Category Archives: Mental Illness

University of Rochester Provides Transition Support

The University of Rochester has implemented a support system to aid students with disabilities to access the college experience.

Transition Opportunities at UR (TOUR) looks to help integrate disabled students into a the college environment. Similar programs have been developed on campuses across the country to promote increased involvement and participation.

The philosophy of the TOUR program is to give students with disabilities additional support and resources that they need to succeed.

“I started to research into how I could help students with disabilities to have the opportunity to have the college experience as a more open and accessible option to them,” Warner School of Education graduate and Director of TOUR Catherine Branch Lewis said. “We all have the opportunity to change the world, and I think anyone and everyone should have the opportunity to benefit from everything that is offered here at the U of R.”

The Warner School is a recipient of the Transition Post-Secondary Program for students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID) grant. This is a federally-funded grant that has aided the TOUR program evolve from “an excellent and segregated program to an excellent and inclusive program,” Lewis said.

Read the article here.

Number of Students with Emotional Issues is Increasing

Working on Transition with youth with disabilities involves addressing interests and preferences, desires, dreams and hopes.  Youth need to be able to be in a frame of mind to plan for the future and set goals.  But students with emotional and mental health barriers often succomb to the pressure of planning for the future along with the demands of finishing high school.  How do we help these students address their personal needs to be able to graduate from high school and plan for their future?

An article in the San Jose Mercury News (February 6, 2014) addresses the rising numbers of teens with mental health issues and highlights how some schools have implemented supports that have helped teens.  Here are some excerpts:

A popular and accomplished Los Altos High student received a parent’s text message at school last year, to come home to talk about her grades. The student and star athlete had earned all A’s — except one D. She asked to be excused from English class to go to the bathroom, but she never returned. She had collapsed, suffering a disabling emotional breakdown.

The student, who didn’t want to be identified because of the stigma of mental illness, is not alone. Across the Bay Area, educators are seeing more and more students suffering from depression, anxiety and social phobia. The acuity of mental illness among students has sharpened, they say, and it’s striking ever younger children, though many quietly bear the stress for years before snapping.

….The increasing stress isn’t just afflicting children of Silicon Valley’s affluent and educated, who attend top schools among driven, college-bound peers. Though not yet reflected in lagging and incomplete national statistics, the trend appears to cut across social class, income level, ethnicity and academic ability.

….San Ramon Valley schools added a counselor at every secondary school this academic year to deal with mental health. And a Morgan Hill school beefed up therapists for depression among fourth- and fifth-graders. Two years ago, the San Mateo Union district created two classes for students with social phobias. It runs two more classes for those with anxiety or depression, in addition to two classes for students with more complicated emotional problems. They’re all full, Dirkmaat said.

What’s behind the rise is uncertain. Theories include economic distress, dysfunctional families, absent and preoccupied busy parents, technology obsession, social media and extraordinary pressure on kids to excel.

Read the entire 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.

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.

Foundation hopes to fill a void by helping autistic young adults

Chicago Tribune, December 4, 2013

In 2012, the Tracy family created the Julie + Michael Tracy Family Foundation to raise awareness and money for opportunities for adults with autism, particularly those with a mental illness. One goal of the foundation is to help these young adults transition into independent living with a good job and top-notch housing where they can continue to feel socially connected.

[Julie Tracy]  said although early intervention is important for children with autism, some illnesses don’t become apparent until later in life, and that’s why focusing more research on adults is key.

According to Paul Shattuck, an associate professor in the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute and Drexel University School of Public Health, out of the roughly 11,000 studies on autism between 2000 and 2010, about 23 focused on services for adults. And none of those examined the way race, ethnicity and even poverty further complicated the outcomes of these adults.

Shattuck recently led two studies showing that many young adults with autism-spectrum disorders face grim prospects for getting a job and finding suitable housing. Only about 21 percent of respondents polled said they worked full time, and their average pay was $8.10 per hour.

“The typical life span (of an American) is 70 to 80 years, and by not studying young adults with autism-spectrum disorders, we’re not understanding the typical person with autism,” Shattuck said. “What happens in adulthood is what impacts society most in terms of costs and policy.”

Continue reading here. (NOTE:  You will be prompted to create an account to read the article.  Choose the “lite” option which is free.)