Tag: transition

What is Transition?

 We hear school talk a lot about Transitionpath in the woods

Transition is getting yourself ready to do a lot of things after you finish High school.  A lot of people finish high school when they are 22 years old.

A good Transition is:

When school, your parents, and yourself work together to help you get ready.

You can have a good job that pays you money.

You can take a bus by yourself, be safe on the street. You can have your own place to stay. You can live with a friend. You can travel. You can do a lot of things you likegoing to the movies and more. You can go to college to learn more stuff if you want to.

When a student is 14 years old, the school and the teachers work with the student to help him ready to do all these beautiful things after high school. The teachers can go out with you to teach you how to cross the street and be safe. We call it travel training. The teacher can go to your job with you to show you how to do a good job. We call it job training. Sometimes you have to try different jobs to see what you like more.

You can work with your teachers and your parents to learn about money and save money. Tell us what you like and want, and what you want to do when you finish high school. You can learn how to ask for what you want. You can ask for what you need because you are an advocate. You are a good advocate because you can speak for yourself. Sometimes, everybody needs help. You can learn how to help others, how to volunteer, like helping your school, helping your church.

You learn how to take care of yourself. Stay clean. Dress well for the weather. Learn about girl friend and boy friend. How to protect your body. Learn if someone hurts your body, learn to tell your teacher and your parents. You can learn more about eating well and exercise. Tell your parents and your teachers what you like to do when you finish High school. Everyone can help you get ready for Transition.

It is a very nice time because you are now a beautiful young man or a beautiful young woman who worked hard to learn how be independent.

This is all part of Transition.

Find transition resources:

Life after School

I can remember when I was about to finish high school. It was an exciting and scary time. road sign reads change aheadMany people asked, “What will you do next?” Ask this question to someone with a range of challenges, and I bet you get the same answers. Answers like going to college, getting a job, or getting into a trade, to name a few. The planning that goes into making these answers happen can be much different though. Many factors play into the success of the person. Factors such as support services needed, access, funding, advocacy, etc.

What is Transition Planning?

The above planning process is known as “Transition”.  It is planning and development of a person’s future. During the time of transition, we predict what kind of support the person will need. We think about where the person will live. We look into what kind of job the person could have. What services are out there to address the person’s needs? What supports does the person qualify for, and is there funding? I can tell you in many cases the supports decrease as the person moves to adult services. This makes it even more difficult to plan for a quality life. In my job, I hear from families often that feel they were not prepared. They did not know enough about their options to be able to help make the best transition decisions for their loved one. I get a lot of “why wasn’t I told about this support option?” “That’s not how that service was explained to me.” “I wish I knew about this sooner.”

What are the gaps?

At age 22 or at time of graduation, a school is no longer responsible for a student. The student is now an “adult”. During the time leading up to “adulthood,” the school system plays a big role in getting the student ready for life after school. How do you know what to prepare the student for without knowing what life will look like after school? Will he/she go to college? Live in a group home or in the community? Will he/she go right to work? What are the support options in adult services? Will people qualify for the type of supports needed to achieve their goals? The transition process does address these questions. Still, “usual” support service models are not a one size fits all. Sadly, trying to be creative in your planning is not always possible for many reasons.

One other major gap is the relationship between the school system and the adult service system. Those working with families to explore adult service options may not be well-enough informed. Let us also not forget all the services that may go away for the student in “adulthood”. Where is the link between children and adult services? When finally meeting transition coordinators, they are also working with too many other families. Through no fault of their own, they have extremely high caseloads. Therefore, the amount of time spent on planning your child’s adult life is hardly enough. It is as if you are given a menu of services and you’re told to pick one. Well, what if none of these menu items meet my child’s vision? Without a doubt, a stronger team approach is crucial.

Transition Tips

What are some tips to plan for transition? In my opinion, it’s key to start early. Reach out to Family Support Centers. Look into provider agencies. Ask questions about the services they offer. Visit them in person. Learn about the “Self Directed Service” option. Know what “Self Determination” means. Do not take “No” for an answer. For more information, check out the resources listed below.


Self-determination for Youth with disabilities

Alarm clock displaying timeExpectations for Youth with Disabilities

As a Transition Specialist, I attend a lot of meetings with families to help plan for future opportunities for young adults with disabilities. I love meeting with families to think through how to help young adults have a meaningful life after high school. I see potential in all young adults. Sadly, families and schools often help young adults too much. That limits skill development. An important skill for young adults to develop is making their own decisions.  When they make more of their own decisions, they realize the importance of responsibility.

Do Accommodations help?

I find many accommodations are necessary for young adults to learn to be independent. On the other hand, I also find accommodations can limit a young adult’s growth at times. One example I often see is that young adults with disabilities often have more flexibility when it comes to being on time or attending classes. This is an example of a special rule most young adults with disabilities do not truly need. It teaches them a bad lesson around responsibility.

Why should we push youth with disabilities to follow the same rules?

