For Parents of Teens with Medical Challenges, Early Planning Key to Effective Transition to Adulthood

Parents of teens with chronic medical or physical challenges can help ease the shift to young adulthood through careful and early planning, according to educational and financial consultants who specialize in helping families through this transition.

Stuart Flaum, ChSNC, a consultant whose practice focuses on the financial aspects of special needs planning, and Joan Harrington, a special education advocate, addressed more than 30 parents whose children are part of Movin’ On, a Chai Lifeline program that helps high-school age teens with chronic illnesses or disabilities transition to adulthood. They came together for Movin’ On’s conference, “Your Child’s Financial and Educational Future.”

Mr. Flaum, managing director of Stuart Flaum Consulting, LLC, noted the trend toward self-determination, or allowing a child to choose how she or she will live and interact in the community as an adult. As life expectancy increases, space in group homes for people with disabilities is becoming less available. Self-determination allows young adults and their families to examine the person’s strengths and plan for a future where he or she will be most personally fulfilled. The change in attitude and policy may free up public money for young adults who live independently, with aides, or with parents, that families can access. Because each family’s situation is unique, Mr. Flaum made no recommendations at the conference,

“While Mr. Flaum could not discuss specific programs or allocations, he invited Movin’ On families to consult privately with him about their children’s futures,” said Sara Schreier, LMSW, Movin’ On’s project coordinator. “Several parents already approached him, and he is genuinely excited to be able to help.”

IEPs or the Individual Education Plans that must be created and filed for all children who require special educational services, are crucial tools to helping teens prepare for adulthood. Joan Harrington, president of EASE, emphasized that parents can request – and fight for – any service that is connected to one of three objectives: the development of employment and other post-high school living objectives; acquisition of daily living skills; and functional vocational assessment. While most of these services will likely take place within an educational setting, parents can request that some take place outside of school.

“Teens can access services that will help them get ready for employment or individual living through their IEPs,” explained Mrs. Schreier. “Additionally, children who ae no longer receiving Board of Education services can look for funding through ACCES-VR, the New York State agency whose mission is to help individuals with disabilities achieve their employment goals.”

“One of the major challenges facing families of teens with chronic illness is the transition from the pediatric to the adult worlds,” commented Rabbi Simcha Scholar, Chai Lifeline’s executive vice president. “Movin’ On helps bridge the gap through mentors and professional intervention that helps teens focus and move towards their futures.”

The Movin’ On Conference is a component of Chai Lifeline’s transition program for teens ages 14 – 17 to help them move from into adulthood. The program includes individualized assistance in goal setting and skills development that enable teens to actualize educational and employment opportunities. For more information on the program, contact Sara Schreier at 212 699-6679.

Funding for Movin’ On has been provided by the JE and ZB Butler Foundation.

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