By Troy Eppley, Supervisor/Educational Consultant | Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8
Let us take some time to reflect on the 19/20 school year. Your child is entering their junior year of high school. Plans for life after school have been happening since he was in 7th grade.
However, it is now finally becoming real and the exit from high school can be seen. The IEP team has done their work, they planned to incorporate activities and services into the year, scheduled various in-person experiences for your child, even planned trips to transition and career fairs. The excitement is building for yourself and especially your child – as they are looking at getting ready for their “first real taste of freedom." Just as the weather was starting to show signs of spring, on Friday, March 13, 2020 everything came to a screeching halt. No more buses, no more in-person classes, no transition activities or career fairs – all those activities are no more…or are they?
As an educational consultant for Secondary Transition of students with disabilities, when the announcement came for the closing of schools, like many others, I was afraid that the secondary transition planning process would be hit the hardest. Everyone’s attention went to the “now” instead of looking ahead to the future (rightfully so). With so many in-person activities canceled, the struggle quickly shifted to finding ways to fulfill obligations towards transition, especially when in reality, parents/guardians themselves might be looking to transition to a new job, or navigating how to apply for unemployment benefits.
However, once the initial shock had worn off, it was obvious it was time to gain our footing, recalibrate, and continue planning for the next steps, even now that school days are coming to an end. Extend your learning by focusing and honing your knowledge and skills in these three core areas:
· employment, · postsecondary education and training, · independent living.
In this time of uncertainty and wading through the unknown, these areas can serve as a road map for guiding us in a positive, productive direction. Through virtual learning experiences, students can continue to break down activities into one of these categories – it just takes a bit of creativity to successfully reshape these activities into different learning experiences.
Ideas to help advance the transition planning process for each of these core areas for focus:
Employment Brush up on your virtual communication platforms. Since in-person interviews are likely not to happen anytime soon – it is important to be prepared if you are afforded the opportunity to interview that you are well prepared. You do not have to become an expert, but it is important that you are able to navigate around the platform.
Zoom - is one of the most widely used communication tools. Zoom is currently offering free accounts – get one and try holding a “meeting” with someone you know, like a family member.
Google Hangouts – another free communication tool to practice your interviewing skills.
Skype – Another free communication tool.
Careeronestop – is a source for career exploration through career videos, interest assessments, and other career information.
Thinking about college? Great! Most colleges are offering virtual tours and application processes now. Take time to explore those prospective schools to get to know the campus, requirements for majors, and how to apply online.
Bestcolleges.com – gives you the ability to compare universities or filter schools based on your desired major topic.
Dr. Kit – Success in School – offers opportunities to search and filter careers into broad categories.
Almost everyone needs to know how to manage a household. Whether you might rent or own a home or live in assisted living or a group home, it is important to know how to find and access resources and learn how to manage them once found – or even where to look to find housing.
Department of Human Resources – website dedicated to housing resources in Pennsylvania.
Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania – An advocacy organization dedicated to helping those in need connect with needed organizations.
So, don’t let fear paralyze you in your transitional journey. Leverage these tools and resources and you will be well on your way to enhancing the knowledge and skills you have been learning since your middle school years, and now in a virtual space!