Moving on and finding a new path after high school can be stress filled for both parents of special needs children and the students themselves. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates a public education for all eligible children ages 3 through 21 (in most states), and makes the schools responsible for providing the supports and services that will allow this to happen. So from the toddler years through young adulthood, schools legally provide for students. Beyond this time the ADA and other legal provisions can help students as they grow into adulthood. It is imperative, therefore, that students and their families understand the transition process. What are some things to consider with the transition process?
- HighSchool Graduation –There are several forms of high school diplomas including: a GED (General Education Development (GED) Diplomas), IEP diplomas, and a high school diploma. It is important to talk to your child’s school about the meaning of each diploma and which is available to your child.
- Career Development– Programs, like the one at Milestones, offer employment skills including working with others, money, sales, cashiers, and other aspects of working in an office or store environment.
- Life Skills and Independent Living – Depending upon your child’s skills, he/she may want to master certain life skills, and self-care skills to become more independent both at work and at home. Check out Milestones Life Skills Checklist on our website.
- College Preparation – Many students choose to continue their studies at colleges or universities in the area or community colleges where they have the opportunity to have Milestones support from our transition team. We offer internships and training with our staff and partnerships with employers in our area. Read more about this on our website.
In our last few blogs we have been discussing transitioning from the tween and teen years into adulthood. Whether a child (or soon-to-be-adult) has the skills to enter college, live independently, maintain a job or do typical self care routines is really dependent on the life skills they have practiced and learned over the years, whether in school, at home or through therapies. Most schools and therapists believe in using the skills in every area and having parents reinforce these skills in the same manner at home. Here is a quick check list of transitioning life skills to practice with your teen who is transitioning.
Life skills are not just checked off on a master list but rather repeated over and over again until it becomes an integral part of the child’s life. Some of the most important life skill include: self care, safety, self-esteem, self-advocacy, self regulation and independent living skills. Each task should be broken down into smaller tasks and repeated, repeated and repeated.
Here, at Advancing Milestones, we have our own series of checklists for transitioning teens. Find ours on our website, here. Our life skills are broken down into the following categories:
- Executive Functioning
- Technology and Consumerism
- Home, Food, Hygiene Related, Transportation and Leisure
- Self-Advocacy, Disability Related
- Medical Health, Mental Health and Sexuality
- Jobs and College
In addition to our lists, here are a few other resources that may be helpful.
Here is a detailed list from the Children’s Administration Division of Children and Family Services – Life Skills Inventory and Independent Living Skills Assessment Tool.
Here is an article with information on College programs and skills needed for Autistic children from the Interactive Autism Network.
The Autism Helper uses visual clues and step-by-step guides to help children learn skills. Read more.
Coming of age can be a bittersweet and anxiety-ridden time for both parents and children. Graduating from high school, finding a job, going to college, paying bills, and living independently are just a few of the major milestones. The list could go on and on. The road to adulthood is probably something parents of children on the spectrum have fretted over since the toddler years, and something children have anticipated for years. Careful planning for this transition should be an important part of the high school years. Let’s take a closer look at transition planning and some resources that will help you.
According the Interactive Autism Network, an unprecedented number of students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) will leave high school and flood the U.S. adult disability system in the next couple of years. An estimated 50,000 Americans with ASD will turn 18 each year, as a part of “a surge of children” diagnosed in the 1990s. Planning ahead can mean the difference between gaining the right assistance for your adult-child and having to fight to gain access being offered to a growing number of people. Need help with transition planning? There are many resources and toolkits to help you navigate the legal and, sometimes, bureaucratic transition years.
- Talk to your child’s team. Include behaviorists, occupational and physical therapists as well as classroom teachers. This group can help you and your child begin the transitioning process very early in the high school years regardless of whether your child is at a specialty school like Milestones or at a public school.
- Plan for the years after your child turns 21. Students with a disability of any kind are protected by the disabilities act until they turn 21. From there, things get a bit tricky. While your adult-child may be eligible for adult services such as housing assistance, day programs, and career counseling and training, gaining access may be dependent upon funding both locally and nationally. Research what the guidelines are for your area.
- Research Transitioning Planning toolkits and resources with the help of your child’s team. Autism Speaks has a “Transition Tool Kit” that may help. The Arc- Autism Now also has an excellent list of resources and checklists that can help get you started. The Interactive Autism Network has several toolkits to help plan for job training, college or independent living depending upon your child’s trajectory.
College is such an exciting time. Adjusting to a roommate, a new social life, independence, and of course, the ever popular dining hall food are just a few of the types of transitions late teens are expected to deal with upon entering college. All of these social changes are done all while balancing a full college schedule. Whew!
For many students these changes and transitions are completely doable and happen with ease. However, students who have a disability- whether it is attention, reading or otherwise are grappling with a whole other set of issues. Academic rigor, organization and focus are issues that were once the responsibility of the child’s guidance counselor, special education teacher or even mom and dad. What then are the options on busy and sometimes crowded campuses for learning disabled students? Let’s look at the statistics facing learning disabled students and some tips on how to beat those odds.
Unfortunately, the statistics are a bit overwhelming when it comes to learning disabled students and higher education. According to the National Center for Special Education Research just 34 percent of learning disabled students complete a four-year degree within eight years of finishing high school, compared to 56 percent of all students nationally. What are some suggestions from the special education experts on how to beat these odds?
