Category Archives: Funding

New Transition Center to Provide Transition Opportunities for High School Students with Disabilities

Three national organizations will merge together to create the National Technical Assistance Center on Improving Transition to Postsecondary Education and Employment for Students with Disabilities.  The national program will be housed at UNC Charlotte and will launch January 1, 2015.

The center will be housed in a suite of offices within the university’s College of Education.

Made possible through a $12.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs, the new center will absorb two other national organizations: the National Dropout Prevention Center for Students with Disabilities, based at Clemson University; and the National Post-School Outcomes Center at the University of Oregon.

All three universities – in addition to Western Michigan University, the University of Kansas and TransCen Inc., an organization that provides assistance for students with disabilities – will combine research efforts under one roof.

The center will work within special education and vocational rehabilitation systems at the state level to improve the transition process for high school students with disabilities entering college or the workplace.

Millions Awarded to Help Improve Outcomes of Individuals with Disabilities

Millions of dollars have been earmarked through grants to focus on improving outcomes of students with disabilities, through “research, demonstrations, technical assistance, technology, personnel development and parent-training and information centers”.  Transition initiatives are among the areas to be funded.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) today announced more than $121 million in grants to help improve the outcomes of individuals with disabilities—from cradle through career. The investments are aimed at promoting inclusion, equity and opportunity for all children and adults with disabilities to help ensure their economic self-sufficiency, independent living and full community participation.

“These investments are significant in assisting individuals with disabilities to reach their full potential,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “We want all individuals with disabilities to succeed and these investments symbolize our values and commitment as a nation toward achieving excellence for all.”

Some of the transition funding includes:

Funded at $2.5 million, the National TA Center on Improving Transition to Postsecondary Education and Employment for Students with Disabilities (Transition Center)

Funded at $9 million for the next three years, the Job-Driven Vocational Rehabilitation TA Center (JDVRTAC) at the University of Massachusetts-Boston

Funded at $875,000, TransCen, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving educational and employment outcomes

Read more here.

Michigan School Blends Instruction with Employment Experience

Posted on School News Network, March 6, 2014 by Tom Rademacher, this article highlights an initiative called ACE – “Achieving Competitive Employment”, funded by a grant from Michigan Transition Services Association and Michigan Rehabilitation Services.

Placing Students with Special Needs in Real-World Jobs

Kent ISD, MI —  You can learn only so much inside a classroom, especially if you’re a young adult with special challenges.

At some point, savvy educators say, you need to bust out and immerse yourself in the real workaday world.

Joe Carlon and Michael Taylor are discovering what it means to make that critical leap – from the nest a comfy school provides to the scary environments that can define some workplaces.

But with help from staff and others who administer transition programs for the Kent ISD, chances are that Joe and Michael will soon be working full time for pay. “I’m here every day, and I haven’t been late even once,” says Michael, 20, as he wipes sweat from his brow.

It’s hard-earned perspiration, and something he embraces, part and parcel of working part-time at the Meijer store on Alpine Avenue in Grand Rapids.

….[ACE] is an intensive course in “giving students experience with things they might like to do, and seeing the reality of what it takes,” says Kim Norman, who developed ACE for a consortium of high schools in northern Kent County where she serves as a transition coordinator.

ACE, which commenced in March 2013 and will serve some 30 students before it concludes in June 2014, is just one of many post-high school transition programs in place throughout Kent ISD.

Read more here.

Proponents of ABLE Act Speak out

Advocates of the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2013 (ABLE Act) are speaking out in an effort to get it signed into law:

“My name is Sara Wolff. I am a 31 year-old from Moscow, Pennsylvania, who happens to have Down syndrome but that doesn’t stop me from achieving “my” better life. I work as a law clerk and also at Keystone Community Resources in the Office of Advocacy. I am a board member of the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS). I’m calling on Congress to pass the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act (S. 313/H.R. 647), a bill that will help individuals with disabilities to save for their futures.

I’m 31 years old, and I happen to have Down syndrome. I have two jobs, and lead an independent life, however, when my mom died suddenly last year, things got a lot harder for me and my family. I want to support myself and save money for my future, but if I save more than $2,000, I’ll lose the benefits I depend on like Medicaid and Social Security.

That’s because of a law that says that people with disabilities like me can’t have more than $2,000 in assets or we risk losing the benefits we need to live. For me, living on my own, that means I can’t even save enough to put down rent and a security deposit on an apartment. This law keeps me dependent on other people, and that’s really scary now that my mom is gone.

But, there is a solution: the ABLE Act.

When the ABLE Act passes into law this year, it will change my life forever. I lost my mother this past year, Connie, to a sudden, rapid illness. With my whole life ahead of me, I need an ABLE account to plan for my future. And, I am not alone, like most individuals with disabilities, people with Down syndrome and other conditions are out living their parents.

Read the rest of the post and view the petition here .

This video from Our Special Voice explains the ABLE Act in a little more detail:

Massachusetts legislation would offer funding and regulations for transition services

Posted in the Daily Free Press, Boston, January 22, 2014

David’s future could have been an easy case.

The 21-year-old from Amherst was never confused about his future. He never decided to veer off his chosen track: to work on cars. He did not gravitate toward an inaccessible or risky career. He had no interest in being an artist, a doctor or an actorHe wanted to work on cars, and his Autism Spectrum Disorder did not have to get in the way of that dream.  

