Category Archives: Independent Living

Dr. Mary Morningstar: What Does it Take to be College and Career Ready? Improving Outcomes for Youth with Disabilities

Dr. Mary MorningstarDr. Mary Morningstar is the keynote speaker at the Transition pre-conference of the UMTSS* Connections Conference in Layton, Utah June 23 – a three day event of sessions on Leadership, Literacy and Numeracy, Behavior and Positive Behavior Supports, Transition to Career Pathways, Educating English Learners, Special Education, Effective Instruction, Tiered Intervention, Assessment and other topics.

Today’s Transition event will include many topics on preparing students for post secondary education, employment and independent living.

“Dr. Mary E. Morningstar is an associate professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of Kansas and Director of the Transition Coalition, which offers online transition professional development and resources for secondary special educators and practitioners. Her research agenda includes evaluating secondary teacher quality and professional development, culturally diverse family involvement in transition planning, and interagency collaboration. She is also examining the impact of inclusive secondary experiences for students with significant disabilities on postschool outcomes. Currently, she is developing a multi-dimensional model of adult life engagement for transition.” (http://specialedu.soe.ku.edu/mary-morningstar)

Watch the Transition Universe Facebook and Twitter feeds for updates on the conference.

*Utah Multi-Tiered Systems of Support

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“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.

Aggies Elevated Program Accepts Students Into First Cohort

A new program for students with developmental and intellectual disabilities at Utah State University,  Aggies Elevated,  has accepted its first cohort for the Fall of 2014.

The Aggies Elevated program was created with young adult learners in mind by experts in the fields of disability and special education at USU’s Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services.

Our supportive and inclusive environment is close to home, yet far enough away to give young adults with intellectual or other disabilities the opportunity to learn and grow while participating in all the activities that a traditional residential campus has to offer.

Students in the new program will develop academic and independent living skills and will engage in career exploration, work internship, vocational electives, and personal growth through coursework tailored to each individual. Part of each student’s plan will also include  community-based work internships.

Unified Sports Program Provides Skills for Life

A new program in Utah, the Unified Sports Program, is helping students with intellectual disabilities develop skills that will lead to better employment and and independent living (Deseret News, May 3, 2014).

Special Olympics Utah and the Utah High School Activities Association partnered to initiate the [Unified Sports] program in Utah this year, assisting schools in ensuring that students with disabilities have access to extracurricular sports — a recommendation from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in January 2013.

Intellectually disabled students are apparently five times as likely to be employed after high school if they have actively participated in Special Olympics activities, said Special Olympics CEO Amy Hansen, who called it a “landmark opportunity” for the students. She said the disabled participants also live an average of five years longer when they’ve had the interactive experience.

“It helps them learn life skills that empower them throughout their lives,” Hansen said.

Read the article here.

University Provides Life Skills Training

As reported in the Pocono Record, March 3, 2014

A University in Pennsylvania has designed a program to provide life skills training to students with intellectual disabilities.

The three-year CILLS [Career Independent Living and Learning Studies] program hosted by East Stroudsburg University is designed to provide individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities life skills, while offering a learning experience in a campus environment. Life off campus, developmental activities and acquiring the ability for independent living and employment are part of the experience.

As they gear up to enter the world with plans to take advantage of Transition Night’s collection of key sources, students in Jean Sandberg’s CILLS class shared a taste of shopping savvy, illustrating ways to calculate grocery orders and check out sales circulars.

Read more here.

Utah Project for Visually Impaired Focuses on Transition for Youth

Project STRIVE (Successful Transition Requires Independence, Vocation & Education) is an organization that focuses on the development of transition skills for youth who are blind and visually impaired.

NFB Project STRIVE is dedicated in providing quality programs to help meet the unique needs of blind and visually impaired youth throughout Utah. Project STRIVE instructors are positive, educated, blind adults who are fully dedicated to model, mentor, encourage and teach life, education, and employment readiness skills. These skills, along with a positive attitude towards blindness is absolutely critical for blind and visually impaired youth to transitionsuccessfully as adults.

Most of the updated information about the activities of Project STRIVE can be found on its facebook page.

This promotional video was created two years ago and describes more about the project.

The website is located 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.

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)