Helping Young Adults With Disabilities

What follows are stories of hope.  Stories of helping young adults with disabilities as they transition into a larger world.

My Key Story #1

Laurie’s Legacy: I walked with Laurie’s mom into her new employment, without warning her that I was coming. When our eyes met, tears flowed. So good to see my childhood friend! She was in the middle of a difficult transition with her support staff, and she not only had a new place to work, but a new home as well. New roommates, new staff, new recreational opportunities, and a new
vocational placement. But, no one really knew her—what she truly likes, wanted, or needed.

Laurie has very little use of verbal language and relies heavily on her parents to communicate preferences throughout her personal life. Her loving family members are her best advocates and have tirelessly worked with many staff members while weathering a substantial amount of turnover through the years.

Her case manager (who thankfully has known her for many years) was available during my visit, and I informally interviewed her about the transfer of information to Laurie’s new support team. She answered key questions while holding a ten-inch stack of files that she was frantically trying to share with Laurie’s new caregivers. She made this critical statement, “I just wish there was an easier way to help Laurie communicate the things that make her happy, comfortable, understood, and most of all . . . less anxious. I think her obvious level of frustration would decrease dramatically.”

The My Transition Portfolio exists to help ease the burden of information-sharing and provides an opportunity for self-determination so that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are known and understood from their unique perspective. It is designed for all young adults with disabilities, from highly independent to those who are strongly supported by caregivers.

It’s my sincere hope that young adults with disabilities will realize their greatest independence by creating self-caused action steps in their lives with the help of this guide. Wherever necessary, teachers and caregivers can assist them by providing insightful information critical to positive transition planning and successful post-school outcomes.

Thanks to Laurie, I am continually driven to encourage others toward self-determination. I want to stay focused on well-planned, attainable dreams . . . to listen and learn, support and guide.

My Key Story #2

Diane’s Dream: A Puppeteer: Diane is a 40 year old woman who has Down Syndrome. From the time she was a teenager, Diane experienced her greatest joy whenever she had an opportunity to put on puppet shows for her family and friends. Despite the communicative and cognitive deficits she faced, she demonstrated exceptional skills whenever a puppet was present and she could put on her mini-show with remarkable ability to tell a complex story and keep her audience captivated.

In the years growing up, Diane had a difficult time communicating her artistic passion in a way that was understood by others. She continued throughout the years enjoying this skill, but it was never something that was shared beyond her tight circle of friends and family. Diane always has had the ability to make people laugh, and could lighten a room full of people. Her playful demeanor is one of her greatest strengths. She loves being with children, and demonstrates infectious joy whenever she is around them.

Diane has worked hard and done well in her time with the vocational placements she has had in her adult life. She has worked mostly in warehouse environments, as well as some retail spaces in the community with the support of a job coach. In an effort to recapture her true joy and be able to tell not only her puppet’s stories, but…more importantly her own story, she is beginning to use this portfolio development workbook. With the help of a support person, she is using it as a tool designed to assist her making her story known to a larger audience.

The choices she makes will hopefully help inform her case managers, job developers and caregivers about her potential and dream to secure a paid position as a Puppeteer for her community Children’s Theater as an “opening act” and a an opportunity to use her passion to make connections within her community vocationally.

My Key Story #3

Danny’s Delivery: Danny is an 18 year old high school senior. He has spent his high school career in a program where he receives a significant amount of support to navigate his public high school environment. He has benefited from the academic supports provided by special education staff to modify his curriculum, to support his communication and meet him at his skill level. He has a significant stutter when speaking and used an iPad throughout his day as his assistive communication device.

In addition to core academic programming, Daniel has engaged in several ways with the high school culture. He has performed in the school’s drama performances, was on the homecoming court, and has many peers in the mainstream setting.

In his senior year, it was uncertain about the level of support needed for the following year as he enters the district’s 18-21 Transition Program. When he and his parent were interviewed to explore appropriate placements, it was evident that many of the barriers to becoming increasingly independent were tied to his struggle to clearly communicate.

Danny had an opportunity to present his Culminating Project in his senior year along with his non-disabled peers. The execution of his presentation was extremely labored as he had very few supports to communicate his preferences clearly. He was then given the opportunity to express all of his well-formed ideas and preferences for life after high school given My Transition Portfolio’s unique format.

The result was a much clearer, more comprehensive expression of his independent voice. His strong statements and established goals have led him to creating his own complete vocational and independent living portfolio. Barb Blakeslee and My Key Consulting Services endeavors to give more students like Daniel the “Keys” they need to make their unique personal choices throughout their lives after high school.

My Key Story #4

Conner’s Career: Conner is a junior in high school. He receives special education services due to his severe learning disability. Conner is a very capable and highly communicative student. He is enrolled in a primarily mainstream general education classes, but receives academic support in a few classes based on his areas of deficit.

One of the main areas of focus for Conner is his organizational strategy. He continually misplaces his work and has a tough time remembering details. When asked what his preferences are for his life after high school, he states that he wants to be a game developer at Microsoft. This desire stems from his great interest in video games, but he also does show some aptitude and strong interest in his computer applications class.

Conner has completed several career interest surveys, indicating other areas for which he is likely to be successful. However, Conner continually insists that he wants to be a game developer. His teachers have designed a program for him at his high school, which will help guide him to his post-school objectives. However, due to his organizational skill deficits, he has difficulty continuing to develop a well-rounded life planning strategy.

When asked about key questions about he next steps needed for Conner to take so that he is ready for meeting with his DVR counselor, they made the following statement: “Our team realizes the importance of helping his with this lofty dream, but right now, we are just focused on getting him to graduate! He hasn’t yet met the state testing requirements.” The main fear expressed by the team who supports Conner is that he will move into his adult life with no clearly identified path to employment.

My Transition Portfolio offers an avenue to navigate this path to employment. Additionally, he will have an opportunity to practice many of the skills necessary to pass the required state testing. Best of all, it provides a framework to keep him organized and focused on the information he shared in the “My Dream” section of this workbook. He will now have a better idea and the right support to continue building this dream well into the future.