Continued - From Fall Newsletter
Transition for students with disabilities who are getting ready to graduate high school and/or turning 22, thus exiting the special education system, often is one of the most challenging aspects of being a parent of a child with disabilities.
Transition to adulthood brings many fears and worries to the surface. How is my child going to function after leaving public school? What is s/he going to do? Is s/he going to be able to work and live independently?
As part of its Transition and Youth Leadership Goal, Easter Seals of Massachusetts met with focus groups of students, parents, and human services agency personnel in the summer of 2011. The groups reaffirmed that there continues to be a need for better planning and services to support youth, their families and the schools. A representative response from one participating teenager was this:
“I was not given any formal instruction to help me advocate and plan for college. I learned to advocate for myself over time. I was not taught how to ask for accommodations for my disability – I try not to bring it up so I won’t be a burden -- I just want to be accepted and hired in a job someday.”
Early planning between the school and parent is critical starting at age 14. Some of the areas to
focus on should include the following and be reflected on the student’s IEP and Transition Plan:
-Opportunities for vocational training and support, with job coaching as appropriate
-Conduct vocational assessments at age 14 and at age 18 to identify interests and assess skills
-Consider assistive technology assessments as needed
-Explore community transition and life skills activities leading to living , working and/or college, such as travel training, service learning, navigating adult services, SSI, and housing
-Develop personal portfolios, including resumes
-Explore mentorships with other individuals with disabilities and identify role models
-Support student with development of self-advocacy and self-determination skills
-Support student in learning to initiate for him or herself
Some of the above activities could be conducted over an extended school year as well
-Referral to Human Services Agency or Bureau of Transitional Planning at least two years prior to
graduation or turning age 22
-Ensure that appropriate agency is invited to Team Meeting at least two years prior to graduation or
turning age 22
-School districts in partnership with parents should aggressively engage in external outreach to identify human services agencies and/or community supports and resources, including Independent Living Centers
The “playing field” dramatically changes when a student leaves the special education system of entitlement and begins to navigate the adult systems of eligibility. The rules are different. Unfortunately, the adult services systems are fragmented and many individuals with disabilities are placed on wait lists for continued services and supports.
However, it is clear that the Massachusetts Legislature is concerned. For example, there is legislation pending that would strengthen human services agencies'
involvement with students in transition and while they are in school.
Two bills have been filed to support transition; they are:
H. 985: This bill would require a representative from a human services agency to attend IEP meetings at least two years prior to a student turning 22 or graduating
H3720: This bill would provide for a “ Specialist Teacher Endorsement in Transition Services” to be created by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Lastly, another great resource on transition has been put together by the Disability Law Center in collaboration with the Federation for Children with Special Needs, Massachusetts Advocates for Children and the Center for Community Inclusion.
This manual can be accessed at: www.dlc-ma.org/manual/.