Thursday, November 17, 2011

Georgetown SEPAC Meeting Minutes, 11-8-11

Georgetown Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC) Meeting
Meeting Minutes, November 8, 2011 – 7:00pm, Penn Brook Library

The Georgetown SEPAC Presents: Transition 101 - High School to Adulthood, Tuesday, November 8, 2011, 6:30-9:00pm, Penn Brook Library, 68 Elm St., Georgetown, MA. We all have hopes and dreams, learn how to help students with disabilities plan to achieve theirs! From The ARC of Greater Haverhill-Newburyport, Kerry Mahoney, Transition Specialist and Family Support Coordinator, will speak about what transition planning is, the laws, effective use of IEP and transition planning forms (required by IDEA 2004) for students ages 14-22, transition map design, timelines, and family resources. IEP's of students 14 and over should include a post school vision statement that identifies the transition services necessary to support the vision. The workshop's goal is to help families plan for positive post high school outcomes and opportunities in education, training, and/or employment for students with disabilities. Starting the process early prepares students with disabilities to think about what they want to be able to do in adult life. Discussion includes age of majority, interagency collaboration, adult services, self determination and self advocacy, life skill development and preparing students to pursue as independent an adult life as possible. Find out more at or by calling Pam Lundquist at 978-352-5407 – Light refreshments will be served – Please join us!

Who is the Arc?
The ARC of Greater-Haverhill-Newburyport (ARCGHN) supports individuals with developmental disabilities and their families through Advocacy, Resources & Customized services.

The Arc is devoted to promoting and improving supports and services for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We are a member of The Arc of Massachusetts and also of The Arc of the United States. The Arc is the world's largest community based organization of and for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It provides an array of services and support for families and individuals and includes over 140,000 members affiliated through more than 730 state and local chapters across the nation.

Did You Know the Arc of GHN...?
• Advocates for resources and supports
• Educates and works together to shape visions and life plans
• Promotes and inspires respectful and trusting relationships
• Creates opportunities through customized services

The Arc of GHN provides individualized and customized supports to families and individuals to live and to work where and with whom they wish. Our person-centered and person-directed approach relies heavily on relationship building. We partner with families and individuals in order to recruit, hire and match support staff.

The Arc’s approach aligns itself with the principles and values of self-determination. Self-determination is a process that differs from person to person according to what each individual determines is necessary and desirable to create a satisfying and meaningful life.

Furthermore, the Arc embraces the beliefs of the self-advocacy movement to assist in the empowerment of individuals and their families. We work tirelessly to strengthen the voice and leadership of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities while at the same time taking our lead from the self-advocates by listening to what they need and want.

What is transition? Transition is about planning for life!
The transition your son or daughter will make from school to adult life in the community is a long journey. This journey can be difficult for anyone, but for a child with a disability, determining where to go, the best way to get there, and then completing the journey can be especially challenging. This is why it is so important for you to think, as early as possible, about the important steps your child will need to make and to develop a plan for his/her future.

Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment (ICE) is a system of partnerships between between high schools in public school districts and state public institutions of higher education (IHE) exists, as defined in Section 1 of Chapter 71B of the General Law. This program offer educational credit and non-credit courses to students ages 18-22 with severe disabilities for both those seeking to graduation from high school or college. These programs must:
be designed to promote and enhance academic, social, functional, and employment skills and outcomes;
provide opportunities for the inclusion of students with severe disabilities in credit and non-credit courses with their non-disabled peers;
provide linkages to adult agencies and organizations;
promote participation in the student life of the college community; and
include student participation in community-based employment related directly to course selection and career goals.

Numerous federal and state laws guide the delivery of transitional educational services to children with disabilities. It is important for parents to understand these laws and the rights of their disabled children and families.

