“Deciding Who They Want To Be: Young Adults With Special Needs Make Transition From School”

The article “Deciding Who They Want To Be: Young Adults With Special Needs Make Transition From School” by Aimee Caruso addresses the important topic that many families with special needs face: What’s next? After kids with special needs are out of high school, the matter of what comes next can be a hard one. For some families the decision may be obvious. For others, it may not be. Caruso addresses a few different options that families have and provides real examples from real people on how they have handled “What’s next?”

Deciding Who They Want To Be: Young Adults With Special Needs Make Transition From School

By Aimee Caruso, Valley News Staff Writer

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Leah Wright, 22, has spent the past few months settling back into the town she lived in until she was 11.

After graduating from Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts, she returned to Windsor, where she and her family have been laying the groundwork for the next chapter of her life.

On the weekdays, while her parents are working, she attends a special education program. Recently, Leah took a part-time job at a local convenience store — she likes the people and the pocket money.

Frank Vanek graduated from Woodstock Union High School in 2011, and soon after, his mother left her job to be his full-time caregiver. “Frankie,” now 23, is “ a sweet boy” with a good sense of humor, said Delia Vanek. Still, their life together isn’t easy. Money is tight and she has little time to herself. But Frank, a tall, burly guy whose special needs include a stress disorder, can be unpredictable, and his mother said she knows better than anyone how to help him.

Ryan Guidotti, 26, tried a number of different jobs after high school before he found his place. Long interested in health care, Guidotti completed Project Search, a school-to-work program for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities based at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Soon after, he landed a job at DHMC that really suits him, as well as an apartment of his own in Lebanon.

While they are in school, people with special needs are entitled to certain services and supports. But after graduating, they enter what is often called a “non-entitlement system ” —that is, services are not guaranteed. As young adults prepare to leave the cocoon of school, their parents face questions familiar to anyone who has raised a child. Where will he live? How will she cover her living expenses? How much support will she need?

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