July 01, 2005

Graduating, Disabilities & Budget Cuts

Aging Out': When Disabled Children Get Too Old for Public Education

A new article discusses the significance of high school graduation for the disabled. Many "good" high school districts provide services for disabled children. Through these services, disabled students are able to receive individualized education. And, their parents get help with "handholding and paperwork-filing." But, what happens after graduation? It seems that "...because of recent federal budget cuts, and chronic gaps in community funding for adults with disabilities, those leaving public education are 'losing a level of care they can't replicate...'" In fact, some disabled consider their high school graduation day to be a "day of mourning." After this day, many will be on long waiting lists, hoping to enter into some sort of government provided vocational training. Needless to say, such programs are few and far between. In addition, graduation day usually means the beginning of more responsibilities for the parents of disabled:

...Once students graduate, parents must take charge, searching for vocational and mental-health programs paid for by the state or covered by insurance. They have to get their children on waiting lists for day care. Some parents tell social workers that they feel like they've gone from being a ship's passenger to being the captain.

Fortunately, some places like "the PACER Center in Minneapolis" provide hope for both disabled children and their parents. The PACER Center helps people become more informed about the system by showing them how to navigate it, and by educating them about what options are available to them:

The PACER Center...is a national information center for families with disabled loved ones. "I always tell parents, 'Never take 'no' from a government agency without asking, 'To whom do I appeal this decision?'" says Jane Johnson, a PACER transition specialist.PACER also advises parents to start planning five to 12 years before their kids graduate, and to learn all they can about laws regarding housing, medical care and employment. If their children are capable of more independence, parents also must learn to involve their children in decisions -- and to let go.



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