Please enjoy this very practical and informative post written by guest blogger Rebbeca Rubin, LCSW-C. Please see then end of the post for more information about Rebecca.
As graduation season approaches, many young adults feel excited to enter a new phase of life. For transitioning youth with disabilities and their families, this excitement is often coupled with trepidation and uncertainty. Many students have become accustomed to secure, structured school environments. Some have attended the same school program for several years, so they are used to the same services, supports, and staff.
The experience of adult services can represent a sharp departure from this familiar routine. In place of one program, many young people need to obtain services from multiple organizations, each with their own set of protocols and norms. The transition can be bumpy, even in the best of circumstances; still, families and youths can manage these bumps, especially if they apply certain communication strategies with their new agencies. The following tips can help young people and their families to get off on a positive start with their service providers:
• Find out the contact information for the staff and supervisor who will be working with the individual, and with whom you should be in regular communication.
• Ask each agency if you can to meet in advance with the people who will be working directly with the individual. It is possible that agencies will not know who these people will be this until close to the start date.
• Ask agency contacts about the best time and way (e.g., email vs. phone) to communicate both general questions and specific concerns. Re-evaluate your modes of communication on regular basis to ensure that things continue to run smoothly.
• Ask the staff person who is working directly with the individual if you can meet at mutually agreed upon times to speak about progress. Unless there is an emergency, try to save all questions and concerns for these designated times.
• Ask to use a communication log/book to jot down simple updates and requests. Avoid using this communication as a means to address concerns.
• If you have a specific concern, raise it promptly, but give agencies a reasonable amount of time to evaluate the situation before they respond.
• When discussing new strategies with provider Agencies, keep in mind that what worked in the school or home setting may not effective or realistic in the new setting.
• Try to work out issues with your contact person directly. If you have repeated difficulties with communication and/or cannot resolve important issues, consider involving the Supervisory staff.
• Keep the Resource/Service Coordinator in the loop of communication when discussing major concerns.
• To streamline communication between multiple service providers, make sure to sign a consent form so that all parties can speak openly to each other on behalf of the individual receiving services.
• Ask the school if there is a particular teacher/staff who can give input toward goals or problem solving to the new providers. Make sure that provider agencies have that school staff’s contact information and a consent form to speak about the individual.
As you implement these strategies, it is useful to remember that issues and problems are common for many individuals at nearly all agencies as individuals adjust. The number of initial concerns is not always the best indicator as to whether an program or agency is a good fit; a better measure is how agencies and families can address and resolve the problems that arise. If families endeavor to develop a cooperative, collaborative partnership with agencies by utilizing the communication tips outlined above, they will become an essential partner in solving problems and forging a brighter future for their young adult in transition.
Rubin, LCSW-C, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Montgomery County who has recently started Disability Support Solutions, which focuses on helping families that inc with disabilities to design the independent life they imagine. Her services include transition and later life planning, case management, entitlement and funding exploration, mediation of existing services, and advocating for new services. Rebecca has offices in Silver Spring and Rockville, but can also meet with families in their home or other convenient community settings. Please visit Rebecca at www.disabilitysupportsolutions.com for more information.