The Lakeland area has a number of resources for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities as they begin to transition from high school to adulthood, but many families either don’t know they exist or where to find them.
To help guide families through their child’s transition period, the special education program at Lakeland Union High School, in conjunction with the local County Communities on Transition (CCoT), hosted its biannual Community Resource and Transition Night at the high school on Monday, Dec. 16.
According to LUHS director of special education, Stephanie Lewis-Caroselli, the opportunity for families and students to have access to all the area’s resources in one place is invaluable.
While several of the service providers represented feed into the high school’s special education curriculum, such as Working Independently and Gaining Self-Determination (WINGS) and Project LIFE, there were others families may have been less familiar with.
“When you look at TMG and Inclusa, Lakeland Care, a lot of those are adult service support agencies and sometimes those vendors change, which is confusing for the families,” Lewis-Caroselli said. “We try and keep that information out there and updated so that hopefully people can get what they need.”
A large provider of information for these types of services is the Aging and Disabilities Resource Center (ADRC).
Jennifer Sackett, who serves as an ADRC specialist for Oneida County and is a member of the CCoT team, was one of the ADRC representatives at the event.
In terms of youth transition services Sackett explained the two organizations work closely together: The CCoT focuses on individuals ages 14 to 21, while the ADRC works with individuals ages 17.5 to 21.
The local CCoT area includes three ADRC sites: the ADRC of Oneida County, the ADRC of Vilas County and the ADRC of the Northwoods (Forest County).
In addition to providing information about local resources, the ADRC helps individuals identify which services, benefits and programs they qualify for, including Medicaid, Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and more. The ADRC then supports them through the application process.
“We are the people that tell people, ‘Oh you should talk to DVR (Department of Vocational Rehabilitation),’ or ‘Oh you should talk to Headwaters,’ or ‘Oh you should talk to Nicolet College,’ so we find out what the issue is and then tell them which direction they should head,” Sackett said. “There’s lots of things that people don’t even know are out there.”
Though the primary issue is people are unaware of available resources, Lewis-Caroselli pointed out there are also many individuals who don’t realize they may qualify for a number of services.
While the 15 organizations at Transition Night are available to any student with an Individualized Education Program (IEP), Lewis-Caroselli said students with 504 Plans often qualify as well.
“Our mission is to facilitate transition of the students in our area,” she said. As a member of CCoT also, Lewis-Caroselli hopes to continue empowering families by keeping them informed about available resources.
Project SEARCH update
One of the Lakeland area’s most successful transition programs is Project SEARCH, which offers students and adults total workplace immersion through three 10-week internships.
The local Project SEARCH site is at the Howard Young Medical Center.
This year’s cohort includes seven interns and last Monday marked the first day of their second rotation. This rotation, interns were again assigned to a variety of departments including radiology, environmental services and laboratory.
One intern was assigned to a brand new rotation site known as the Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP), where he assists with elderly patients over 70 who have been assessed for health risks such as dementia.
“We’ve never had this site before, so we’re going to figure it out as we go and think about what he’s good at and what we can build upon,” program instructor Jennifer Varsik said.
Applications for next year’s Project SEARCH cohort are now being accepted and are due by Feb. 7. Part of the application process includes an assessment day, which will take place Feb. 17.
Varsik hopes the program will have 10 interns next year.
“That would be ideal,” she said.
The program is open to students and adults with developmental disabilities.
To find the Project SEARCH application, visit https://www.luhs.k12.wi.us/page/7686.
For more information about the program, contact Varsik at [email protected]
Delaney FitzPatrick may be reached via email at [email protected]