The videos, made possible by a grant from NYMAC, cover four main areas:

Legal

Residential

Vocational

Medical Self-Management

Read the article here (published on PR Web, January 21, 2014)

 

The AGE-IN Act

The Assistance in Gaining Experience, Independence, and Navigation Act of 2013, or the  Age In Act , is a bill that was introduced in June, 2013 by Sen. Robert “Bob” Menéndez [D-NJ].  It is currently in the “referred to committee” status.  The bill’s aim is:

To amend the Public Health Services Act to provide research, training, and navigator services to youth and young adults on the verge of aging out of the secondary educational system, and for other purposes.

A July, 2013 post on Sen. Menedez’s website further explains the bill, which is specifically aimed at providing more services to young adults with autism who age out of the public school system:

 In an effort to expand the nation’s understanding of – and services for – young adults and their families living with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), U.S. Senator Robert Menendez today unveiled legislation that would provide federal funding to research and evaluate services currently available for young people “aging out” of existing education and support systems, develop a national strategic action plan, and provide training grants to put the plan into action in helping transitioning youth to lead productive, independent lives.

The Assistance in Gaining Experience, Independence and Navigation (AGE-IN) Act of 2013 will address the needs of  aging-out youth with ASD in two phases:  The first phase is designed to identify the most effective interventions and existing support service infrastructure in order to develop a comprehensive training plan;  The second phase puts this plan to action by providing grants to existing entities – such as University Centers of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research and Service – to train a new generation of Transition Navigators.  Transition Navigators will be trained to provide interdisciplinary and comprehensive services to address the needs of transitioning youths including providing services aimed at accessing continuing education (including vocational training) and competitive employment, but also in obtaining life’s other necessities such as health care, housing, transportation and community integration….

Menendez’s bill is designed to conduct research, develop techniques and implement training for support services that will help ensure young adults with ASD have the opportunities to make the transition to adulthood a success.

Read the entire post here.

Sen. Menedez’s speech at the unveiling of the AGE-IN Act:

Read more about and track this bill here.

Best Kept Secret (PBS Documentary)

“Best Kept Secret” is a documentary film (PBS, fall 2013) that chronicles a teacher’s journey in transition her students with autism to adulthood.

At a public school in Newark, N.J., the staff answers the phone by saying, “You’ve reached John F. Kennedy High School, Newark’s best-kept secret.” JFK provides an exceptional environment for students with special-education needs. In Best Kept Secret, Janet Mino, who has taught a class of young men for four years, is on an urgent mission. She races against the clock as graduation approaches for her severely autistic minority students. Once they graduate and leave the security of this nurturing place, their options for living independently will be few. Mino must help them find the means to support themselves before they “age out” of the system.

Since the film’s release, filmmakers scheduled a congressional showing to further the progress of the Age In Act and teacher Janet Mino continues to develop programs to improve transition services for youth with autism.

Read more about the film here.

Download the film on iTunes here.

 

Pennsylvania program helping youth with disabilities prepare for adulthood

The United Way of Allegheny County’s “21 and Able” Program is  Entering its Third Year Helping Bridge Gap from Youth to Adulthood for Those with Disabilities.

In the first two years of 21 and Able, the effort has worked on public policy and has continued to work with local, state and national partners on potential changes. In 2013, a new pilot program was launched that seeks to help people with disabilities better fit into companies. Giant Eagle, The United Way, Allegheny County and Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services have partnered on the Career Transition Liaison Project.

“The career transition liaison is embedded into the company,” said Mary Esther Van Shura with Allegheny County. “The reason for doing that is frequently when individuals are in corporations or in any business it’s not just knowing the technical aspects of the job, but also the culture.”

The career liaison will reach out to various school districts and will work with employed individuals to ensure their success in the company. Since the project’s start in August five young people with disabilities have been hired by Giant Eagle in positions such as meat wrapper, front end clerk, bakery clerk and produce clerk. Giant Eagle is in the process of screening 14 additional students from 11 area schools. The idea came about from the embedded journalist model.

Continue reading here.

Project SEARCH: New Pathways for Young Adults with Disabilities

The Project SEARCH High School Transition program is a one year business-led, collaborative program for students with significant intellectual and developmental disabilities, ages 18-22. The program provides intensive training for students in a hands-on environment to gain skills for competitive employment.

There are Project SEARCH programs around the United States.  The FAQ page contains information on how to start a program in a community.

Learn more about Project SEARCH here.

Climbing the Cinder Cone: Transition services through special education

Climbing the Cinder Cone is focused on sharing information and resources for parents of teens and young adults with mental health issues.  This blog post highlights experiences of this parent regarding transition services for her son, with links to other resources (especially in California) and advice for parents of students with disabilities.

A particular show tune plays in my head when I think about the topic of this blog post. Can you guess which one? Hint: I’m a sucker for puns.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRdfX7ut8gw

And you know, the words not only sound alike, they both relate to the idea of change. In “Fiddler on the Roof”, Tevye wants to hold on to the way things are and always have been – to honor tradition.  But he has to come to terms with the fact that life involves change, welcome or not.

“On the other hand” (as Tevye would say), transition services available through special education help atypical teens prepare for the changes they’ll face as they enter their 20′s. Like Tevye, the teens may not be welcoming the changes either, but transition services can lead the way to a more functional adulthood.

If you are hesitating about moving your pre-teen or teen into special education, one factor to consider is that transition services are a mandatory part of the special education package once the student is 16 years old, and can even be included in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) sooner than that. Transition services for students with disabilities are provided according to the needs of the individual. This can be a huge help, especially if you’re not already familiar with all the appropriate resources out there and how to access them. Also, the special-needs students can access the career center and guidance counselor services that are available to all high school students.

Continue reading here.

Confessions of an Asperger’s Mom: Transition to Adulthood

Blog Post on a mother’s experience with a Transition meeting in her home with the IEP team, December 17, 2013.

Last night we had a Person Centered Planning meeting here at our house for Red.  The purpose of the meeting is to do personal goal setting alongside the mentors in Red’s life.  He decides who to invite to these meetings.  He actually schedules it with his facilitator and sends out the electronic invitations to everyone.  He also follows up with them days prior to the meeting to confirm if they will attend.

We have also made him responsible for shopping for and preparing a snack for his guests.  The snack last night was fresh grapes, oranges, apples and brownie bites.

Our crowd last night consisted of myself, Red, his Vocational Training teacher from the high school, his Pastor, and our facilitator, who just happens to be the head Transition Coordinator for our school district, and the Vice Principle of the 18 plus Transition Program, which he will be entering into as of January.

Yes.  Red will complete his high school credits at the end of this week! As of now, he will walk the stage with his peers in the graduation in June of 2014.  We will decide between now and then whether or not to give him his diploma at that time, and then transition him to the Department of Rehabilitative Services.  DARS will assist him and hopefully help pay for, career training/college or a certification program.  Otherwise, he can continue to receive adult transition services through the school district up until the age of 22.

Continue reading here.