For instance, upon turning 18, a student reaches the Massachusetts “age of majority.” This means he or she is “of legal age,” which means they are no longer under the custody and supervision of their parents. They are responsible for making their own decisions, including those about school. Guardianship is intended to assist individuals who need guidance in making decision in major life areas. Guardianship can be limited to education decisions, or it can include more than one major life area. Guardianship is a legal process, and the decision is made by a judge. An attorney can help you understand the ramifications in your particular case. If you have a severely disabled child, completely unable to make their own decisions, you might consider getting a health care proxy, power of attorney, and formal guardianship.

What can all parents do to prepare for their child’s transition? The road leading to a successful transition from childhood to adulthood should begin much earlier than the teenage years. It starts when children learn about themselves, their strengths and weaknesses and, so doing, begin to value themselves. It ends when, as adults, these same children can take control over choices and decisions that impact their lives and take responsibility for their actions. This is called Self-Determination. It starts with a dream! A dream for a meaning life for our children.

Age 13, 14, 15
- Talk about the value of work and teach behaviors that develop employment potential.
- Provide opportunities to see people at work in different settings.
- Allow as much independence as possible; assign responsibility for certain chores to help unstill a positive work ethic.
- Teach money management skills along with shopping experiences and banking skills.
- Promote appropriate behavior at home and in social situations.
- Provide opportunities to make choices and decisions, to explore and take risks, and to learn from experiences of success and failure.
- Assist in good grooming skills and emphasize the importance of physical fitness.
- Think about volunteer job opportunities in the community, paper routes, or other ways to develop job skills.
- Attend parent workshops on Transition to become informed about the process of Transition Planning.
- Help your child to become a self-advocate.
- Continue these activities through the teen years.
Age 16
- Encourage self-advocacy skills in your child.
- Be sure your child’s IEP addresses all the areas where skills are needed to make the biggest difference in your child’s ultimate independence.
- Have your child attend IEP meetings.
- First job experience ought to be considered if your child is not already working.
- Help your child to understand his/her disability and medical needs.
Age 17
- Develop a long-term plan (5 year) to cover educational, vocational, community experiences and independent living skills.
- If you are planning to apply for Social Security Insurance (SSI), get information about eligibility. Students with assets exceeding $2,000 are not eligible for SSI benefits. Consult an attorney or financial planner about a special needs trust or other arrangement that will protect eligibility for benefits.
- Investigate the need for guardianships and other options for legal protection. At age 18, all people are presumed to be legally competent to make all life decisions.
- Have interest surveys and vocational assessments done to determine interests and abilities.
Age 18
- Apply for SSI/MassHealth. If SSI eligible, an individual will automatically be eligible for MassHealth. If not eligible for SSI, apply separately to the Division of Medical Assistance for MassHealth.
- Help your child actively participate in his/her IEP meeting. He/she should be part of planning their learning and life goals.
- Apply for Section 8 Housing Vouchers.
- Make sure emphasis on IEP is on post-school goals that will make the biggest differences in the life of your child.
- Understand Age of Majority.
- Register men for Selective Service.
- Determine eligibility for adult services through the Department of Developmental Services, Department of Mental Health, MA commission for the Blind, and Mass Rehab Commission.
- Have your child register to vote.
- Maker sure your child has some work experience.
- Network with other families who have been through the Transition process.
Other things parents can do:
- Consider the skills that your child needs for a meaningful and purposeful life and be sure that these are included in the child’s IEP at the appropriate school level.
- Encourage your child to develop gradual independence in all areas of life including self-care activities, money management, decision-making and travel in the community.
- Attend parent trainings on transition and be informed about the process of transition planning and the law.

What happens to a child’s IEP upon entry to college? Private colleges are not required to follow an IEP, just as private high schools are not. However, most do have a Disability Services Office, that can provide support services, which ensure ADA compliance and generally improve their retention and graduation rates. Accommodations are required only at public colleges, under the 504b section; IEPs do not carry through. Appointments can be made after acceptance. Prior to applying, however, you can also set up and appointment with the Disabilities Coordinator, and ask what the process is for receiving accommodations. Colleges typically will ask for an evaluation that is no more than 3 years old; they will not usually evaluate a student themselves. The Disability office can authorize a letter of accommodations that a student may give to each professor. Typical accommodations may include: extra time/distraction-free location for tests, preferential seating, a note taker, online powerpoints, class breaks, free tutor or referral to a tutoring center but not a support teacher, flexibility with deadlines, classes in strategic reading and learning. Course requirements, such as for Foreign Languages, may be waived. Schools which are more specialized in their accommodations, such as Landmark or Curry, will have more guarantees and evaluations available to you prior to enrolling.

