Increase Parent Engagement in the Transition Planning Process: Available Services & Supports

consumer math govt and community benefits teacher experience teacherspayteachers transition Jan 31, 2021
Calling all transition special education teachers, transition specialists, and staff who want to increase the support they offer to families and students who will access services post high school! This blog post about increasing parent engagement in the transition planning process is for YOU!
If a parent/guardian asked you if SSI or SSDI was right for their student, how would you answer? If they wanted to know how to find a good program that meets their students needs after they turn 22 yrs old (or 24 or 26, depending on your state), would you have ideas? Do you know how many of your students have State ID’s? Do you know where to find Power of Attorney, Guardianship, and Supported Decision Making paperwork and forms for parents who are interested?
If that paragraph above read like more special ed jargon or made you slap your hand on your forehead (just like the emoji), then keep reading. I’ve outlined 4 ways you can help your families learn about the options for services and support available post exit from special education services.
This is Part 1 of a 3 part blog post series on how to support students/young adults and families as they exit or transition from special education services.
Depending on your role- teacher/transition specialist/case manager/etc.- you may be the expert or you may need to connect with the expert in your district to execute these ideas. Either way, making connections and sharing individualized information with families is invaluable. Trust that they will be overly thankful for your guidance as they navigate this tetris-like world.
Here are 4 ways you can provide family-focused education about post-school services and supports:

1. Weekly Informational Emails

Send weekly emails about transition topics. You can do this large scale, with all the families in your program, or small scale, with all the families on your caseload. Either way, sending a weekly email with easy to read, digestible, plain language information on topics that families need and want to know about is a great way to start!
I worked with another teacher over summer break a few years back to develop weekly emails on a variety of topics. We scheduled them to send every Tuesday morning during the school year. The response we got was overwhelmingly positive (like, knock-you-over-overwhelming)! Parents were so appreciative of the information, as were fellow teachers and high school staff.
We focused on making the information brief, easy to understand, and with links or contact information to local agencies or websites.
Not to mention, as we wrote these emails, we personally became more aware of resources and available services and supports. It was like our own professional development (which was free of charge)!
*Reach out to your district or department tech rep to learn how to schedule emails (I scheduled every email over the summer to send during the school year) and create email groups that you can add members to throughout the year.

2. Check It Off Event

Consider hosting a small event where local agencies and service providers come to your school and your families ‘check things off their to-do list’ all in 1 night!
Ask local agencies to come in and meet individually with families to get the process started. The event can be 2-4 (or more) hours and families can sign up for 1 hr appointments to get the conversation and proverbial ball rolling on accessing services.
I’ve held an event like this in my district and case managers reached out to families who have been putting off important tasks (like getting on the state funding list) and asked them what time they could come in. We had 3 agency reps come for 4 hours (making 12 1 hr appointments). We quickly filled up the few slots and had a waitlist! We held another event a few months later and had another waitlist after that. The parent feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Most families signed up for 1-3 time slots and walked out feeling like they made big steps towards setting up their student for success (which they did, which was incredible)! When parents came to a comfortable, familiar location (like school) they were more apt to make the appointment and follow through (score!).
Be sure to get a list of necessary paperwork the families should (or must) bring to each appointment and communicate that with families.
Possible agencies:
  • Social Security office for SSI/SSDI
  • DMV rep for State IDs
  • State Funding source rep to enroll for funding or the waitlist
  • Agencies that assist with guardianship/power of attorney/supported decision making
  • Agencies that assist with enrolling in Medicaid
  • Reps that can assist or explain special needs trust/ABLE accounts
*Be cautious with the agencies and service providers you invite. Most will likely come for free, but some may require a fee. You also don’t want your district to ‘recommend’ any agency, so steer clear of using that language.

3. Family Group Presentations

If you are learning about local services and supports, then your families need to be too! Consider creating a committee to set up presentations for families to attend and learn from. Again, most agencies and service providers will present to families for free and are willing to come in to share their knowledge and information in the evening hours, per my experience.
If this is of interest to you, but your schedule won’t allow for all the planning, contacting, and promoting, then reach out to neighboring districts. They may have their own family group and presentation schedule that you could attend and promote with your families.
With the recent shift to schools using Zoom/Google Meet, my district’s family group committee partnered with two other local districts to split the planning and presentation schedule. We are all using the same promotional materials to encourage our families to attend and learn. This is a win for all!

4. To-Do Checklist or Timeline for Families

If all of the other ideas are beyond your scope, then consider using a to-do checklist/timeline of tasks for families. You can start sharing these lists with families when their student is in high school. Print and go!
*Tip- Print this on an annoyingly bright colored paper so it really sticks out amongst the other white packets of paper that are sent home!
Now, let me wrap this post up by mentioning that you don’t need to work HARDER in order to better support your families, you just need to work SMARTER! My hope is that you have gained one way you can support your families through the transition process.

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