A couple weeks ago I was invited by PACER (Parent Advocacy Center for Educational Rights) to sit on a parent panel before the State Department of Education to discuss issues related to transition planning.
When I got the email, I laughed out loud. Did you see my first paragraph where I said I don't have a clue what is going on? I replied that I didn't think I was the right person to sit on this panel. People who sit on this panel should have some idea of how the transition process goes.
"No, actually you're exactly who we want on the panel. You know how to advocate for your kids and yet you don't feel prepared for this time in your child's life. There are many other parents out there in just the same boat and you can help us understand why."
Ummm....ok. I think.
So Monday was the day. It was a very small group: Myself, three other parents, a representative from the Dept. of Ed. and a representative from PACER.
I thought it was interesting that the other three parents have kids who are on the autism spectrum. I was the only parent representing the "other" students. Those who have cognitive impairments due to diagnosis of Down syndrome or other syndromes that affect development.
Here are some questions that were asked. I won't tell you my answers, because these are questions you need to ask yourself about your own child's IEP and transition planning meetings.
1. What is your greatest dream for your child as they transition into adult living in the community?
2. What is your greatest fear when you think about your child living as an adult in the community?
3. Name your child’s greatest strength?
4. Thinking about your child’s IEP, are there goals that address postsecondary education of training?
5. Thinking about your child’s IEP, are there goals that address preparing for employment?
6. Please name the outside agencies or services that have been involved in your child’s transition planning. Have they attended the IEP meetings?
7. As a parent, do you feel like you are a valued member of the IEP team?
8. Is your child involved in the transition planning process?
9. Any other thoughts you would like to share about your child’s transition planning?
The discussion was very interesting, and I will say I learned some things. We also discussed things like what kind of job training is in place for our students. Interestingly all the parents stated everything seems to be centered around factory work or food service. The other parents - who's kids are older than mine - all agreed there seems to be a problem with job training in high school being individualized, with all the kids getting the same training as if ALL the students will be working at McDonalds or on an assembly line.
With three years left until Angela graduates I feel like I already feel like we're running out of time to get the necessary steps completed. I want Angela to have a job she ENJOYS, and to be living as independently as she possibly can. Angela has made it very clear she does not want to live at home, but on her own with her friends. It's my job to see to it these things happen for her.