I Wish I Would Have Known This as a New Transition Teacher

govt and community benefits special education teachers teacher experience transition May 11, 2021
I would say it was my first or second year teaching transition when I heard one of my fellow teachers mention 'SSI.' They were curious what the difference was between SSI and SSDI. As you might assume, I was unaware and thought it didn’t apply to me.
What I didn’t know then is that I should have asked. That inquiry could have led me to understanding. That could have led me to helping families. That could have led my students and families to getting the government benefits and supports they needed and deserved. But, I didn’t know.
My memory is a bit hazy, but I think I was teaching transition for about 3-4 years or so when I started to realize that there were benefits available to my young adults and their families. My understanding went as far as knowing they were important and suggesting that parents go and apply. If that isn’t vague and unhelpful, then I don’t know what is.
Roughly a few years ago the switch flipped and I started attending trainings on benefits, listening to speakers explain the process, and watching webinars about how everything works. It clicked for me. Since that time I’ve become headstrong in helping my families get the services and supports that are appropriate for them. I knew that I could work tirelessly to help my young adults learn incredible skills while at school, but if the family didn’t have the means to pay for day programs or transportation to get to the volunteer or paid job, then it really didn’t mean anything. The skill would fade away because they couldn’t access an environment to maintain it. (Sigh)
There are supports out there for individuals and families to make their ideal vision of life after special education a reality.
Let me say that again, for those who are skimming…
There are supports out there for individuals and families to make their ideal vision of life after special education a reality.
Okay, I’m glad you know that you need to be in the know NOW.

What did I learn about?


Here is the run down:

  • SSI 
  • SSDI
  • Medicaid
  • Medicaid Waiver for Home-Based/CILA funding (each state has their own name, IL calls it PUNS)
  • Housing (supportive housing, community housing, and more)
  • Transportation (reduced, free, and door-to-door)
  • Guardianship, Power of Attorney, and (eventually in IL) Supported Decision Making
  • Department of Human Services- Home Based Services
If that list above is a foreign language that you don’t understand, I get it. I was there. Sadly, I was unaware for far too long.
If you want to begin the journey to understanding, check out this What You Need to Know About SSI 1 pager. This will not only help you, but it is also a great resource for your families (available in Spanish)!
If the list above of available benefits and supports for students with developmental and intellectual disabilities makes you curious, then you are unstoppable and your families will be the ones most thankful for this new found fire!
It can feel like a lot to learn, but you can do it! You can also email me at [email protected] and I’ll be happy to chat about this little known topic that is, in fact, a very big deal for students in transition!

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