Graduating from high school for any young person and their parents can be a very exciting time, but also one filled with anxiety, stress, and often more questions than answers. It’s the big unknown…what does the future hold? For a young person with special needs and their family it can be even more challenging due to a perceived lack of opportunities available beside the traditional route of college or direct employment.
But, now more than ever, there are more supports and specialized programs available and we are here to tell you that the future looks very bright. People with disabilities have more access to higher education, funding, vocational training, scholarships, and employment than ever before.
Knowledge is key! Researching and learning your options….well before graduation can make a world of difference. Some tips for a successful transition include:
1. Being involved with your own (or your child’s) IEP process, especially one that involves the Transition Plan).
2. Get connected with your local VR (Vocational Rehabilitation) or DRS (Division of Rehabilitation Services) Counselors. Most often times, these counselors will visit with you at school and discuss funding for college and employment readiness. Also get connected with the ADA or the Disability Services Department of the college you plan to attend.
3. Volunteer and do Career Exploration while in school and during the summer. This looks great on a resume and can help with deciding on a career track.
4. Network and develop a social and community support system. Often you can learn from other families about available programs and services and what works!
5. Don’t be in too big of a hurry. Make a family/personal plan that will include goals like money management, housing ideas, life skills training, emergency and safety planning, community resources, self-advocacy, and more. A well thought out plan will set the stage for success.
6. Be involved and Ask for help. Being involved in the process and asking for help is essential. There are so many agencies and support systems available; you only need to reach out to them.
Just last month, The DAC and Marion County Schools partnered to offer the Annual Marion County School Transition Fair for all three high schools. More than 50 students, educators, staff, and parents attended the fair where 25 schools, training providers, and agencies were represented. This was truly a one stop shop for all things related to disability services and post high school options such as IDD Waiver providers, colleges, vocational centers, therapies, and more.
As follow-up to the Transition Fair, the DAC will also sponsor The Assist Award Scholarship for one or more students at three high schools and then our summer Mission Transition Program. Our Mission Transition program is designed specifically for graduating seniors who received special services and need a little extra help after graduation. Through Mission Transition, you can meet with a DAC Life Skills Specialist to work on things like college applications, financial aid, resume development, job search, and more. All at no cost to you…and you get a cash stipend.
In addition to Mission Transition, the DAC also offers many different programs to suit your post-high school goals. Those include our partnership with the WV Division of Rehabilitation where you can learn Independent Living Skills, do a Community Based or Work Skills Assessment, and secure employment through what we call Direct Placement.
The Disability Action Center also partners with PACE Enterprises to offer a Vocational Training programs specifically for individuals receiving IDD or Medicaid Waiver. This program takes place at the DAC as well as at the Morgantown PACE location. Individuals work on goals outlined in personal plan which include all things that will lead to independence and work.
The DAC has also formed a partnership with Playworks Child Development to offer Physical, Occupational, and Speech Therapies at the DAC starting in Summer 2014.
Whether it be a cooking class, exercise, job readiness, family support, therapies, or social development you are looking for, the DAC has it all under one roof!
So as you can see, successful transition should not just be YOUR mission, it is OUR mission too!