Creating Opportunities and Making Connections
~ Andrea Morris, Education & Outreach Manager
How many of you loved your first job? How many of you didn’t? The opportunities you had were, in most cases, connected to you by a family member, a neighbor, a friend. It gave you the opportunity to learn, to make connections, to build your resume and to make mistakes; it helped you grow and learn what you enjoy (and what you don’t).
Students, ages 14-22 who are on an Individual Education Plan (IEP) need these same opportunities and connections to help them learn, make connections and grow. Every student needs to understand who they are, where they need support and what they are good at to encourage more opportunities and connections.
“Transition planning is such an important process for preparing our young adult for success in the real world” – Pam W., Mother
Best outcomes in adulthood are directly linked to the student’s vision with input from caregivers and school personnel, no matter how grand the vision may be. This vision is based on the interests of the student and should begin at age 14. Along with assessments that help define his or her goals, this vision should typically be reviewed annually.
The best way for a student to begin thinking about their vision and to understand who they are and what they want is through opportunities. These opportunities can take place anywhere, at any time. They can happen at home, at school, at church, at recreational events but ideally, in their community. Opportunities can be in the form of a job, volunteerism, an internship, speaking up at their IEP or by making choices in every day experiences. No matter how the student communicates, they have preferences and those preferences should be honored at every age.
Helping a student define a vision and find opportunities means bringing together a team; one that doesn’t just include school personnel. A rich collaboration of school and other team members can help bridge the connections into the adult service world. These collaborations could be with an outside professional that helps to build upon job exploration and independent living skills, or could be with professionals within in the school walls that have made personal connections with the student.
Each experience a student has, is a connection to the next chapter of their lives. Each connection they make is another that can help expand their opportunities and make new connections in hopes of a fulfilling life.
When I started in this position 3 years ago, I was blown away by how much information was out there, but all of it was scattered and hard to navigate. One of my goals was to centralize some of these transition to adulthood resources, so please check out the new tab on our website: Transition Resources. Here you will find information on transition timelines, governmental agencies, coffee hours, and lots of links to helpful resources!
Please provide feedback, and share other resources you find helpful. It truly takes a village (and information sharing!).
Andrea Morris, Education & Outreach Manager
(978) 373-0552 x211