Transition To Life After School
As parents, it is our responsibility to learn everything we can about the transition process for students with disabilities in order for our son or daughter to have both a smooth, and as effective as possible, transition. This entails understanding the Transition IEP and making sure at age 16 that goals will lead to his or her desired outcomes after graduation from high school. A great place to start is by reading Thinking About Tomorrow: The Transition to Adult Life an interesting article by Jo Ann Simons published in Disability Solutions. National Down Syndrome Society also has information about Transition.
This page will list links to many helpful websites and there are also numerous resources in the Gold Coast Down Syndrome Organization lending library that can help you. Decisions that are made during the transition process should lay the path for desired post-school outcomes. IEP goals should address all areas of transition: employment, living, recreation, adult education, access to transportation and community services. Person-centered planning and self-determination should be incorporated to ensure that the individual with a disability is involved in planning his or her own future and that the outcomes reflect his or her own interests. Your son or daughter should be a part of their IEP team and be attending meetings to give input. Students should be working on skills that foster independence throughout their school years in order to master those needed for navigating the community post school.
Families cannot rely on the school district to inform them or their son or daughter about what a Transition IEP should look like, or all the options for transition. Be certain that the goals you and your child have are stated clearly and correctly on the IEP; both academic and/or vocational. Remember that the I in IEP still stands for individual and as long as your child has an IEP it should be individualized. It should not be based on curriculum and therefore look like everybody else’s in the class. Locally, students with Down syndrome continue to face discrimination at the school level in transition. The School District of Palm Beach County has a long way to go in providing comprehensive transition services that positively impact outcomes for individual students. It is important that parents are familiar with the law and we suggest you browse the Wrightslaw website for more information.
Students with developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome can receive services funded by the school district (IDEA) through the school year in which they turn 22. This may mean graduating when all credits (24) are accumulated and re-enrolling to obtain services related to job training and life in the community. Some students will graduate and obtain transition services such as job training and job coaching through adult service providers. The School District of Palm Beach County has Access Programs that your son or daughter should be attending post K-12. Ask about the criteria early so that your child is not excluded from challenging, age-appropriate programming from 18 to 21 years old. Thanks to a vision by Gold Coast Down Syndrome Organization, today some students with intellectual disabilities in our community will have the opportunity to access a college experience. These programs continue to develop here and in many places around the country. Go to Think College.Net for more information. It takes commitment and lots of hard work to help prepare our sons and daughters for an independent life so it is important to start early by having high expectations for success. We are excited that FAU (Jupiter Campus) will be welcoming students with developmental disabilities (including students with Down syndrome) in the FAU Academy for Community Inclusion in January 2016.
There remains a huge void in our community for addressing transition issues related to having a full life. The major emphasis by the School District seems to be on employment without any real support for future living options, continued academic education, social/recreational activities and transportation. Some students get “job training” experiences, without pay, during their transition years, but research shows that the most successful individuals long term will be those who had the opportunity to do real work for real pay while still in school. And while there may be job training experiences, most students with Down syndrome leave school unemployed. Everyone is advocating for a “seamless” transition, but that is clearly not the norm as families suddenly have to navigate an entirely new system of adult services and often feel unprepared. The School District of Palm Beach County sponsors an annual conference called STARS – Start Transition and Realize Success. Gold Coast Down Syndrome Organization strongly suggests all parents and students ages 13 and above attend each year to get helpful information about various areas of the transition process.
Many secondary students with Down syndrome continue to be “coddled” in segregated, special education classes and then upon finishing school are expected to understand the rules and responsibilities associated with employment. This is part of the reason that individuals with Down syndrome remain unemployed or underemployed in our own community and nationally. There is much work to be done by the School District of Palm Beach County and service providers to educate the community and local employers about the benefits of employing individuals with intellectual disabilities. There is much work to be done by families in the area of having high expectations and challenging their son or daughter through the IEP process to gain independence during their school years. Families must take responsiblity and monitor their son or daughter’s education to ensure that they will have the skills, and supports, needed to access their community upon school exit.
Families need to understand what “age of majority” will mean for their son or daughter and how this can impact the IEP process. Our experience is such that the School District of Palm Beach County respects families and understands that students with Down syndrome do rely on their parents for input in the decision making process. It is also our experience that in this case, many students do not attend their IEP. In order to actively participate in the process and have student-centered outcomes, students themselves should be members of the IEP team who come with ideas about their own future that need to be considered and respected. With brainstorming and collaboration, an engaged team can often facilitate a students dreams.
Students become adults when they turn 18. You should understand diploma options as they relate to the curriculum your child will be exposed to, and to what extent the curriculum relates to post-school outcome choices. Many materials and much information are available about transition. For information specific to Florida, the Department of Education is a good source. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) expects schools to prepare students for employment and independent living. Below are links to websites and phone numbers for agencies that have information about transition.
It is extremely important to have goals and desired outcomes that you can clearly visualize. Although the idea itself seems abstract, the fact is that you cannot obtain an outcome that you cannot see. You must be able to articulate what the future should look like for your child. Use this vision to ensure that your son or daughter is working on the skills they will need in the areas of independence (and interdependence) and communication. You must know what you expect and hope to see as your child’s level of participation in his or her community. Monitor the Transition IEP and give your child opportunities to grow.
If your son or daughter with Down syndrome has not applied for the Medicaid Waiver…do that now! There continues to be a long waiting list and you cannot expect, at school exit, to have available the services he or she will need to access life in the community without the waiver. Need more information? Gold Coast Down Syndrome Organization offers a parent-student transition training opportunity called Get A Life. If you would like to come in and meet with someone from our organization to discuss the transition process for your son or daughter, please contact us at email@example.com or 561-752-3383.
- To apply for the Medicaid Waiver call APD (Agency for Persons with Disabilities) at their office in West Palm Beach at 561-837-5564.
- Young adults with Down syndrome who are 18 years old are eligible to apply for SSI – Supplemental Security Income as a family of one. For information about the Work Incentive and Planning Project (WIPA) in Palm Beach County, go to www.bacbrevard.com and then on the right hand side, click on Sea Land WIPA. It will lead to a page explaining the services and toll free number to call. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Social Security Ticket to Work website. After your son or daughter starts to receive Social Security benefits, they will receive a Ticket to Work which they can use to get free employment services. To learn more, go to this website.
Listed here are links to various websites (not in any specific order) that have information that may be helpful in learning about Transition Issues. We encourage you to check them all.
AHEAD-The Association on Higher Education and Disability