By Cindy Davis
Transitioning out of the educational system into the “real world” can be a daunting task for families of adolescents with special needs. There are so many factors to consider, including housing, work opportunities, social networks and more. In attempt to demystify the process, and as part of their joint “Make it Matter – Inspirations” lecture series, the Make it Matter organization and Inspirations Newspaper presented a seminar this winter called Transition Planning: When and how for parents, caregivers and professionals.
Held at the English Montreal School Board, guests began the evening by meeting with exhibitors from agencies, organizations and businesses that provide services to adults with special needs,
|Guests mingle with exhibitors.|
Guest speakers at the seminar included specialists in the field who discussed key aspects of transitioning from a variety of perspectives. Jennifer Grier, a social worker at the Rehabilitation Program in Specialized Schools at the MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre, focussed on the importance of working with a strong social worker who can assess individual and familial needs and provide support and links to networks in a variety of areas - from personal care and medical support, to sex education and changing self-awareness of the individual.
Pina Evangelista, a TÉVA Consultant (Transition École Vie Active) for the EMSB informed participants on the services provided by TÉVA, a cooperative planning program that guides children and families through the transitioning process. Evangelista noted that the personalized service generally meets with families three times per year starting as many as three years before the child transitions, and not only enables the child to self-advocate, but guides them in gaining important life-skills such as house care, vocational skills, managing friends and relationships and health and social services.
|Guest panel takes questions from the crowd.|
Suzanne Cloutier, Associate Director of Rehabilitation at CIUSS Centre Ouest de l’ile, discussed housing opportunities for people with autism, intellectual and physical disabilities. With waitlists for housing as long as 5-10 years, Cloutier discussed other options like private homes, and even the possibility of one converting their own home to house other individuals with disabilities. Cloutier also touched upon the emotional aspects for parents of transitioning children when rehousing them, including guilt and uncertainty, and the ways to cope with these emotions.
Harriet Sugar Miller and Helene Donath, also spoke briefly about Club Alink, an advocacy group they co-founded, made of up parents of young adults with special needs, whose mission is to create an inclusive community for young adults within the wider community.
The evening closed with, what at times, was a heated Q & A session with Cloutier, where parents in the crowd expressed concern with provincial housing options.
|Julie René de Cotret, Lew Lewis, and Pina Evangelista.|
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