As summer winds down and we get ready for another school year, let’s take a moment to talk about transition. Transition services are provided to school-aged individuals with disabilities in order to develop, explore, and pursue a person-centered path to employment. When providing transition services (usually ages 14 to 22), a teacher will invite local professionals and agencies who can provide input, planning, and services that lead to an educated and experiential path to employment.
You and your child are the most important members of the transition team organized to create a comprehensive plan. So, what can you do to prepare for transition planning?
Start to write down your child’s interests, no matter how diverse or trivial you think they may be. A vocational professional can then discuss and explore avenues where those interests may fit into employment. Add preferences as well: likes crowds, does not like loud noises, likes to work in a small group or independently, cannot tolerate heat, is afraid of dogs, etc. Be specific wherever it applies.
Also, list needs: cannot prepare his lunch (open containers), needs extra time to process verbal input, does best with picture directions or a checklist as a way to remember things, etc. You have vital information that will help develop your child’s Preferences, Interests, Needs, and Strengths (PINS). If you are able visit favorite sites in the community, list the name and what specifically draws your child’s attention at that site. Can your child volunteer at that site through school work-study or something you set up? Speak to your teacher about this.
It is also very important to help your child develop work skills at home. Choose something motivating, not something he/she dislikes. For example, have your child help to put the groceries away (food is often a motivator, so it may not be as difficult as suggesting laundry for example).
Start small, just one bag of groceries. Take notes as they approach the task for the first time. From there, guide your child toward efficient (a decent pace), logical (foods go in proper places), and thorough (task completion) participation. Start with guidance and fade out of the process as soon as possible. Guidance should always be in a positive and supportive manner and task completion followed directly by a preferred item or break, which helps to foster confidence and future participation. Starting this at any transition age is appropriate and helpful in the development of core work skills.
Finally, there are a number of other resources that can be helpful for planning transition services. Check out the OhioMeansJobs website, see what it has to offer (tutorial guide), and perhaps start a back-pack for your transition-age youth. There are many ways to use this site when preparing for employment and/or college, and everything you do can be saved on this site so you can share access with your child’s teacher, if you wish. Ask your teacher if they are using OhioMeansJobs in their transition planning or if they use Naviance (some schools pay for this separate and equally useful system). Ask for guidance on how best to use the sites and how it can be incorporated into the transition plan.
Agencies such as Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities Services, Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, mental health providers, Job and Family Services, and other agencies you may already be working with can collaborate in the planning and provision of transition services. The State of Ohio’s Employment First website is a great resource for learning about initiatives for all individuals with disabilities.
The Ohio Department of Education’s website is full of useful information to help you understand more about transition and its importance in your child’s education. Also, your local State Support Team 13 has a multi-faceted site where you can find resources, seek support, and obtain information regarding transition services.
That’s it for now – enjoy the rest of your summer vacation!
Lisa Grady is the Transition Supervisor for Hamilton County DD Services.