David, who chose to partially remain anonymous, is one of many young adults who went through the Massachusetts statewide special education program, which provides specialized curriculum, counselors and activities to students with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Beginning in preschool, students meet counselors and advisors that help them learn skills they can use to live independently. Once these young adults approach their graduation date, they begin to discuss placement options with their parents and school counselors in Individualized Transition Planning meetings. These meetings are designed to help students find their places in the world once they leave the public school system, whether that places is in a sheltered workshop, a college environment, a Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission Independent Living Program (MRC), or at home with Department of Developmental Services checks.

Nonetheless, the funding for and the organization of this program leave many young adults like David with few-to-no options.

….Read more about David here.

Two bills in state legislature may improve conditions for youth with developmental disabilities: The Bridges to Success bill regulates the Individualized Transition Meetings, forcing representatives from whichever adult services agency the student and counselors choose to attend the ITP meetings. This requirement ensures the chosen option for the student is a good fit. It also forces schools to begin ITP meetings at least two years before graduation, so more students avoid the pre-graduation rush that David tried to avoid. Finally, it institutes more community programs for adults with disabilities, so various new graduates can meet and talk to others about how to become self-sufficient.

The second bill, Passage to Independence, provides an extra $23.4 million to the Department of Developmental Services to provide more options for people with developmental disabilities who are transitioning out of the school system.

Both of these bills heard testimony on Nov. 5 and are still awaiting judgment in committee. Many young adults with disabilities from across Massachusetts came to testify on behalf of both bills.

Read the rest of the article here.

Fall River Center Empowers Disabled

This center in Massachusetts provides opportunities for people of all ages with disabilities, including youth programs to help them develope needed skills for adulthood. (Article posted in the SouthCoastTODAY, January 2, 2014)

For more than 25 years, the Southeast Center for Independent Living has been a beacon of hope for disabled people in Greater Fall River, helping them sharpen the skills they need to lead happy, productive lives.

According to Lisa M. Pitta, executive director of the Fall River-based nonprofit agency, the philosophy of independent living maintains that individuals have the right to choose services and make personal decisions. In collaboration with other organizations and agencies, SCIL provides a variety of services to empower people with disabilities to maintain independence and overcome obstacles.

….Last summer, 36 high school students and young adults with various disabilities participated in TAP (Transition to Adulthood Program), acquiring employment skills and learning fiscal responsibility before entering the workforce.

Program Coordinator Lucy Loureiro says that eight of the young men and women were asked to continue their employment once the summer program ended. The participants worked in law offices, daycare centers, supermarkets, auto body shops, Charlton Memorial Hospital and other sites. Salaries were grant-funded at no expense to the employer.

Read the article in its entirety here.

Visit the Southeast Center for Independent Living website here.

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.

Essential Tips from a Special Needs Financial Advisor

Life After IEPs post on finanical planning for parents of students with disabilities, October 6, 2013

You want to build a solid foundation for your child’s financial future.

But you don’t know what you don’t know.

Too many families discover that there were steps they could have taken years ago to prepare for the financial needs of their child. If they had only known what to do.

Mike Butterworth is the parent of a young adult with special medical needs. For more than 25 years he has provided customized financial planning services to parents of children with disabilities.

In a recent interview, Mike stressed that financial planning is highly individualized. The unique needs and circumstances of each family must be taken into account.

Continue reading here.

 

Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2013 (ABLE Act of 2013)

This bill was referred to committee in February, 2013.  You can track its progress here.

Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2013 or the ABLE Act of 2013 – Amends the Internal Revenue Code to establish tax-exempt ABLE accounts to assist an individual with a disability in building an account to pay for qualified disability expenses.

Defines “qualified disability expenses” to include expenses for education, including higher education expenses, a primary residence, transportation, obtaining and maintaining employment, health and wellness, and other personal support expenses.
Treats a qualified ABLE program and an ABLE account in the same manner as a qualified tuition program for income tax purposes (i.e., allowing a tax exemption for such program and an exclusion from gross income of amounts attributable to a contributor to or a beneficiary of a program account).
Defines “qualified ABLE program” as a program established and maintained by a state agency under which a person may make contributions to an ABLE account established to pay for qualified disability expenses.
Requires amounts in ABLE accounts to be disregarded in determining eligibility for Medicaid and other means-tested federal programs.
Suspends the payment of supplemental security income benefits under title XVI (Supplemental Security Income) of the Social Security Act to an individual during any period in which such individual has excess resources attributable to an ABLE account.

Teens with cerebral palsy face uncertain transition into adulthood

B.C.’s pediatric system assigns teams to deal with the health, financial and other needs of children with cerebral palsy. At age 18, they are cut adrift to muddle through an unfriendly adult system that spreads programs across several ministries

A look at British Columbia’s transition services for youth with cerebral palsy  in the Vancouver Sun , October 4, 2013:

At age 18, Lauren Stinson faced the typical issues of people her age — social life, educational choices, finding a career. But Stinson, who has cerebral palsy, also faced another challenge — adapting to life without a medical support team.

As a child, Stinson had a host of medical and social services professionals working to manage her health. But B.C.’s pediatric medical system cuts people loose at age 18 and there is no adult equivalent in B.C. to that team-based pediatric system.

Stinson, now 24, was born two months prematurely after being deprived of oxygen in the womb. She was diagnosed with spastic diplegic cerebral palsy at birth, a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects her entire body.

….the province developed a strong system of medical care based in the pediatric system and facilities at BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. Pediatric support teams may include physicians, nutritionists, orthopedic surgeons, and occupational and physiotherapists.

But the health care system has not kept up with these children as they become young adults, with adult interests in such things as jobs and relationships. At age 18, they must transition to the adult health care system and find, on their own, a new team of support workers and doctors — or not. Provincial government funding for children with disabilities, the At Home Program, is simultaneously cut off.

The transition does not always go smoothly, Lauren said.

Continue reading here.