When my first son was born, I believed the infant stage was the hardest. Then came the terrible twos. Then we adopted three all at once. Oh my gosh! Now I have four teenagers with a handful of diagnoses we’re trying to transition to adulthood. One son has “left the nest” and is out in the world serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His weekly emails reassure me that he’s eating, communicating with the outside world, and he’ still alive (despite several mishaps with his bicycle seat). I’m still in the thick of raising the next three, two of whom have IEPs and trying to figure out how to help these sons prepare for adulthood.
I know some people are making it as YouTube gamers, but that doesn’t cut it as a life plan in my house. You know what I’m saying?
Last night, the school district held a Transition Night at one of the local high schools. While I’d heard about many of the services, I was surprised and excited to discover programs which are available now to help teens gain social skills, get experience in a paid internship, learn job readiness skills, and independent living skills.
Each program or service has to determine if an individual qualifies, but if you have concerns about your child’s ability to transition to adulthood, look into the available services in your community to see what can be done now to help him or her be prepared for the future. If you’re not sure where to start, check with your school counselor. Also see if your school has a work-based learning coordinator as these individuals are working to get teens prepared for employment while they are still in school.
Last year, when my oldest was college hunting, we had focused on which colleges had the best programs for the major he was looking for. We didn’t even consider accessibility services. My bad. His two top college choices were represented at the Transition Night: University of Utah (U of U) and Utah Valley University (UVU). I was relieved to discover UVU’s clearer outline and process for qualifying for services.
The U of U’spamphlet emphasized their commitment to providing reasonable accommodations, however, no specific qualifying disabilities were listed. UVU’s pamphlet, on the other hand, listed some qualifying disabilities including: ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Blind and Low Vision, Psychiatric Disabilities, Medical Disabilities, Physical Disabilities, Learning Disabilities, Deaf and Hard of Hearing. This gave me greater confidence that when my son returns from his mission and starts school, he’ll have access to the resources he’ll need.
Now accessibility services is on my radar as something to consider when looking at college choices. If two colleges are neck and neck, for example, which one has greater access to services? Which one will understand your child’s needs the most and advocate for services and classroom accommodations?
While I knew about some of the programs out there, my eyes were opened to new possibilities. And maybe that’s the point. Raising kids is tough and raising kids with additional challenges is tougher. Don’t give up if you haven’t found the answers you’re looking for yet.
If you didn’t discover something new today, there’s always tomorrow. And hey, if my kids prove me wrong and become the next YouTube sensation, they’ll still be armed with plenty of life skills to take care of me when I’m ninety and move into their basement.
Here are just some of the programs that were represented at the Transition Night:
Job Corps is a no-cost education and career technical training program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor. Youth ages 16-24 can participate in the program and receive career technical and academic training.
Easter Seals has programs for teens and adults with disabilities in Idaho, Utah, Montana, and Wyoming. The goal of the Easterseals-Goodwill services is to help people increase their independence. Check out their website to see if any of their programs fit your needs.
Utah Center for Assistive Technology (UCAT) is a statewide resource offering information and technical services to help people with disabilities acquire and use assistive technology devices. If you believe your child might need the use of technology to help him or her, you can contact UCAT for a free evaluation.
Columbus Connects is a program that provides preemployment transition services to students and individuals with disabilities ages 14-21. Each participant will work with a specialist who helps the student with job exploration, counseling on post-secondary educational opportunities, workplace readiness training and training in self-advocacy. The program also includes a paid internship opportunity.
Utah Independent Living Center summer programs in Salt Lake are a great way to help your teen learn job readiness and life skills.
The Youth Summer Program for ages 16-22 years old runs from June 17 – Aug 2 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and costs $75 plus the cost of a bus pass and spending money. In this program they will do community outings, ride UTA and Trax, learn budgeting, social skills, menu planning, grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning up.
The UILC Empowerment & Transition Academy is for 16-21 years old and runs from June 18-Aug 1 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This program is free of charge, but students are responsible for their own bus pass or tokens. In this program students will learn job readiness skills, write resumes, visit job sites, learn about available community resources, apply for programs, acquire employment training, learn money management, learn social skills, leadership and more.
Contact Kathy Self: firstname.lastname@example.org to get on the list for the above summer programs or call Utah Independent Living Center 801-466-5565 if you’re interested. Applications for both summer programs will be available in April 2019.
Camp K summer camp Saturday June 8, 2019 12pm – 4pm 4180 E Emigration Canyon Rd SLC Preregistration required. Event is free for people with special needs and their immediate family.
Utah Parent Center is a training and information center which helps parents of children and youth with disabilities. Have a question about a 504 or IEP? Call or watch a video. Need an advocate to attend your next team meeting at the school? The Utah Parent Center can help.
Disability Law Center is there to help when you believe your child’s rights aren’t being respected. Are you tired of fighting the fight by yourself? See if the disability law center can help. The scope of their work includes: Accessibility, assistive technology, civil rights, community living, education, employment, health care, fair housing, transportation, voting rights.