By Kim Lett
It's never easy to raise a child, especially one with disabilities, As a parent of a 23-year-old who graduated last year, I can attest that transition is as difficult for the parent as it is for the student.
Looking back over the years leading to my child's transition, these are some of the things I remember:
• Spending hours on the phone making doctor appointments (and waiting months to visit a specialty doctor), getting referrals, dealing with EOBs and medical bills, and getting copies of medical notes for my records and the schools;
• Being so scared when my son had horrible reactions to either being weaned on or off a new medication while we found the "cocktail" that worked;
• Having assessments done and waiting to have them explained in common language;
• IEP meetings that caused my unseen knees to shake while sitting across the table from people who knew "best" for my child who they only saw a few hours a day while I had a lifetime of knowledge;
• Being addressed as "Mom" at IEP meetings by professionals my own age;
• Not being able to visit a classroom to see if it would be appropriate for my child or to observe a classroom while my child was in it, even though that's what every book and specialist recommends;
• The vice principal who went out of her way to give me her home phone and cell number when she knew my son's needs weren't being addressed by the IEP team;
• The worry about what would happen after high school – would my son work? Where? What would he do all day? What would I do all day if he was home? What would life be like for both of us?
• The transition team that worked to help us but who, I suspect, wondered the same thing.
More than eight years ago, concerned community members came together to address the need for a better transition from school to adult life for children with special needs in the greater Fredericksburg area.
In response to that need, the group formed the Fredericksburg Area Transition Council (FATC) and sponsored the very first transition conference in our area. The conference brought speakers and showcased best practices in transition. Since then, four more conferences have been held, but no community collaboration addressed the ongoing need for transition information and improved outcomes.
The FATC held a training on January 13th for parents, school staff, local organizations, and employers on developing an on-going transition council. Presenters from William and Mary addressed the group and will continue helping them define their goals for the future.
To make it easier, learn all you can about transition and participate on the Fredericksburg Area Transition Council. For more information on FATC, contact Kim Lett or Jenny Fain at the disAbility Resource Center, 540-373-2559.
Kim Lett is the program coordinator at the disAbility Resource Center in Fredericksburg, Virginia