- Learn to Advocate for Oneself– One of the hardest and best skills a student can learn in high school is how to advocate for their own education. Teach and practice with your child how to ask for help and understand the needs that he/she will have in the classroom and at home studying. Being able to tell a professor what the problem is will go a long way in getting the right help whether it s preferred seating or audio versions of the text books.
- Invest in Software and Tools – It is amazing the specialized tools available today from font type for dyslexia to time management apps. Find out what needs you may have and research the type of tools that can help you attain your goals.
- Develop Workarounds – Find ways to adapt to the increased course load and style of learning. For example go to two sections of the same class in order to give two opportunities to hear the same material. Or schedule classes so there is an hour after each class — while information is fresh — to go over notes.
- Find the Services at Your College – Make sure to know where the disability service office is at your school. Don’t wait until you are behind to seek the help of the special education team at your school. Bring in the correct documentation that can be passed along to the professors on what your disability is and how they can better help you succeed.
- Do Your Homework! – Before deciding on a college or university find out which ones are best at handling special needs students. Two resources that may help include: Understood ( A website for students with learning and attention issues.) Almost all colleges and universities provide some level of services and/or accommodations for learning disabled students, as mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The colleges and universities listed below go a step further…they offer programs, some quite comprehensive, designed to support students with learning disabilities.(Source- http://www.college-scholarships.com/schools/colleges-with-programs-for-students-with-learning-disabilities/)
Abilene Christian University
American International College
California State University Fullerton
Clarion University of Pennsylvania
Community College of Allegheny County
College of Charleston
College of Mount St. Joseph
College of St. Catherine
Columbia College – Chicago
De Paul University
Diablo Valley College
East Carolina University
Eastern New Mexico University – Roswell
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
Fairleigh Dickinson University
Iowa State University
Johnson State College
Kent State University
La Roche College
Long Island University/C.W. Post Campus
Marymount Manhattan College
Missouri State University
New York Institute of Technology
Nicholls State University
Notre Dame College
Rochester Institute of Technology
Rocky Mountain College
St. Ambrose University
St. Mary’s University of Minnesota
St. Michael’s College
Santa Monica College
Southeast Missouri State University
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Southern Oregon University
Southern Vermont College
State University of New York College at Oneonta
Texas State University-San Marcos
Texas Tech University
University of Akron
University of Arizona
University of Connecticut
University of Denver
University of Indianapolis
University of Iowa
University of Memphis
University of Minnesota at Duluth
University of the Ozarks
University of Southern California
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
University of Wisconsin – Whitewater
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
West Virginia Wesleyan College
Milestones strives to have each student graduate with the necessary life skills to thrive in the world of post-secondary education, independent living and employment. Gaining real life employment experience is one of the critical components therefore to the Transition Program. Students who are 14 years and older can participate in internships that can prepare them to be successful in the workforce. Some of the current internships include: the Blue Hill Weather Observatory, Newton Wellesley Hospital, Waltham Courtyard Marriott, Springwell, Waltham YMCA, Newton Public Library, Perkins School for the Blind, and the Waltham 4-H. Students not only are guided by members of the workplace but also by Milestones staff who serve as job coaches. Let’s look at some of the overall benefits for internships and how your child may benefit from enrollment in one.
- Gain valuable work and life experience – Students who have work experience tend to understand the responsibilities of the workforce and have been able to practice specialized skills for the field.
- Makes a job a reality – Many times students have a vision of what a career path may entail. An internship can sort out the reality of working in a specific field vs the dream.
- Course credit – Many schools offer course credit to train as an intern.
- Make professional Contact and Build a Resume – Employers are always looking for real-world experience. An internship may put a student above other applicants who have not taken part in an work program. Internships make for an excellent point on a resume to future employers.
- Work Skills – Nothing improves work skills quite like practicing them weekly. It is amazing how students can gin confidence and a major boost in self esteem when they complete work assignments and get positive feedback.
As parents we worry about our children from infancy through the toddler years and into the teen years. If your child is disabled and is in their late teens, parents should begin to plan for transitioning for their older child. Two years prior to your child turning 22 your child’s school should submit a Chapter 688 referral to aid in transitioning your child.
Chapter 688 (commonly referred to as the ”turning 22 law”) establishes a planning process which identifies services or supports which may be needed through the adult service system once the student has graduated or turns 22 and special education entitlements have terminated. Chapter 688 is a law developed in partnership with parents, advocates and educators to address the needs of young adults. Chapter 688 is NOT a continuation of special education, nor is it an entitlement which guarantees services after age 22.
Who is eligible for a 688?
- Anyone receiving SSI and/or SSDI based on his/her own disability.
- Anyone listed in the registry of the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind
All young adults referred must be:
- Receiving special education services in Massachusetts paid for by the school district (LEA)
- In need of continuing services because of the severity of their disability
- Unable to work 20 or more hours per week in competitive employment
The 688 process ensures that 688 eligible individuals are working with the appropriate human service agency before exiting special education, and provides very specific timelines which ensures sufficient planning for a smooth transition to the new agency. By specifying an individual’s needs before exiting special education, the family and agency can plan and advocate as appropriate. Read More