The Massachusetts Office of Rehabilitation and Vocational Training Program (VRP) assists individuals with disabilities to obtain and maintain employment. The Vocational Rehabilitation Program helps individuals with physical, psychiatric and/or learning disabilities face the challenges of the modern workplace. This may include identifying job goals based on individual interests and aptitudes, providing funds for college and vocational training, assessing worksite accommodations, educating an employer about the Americans With Disabilities Act, or assisting an individual returning to work after adjusting to a new disabling condition. Vocational rehabilitation services can often reduce or remove barriers to employment. Priority is given to those individuals who have the most severe disabilities in areas such as communication, mobility, work tolerance and work skills. The Vocational Rehabilitation Program is mandated and regulated by the federal government while being administered through state government. Find out more information about the VR Program's federal parent agency, the Rehabilitation Services Administration. Chapter 688 of the law identifies students in need of such services after age 22.

A few of the many programs directed under the ARC’s umbrella include:
School to Community Transition Program
The Arc of Greater Haverhill-Newburyport and The Arc of Massachusetts received one of five $100,000 matching grants through The Arc of United States School-to-Community Transition Program funded by the Walmart Foundation!
We are partnering with schools from the Greater Boston area as well as Newburyport Public Schools to implement this three-year demonstration project. The project aims to increase transition outcomes and to build inclusion and involvement of youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities in independent living, employment, post-secondary education or vocational training, and community, social and civic affairs. Specifically, The Arc of GHN project will provide 10 Newburyport Middle and High School students with person centered plans to promote partnerships, self advocacy, self determination and leadership while we encourage each student to develop his or her own talents, skills, interests, and preferences. The project focuses on concrete outcomes for students to be prepared for adult life in the community. These include employment, social & recreational activities, transportation and housing. A "whole person, systems" approach will help staff focus on individual student goals, skills and training needs while encouraging parent/family involvement and a leadership role on the part of the student. Family members will be trained to assist the student to develop collaborative relationships for the purposes of achieving the student's vision.

The Adult Family Care Program (AFC) – A program funded by MassHealth (Medicaid) that pays family members or non-family members to care for people with disabilities or frail elderly adults in a home setting. The goal of the program is to delay or prevent out of home placements for individuals who cannot live safely on their own.

AutismNOW –This program, initiated by the national ARC and funded by The Administration on Developmental Disabilities, aims to be the central point of high quality resources and information across the lifespan for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and other developmental disabilities, their families, caregivers and professionals in the field. Connects the public with information through webinars, online resources, and counselors.

Suggested Reading:
Legal Planning for Special Needs in Massachusetts, by Barbara Jackins

The Special Needs Planning Guide: How to Prepare for Every Stage in Your Child's Life / Edition 1, by John W. Nadworny, Cynthia Haddad

Preparing Students with Disabilities for College Success: A Practical Guide to Transition Planning / Edition 1 by Stan F. Shaw, Joseph W. Madaus, Lyman L. Dukes III

Helpful Websites: - Special Education: Transition from School to Adult Life (includes sample transition forms, filled out) (ICE) - The Department of Transitional Assistance (low income), Dept. of Health and Human Services, MA

Questions for Kerry Mahoney? Please feel free to contact her at the
The Arc of Greater Haverhill-Newburyport
Kerry Mahoney 978-373-0552 ext 201. Plan for life’s changes by finding out about more great ARC workshops and when they are scheduled, such as Ready to Work! or Transition: The Emotional Journey.