Building Bridges to the Future

bridges1For parents and advocates of individuals with developmental disabilities, the goal is clear:
to attain the highest possible quality of life for their loved one and ensure it will be sustained throughout the individual’s life time. Supporting an individual with developmental disabilities through life’s daily challenges can be exhausting; having the time to research available options and identifying solutions for the future can seem impossible.

Not only do special education students with developmental disabilities and their families need transition planning help, federal and Illinois laws require it. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the 1990 federal law, amended in 1997 and 2004, that says schools must provide transition services to students age 16-21. On August 10, 2009 the new Illinois law was released, noting that now “requires transition plans to be developed and reviewed as part of the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) process and requires school districts to follow up on referrals to outside entities to make sure the linkages have occurred and the student’s progress in transition activities and services outside of the school are being monitored by the IEP Team.”

The first year of Building Bridges to the Future’s noted that without benefit of this type of project, many individuals with developmental disabilities and their parents would languish in service “limbo”, and many will fail to make the successful transition to adulthood. Simply put, so many more parents of children with developmental disabilities are not getting adequate information, support, and assistance from schools and state-funded agencies to make decisions and linkages that will ensure the highest possible quality of life for their loved one will be attained and sustained throughout their lifetime.

bridges2In addition to providing special education high school students and young adults (ages 14-25) with developmental disabilities and their parents, guardians, and family members with coaching, linkages to financial, medical, and legal resources to ensure the students’ successful transition to adulthood; the significant know-how and experience from PACTT was added to augment the more than 30% of students served in year one that have a diagnoses of autism. The population of individuals with autism has grown significantly on a national level, and is expected to continue to be an ever-increasing portion of the general population of people with developmental disabilities for this project as well. The Intersect for Ability agency, PACTT Learning Center, will provide direct hands-on consultation to project staff, students and their families in best practices and methods associated with delivery of services to persons with autism.

This year a new summer, winter, and spring break component to the project has been added. The Adult Transition Experience Program will provide opportunities for adult services program participation for the students enrolled in the Building Bridges to the Future project. During any one of these periods of service, students will participate in a coordinated set of activities planned in accordance with their IEP’s which will emphasize core transition areas. These experiences will generally focus on one or more of the following: Developmental Training experience, Workshop/Sheltered Work experiences, and Employment experiences (both paid and volunteer).


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