Accommodations that allow young adults to play by a different set of rules sends the wrong message. That does not prepare young adults for life after high school.  In the world of work, employers are often not as forgiving when it comes to being late for work, or not showing up at all. During the transition years of high school, it is important to teach independence and responsibility.  These are the most important skills that students will need in college, employment, or other community involvement. Most of the students I have worked with hope for at least one or more of these activities when we talk about future goals.

How can we help youth with disabilities be more prepared?

We need to put more effort and thought into teaching lessons, around responsibility and independence, to young adults with disabilities.  Massachusetts has a goal for all young adults with disabilities to transition into the community, and to have a meaningful life that, if possible, includes working. Responsibility is one of the main skills that can help young adults make this goal a reality.  I work with families and schools to practice self-determination for young adults with disabilities. Self-determination is a strategy that encourages independence and choice-making, which can lead to more responsibility and a more-fulfilling adult life.  We need to make sure we provide all necessary supports to help young adults with disabilities reach their full potential, but not teach those who are able that

A Day at the Symposium

Image of Young Adult Panel at 2013 Autism Consortium Symposium
Young Adult Panel at 2013 Autism Consortium Symposium

On a chilly November morning, I took the Green Line train over to the Joseph B. Martin Conference Center at Harvard Medical School for the annual Autism Consortium Symposium. This isn’t the first time I have attended the research symposium, but this past year is one that I will never forget. There were the usual sessions around the latest and exciting cutting-edge findings in autism research from the giants over at Harvard and MIT, but a panel of 3 remarkable young adults with autism having a conversation about their transition to adulthood – “In their Own Words” ¬– left me feeling inspired and energized. The moderator opened with introductions from the panel – Michael is at Mitchell College for Sports Management; Kush is at UMass Lowell pursuing a degree in Civil Engineering; and Darcie is in the Threshold Program at Lesley University. They chatted briefly about their work experiences. Michael talked about his first job as a baseball coach and when he had the opportunity to work in the classroom as a City Year member. Kush explained how he is part of a team of researchers testing the chemical properties of packaging materials for solders. Darcie expressed how she loves working with animals and children, and the time she was “forced” to answer the phone as part of her job. With a constellation of experiences that led them to where they are today, the most powerful words spoken to a 100+ crowd of researchers, providers and parents were the advice and wisdom they had to share. On to topic of friendships, Kush noted it got easier as he got older since people were “willing to accept differences and not make a big deal out of it.” When offering advice to teens about transitions, Michael said to “find your strength and go for it!” Darcie asserted, “keep your options open because you are going to make changes in this world,” while Kush concluded, “use your supports because you can’t do it alone,” and “surround yourself with a great team of people.” Perhaps, the most insightful perspective for me was when the issue of bullying was mentioned, and Kush said of his offenders, “it was due to a lack of understanding, and it was for them to deal with, not me.” These incredible young adults had the audience grabbing for tissues by the end of the session. I was humbled as I walked out of the conference center on that wintery November day, and all I can remember thinking I wish I had those same insights in my early twenties. To borrow from Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” For more information about the Autism Consortium, please visit the website: www.autismconsortium.org For more information about the author, Katherine Blakeslee, follow her rumblings on Twitter @kbswoon

Gateway Arts Prepares Young Artists with Disabilities for the Future

Gateway Arts LogoAt Gateway Arts, we understand the need for supporting young people with disabilities through transition. It is a tough time for all of us during these years entering adulthood, and for people with disabilities it can be even tougher.

Yet we have found a creative approach through art that makes a difference. As we have seen time and again, when students at Gateway begin to create, their confidence builds and their potential replaces their disability.

The Power to Grow

Neri, a student at Gateway ArtsOne such student is Neri Avraham, who came to Gateway at age 17. Neri attends Newton High School, loves art and has autism. One of his challenges is patience. Waiting for a bus, for example, would annoy anyone, but for him it’s a real ordeal.

Yet when Avraham paints, he can sit and concentrate for hours. He says it’s allowed him to become more comfortable with uncertainty. He’s currently enrolled in classes at Gateway which help him refine the new behaviors and skills he finds through artwork and channel them into his development as a successful artist and adult.

Neri’s mother, a strong advocate for talented young adults with disabilities, says, “…that to be in a regular society is what pushes people to improve” and, “…that it is better to be a tail of a lion than the head of a small animal”. Gateway gives all young people with disabilities the opportunity to be part of the Gateway family and the mainstream art community with the power to grow to their full potential.

Flowering Through Art

A Painting by Neri AvrahamNeri loves flowers. A recent acrylic work of his has been described as ‘…a sea of flowers in many shades of blue and purple, sprouting up from grass so green it looks like it’s been showered with sprinklers every day’. His works are exhibited and sold in the Gateway Gallery, online, and at outside venues. He is also training to arrange flowers for events at and away from Gateway.

Gateway accepts diversified funding including the Department of Education, the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services, the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, the Statewide Head Injury Program, the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission and private payment. Gateway is a CARF certified service of Vinfen Corporation which provides additional administrative and clinical support.

More information  at www.gatewayarts.org or 617-734-1577/x10 to set up a visit or screening.