The legal transition to adulthood: information from the Utah Institute on Special Education Law

August 10, 2011 by JoLynne Lyon

photo of a teen with her parents

Parents and special educators need to understand the legal changes that come with adulthood.

Taken from a presentation by Lenore Knudtson of Knudtson Law LLC, at the Utah Institute on Special Education Law earlier this week in Ogden.

Growing up is hard enough. It’s even more complicated for young adults with disabilities. When they leave the public schools, they also leave the services associated with a free public education and enter a whole new set of rules, services and challenges.

Legal considerations will kick in, too. Both parents and special educators need to understand the legal changes that come with adulthood.

Special education students have the chance to stay in the public schools until they turn 22—provided that they don’t graduate with a regular diploma before then.  But at age 18, they are adults in the eyes of the law, unless some legal mechanism stops the transfer of rights. This means that after a student’s eighteenth birthday, he becomes the person who can give or revoke consent—essentially replacing the parent as his own responsible party.

Parents will continue to receive notices from the school, but all rights transfer to the student. The school is required by law to provide a notice to the parents of the coming transfer of rights.

When rights transfer to the student at age 18, she becomes the responsible party. She can decide whether to terminate special education services before her twenty-second birthday, whether to start a due process hearing or resolve a dispute through a legal settlement. She can approve her own IEP. If the student does not want her mother or father in the room when these decisions are made, she can exclude them.

So what happens if the student is not able to understand the decisions he will be asked to make? There are other options—guardianship, for example—but they need to be explored well before the child’s eighteenth birthday. Put it off too long, and the child’s IEP team may struggle with how to receive informed consent from a severely disabled 18-year-old student.

The IEP team needs to discuss these issues when the child is sixteen, or even earlier. Better planning can ease a special education student’s transition into the adult world.

This is one of many topics outlined at the 2011 Utah Institute on Special Education Law. The presenter offered some points for thought, but did not offer specific legal advice.

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Planning successful transitions for young adults

June 16, 2011 by cpehrson

Young adults with disabilities who are transitioning out of high school often feel that they have limited options for their future.  But, there are many opportunities they could choose, if they were only aware of them.

The New Community Opportunities  (NCO) Center’s goal is to help young adults with disabilities explore community-based options as they transition from high school settings to postsecondary education or employment situations, and to help them live independently.

NCO will train the staff of Centers for Independent Living  (CIL) to become aware of the many community options that are available as they help these youth make  successful transitions from  school to postsecondary education, employment, and independent living.

To prepare the CIL staff, the NCO is offering three webinars on their role  in facilitating and advancing successful youth transition.

The first webinar, “Youth Taking charge of Their Own Transition:  The Role of CILs,” was aired in April and is now available on-demand.

The second webinar, “Best Practice Models to Enhance Transition to College and Careers,” is airing on June 20th and addresses a number of new practices that help prepare students with disabilities for college and eventual employment. Registration is now open.

The third and last webinar for this year, “CIL Strategies for Involving Parents in the Transition Process,” will air on June 29th and identifies some best practices and strategies to assist parents with challenging situations, explain their important roles and describe the role of centers and their involvement.  Registration is now open for this webinar, also.

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PEER program embraces healthy lifestyles training

May 19, 2011 by JoLynne Lyon


The CPD’s Healthy Lifestyles training encourages a healthier way of life for young adults with developmental disabilities. People from different parts of the state received the training in group homes and transition programs, but we got a fun opportunity to see it in action here as well. Students at the CPD’s own PEER (Post-secondary Education, Employment and Research) program went through the healthy lifestyles training sessions, then reinforced what they learned in follow-up classroom activities.

“I’ve noticed that fewer of the kids drink soda pop,” said Kerry Done, the PEER project supervisor. The students can use money they have earned to purchase soda at the program now and again, and it’s been available to them, but they’re choosing not to buy it.

Another benefit is a better attitude toward physical activities. And when the students cook, they want to make nutritious foods more often. Kerry has seen fewer cookies and desserts, more main dishes and sides. The students also love the cookbook they’ve used in conjunction with the program.

The Healthy Lifestyles training encourages more than just eating right and exercise. Social engagement and meaningful activities are also encouraged–and PEER is a great place for all those things to happen.

The slideshow at the top of this post  shows some PEER students applying what they’ve learned. For a transcript, read the first comment.

The Healthy Lifestyles training is made possible through the Interagency Outreach Training Initiative.

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CPD Legacy Story: Andrea Pitts

January 5, 2011 by cpehrson

This first CPD Legacy Story of 2011 is from Andrea Pitts who has been associated with CPD projects for over five years.  Her story covers a wide range of experiences that you will enjoy reading about.

My name is Andrea Pitts.  I have been involved in various projects with the CPD since 2005. I started as an advocate, speaking solely from personal experience, as I have a physical disability of my own.  However, as I progressed through my schooling to become a social worker, I found myself combining my professional training with my life experiences, which helped broaden my perspective as an advocate.

The first project I participated in was the Medical Home. It was initially meant to teach medical professionals the importance of early preparation for transition from pediatric care to adult health care services. However, it later evolved into a greater goal of providing resources for both medical professionals and the families dealing with the disability on a daily basis.  Throughout the three year project, I worked with my peers refining the Medical Home website and speaking publicly about my own transitional process.  The Medical Home project was my first significant experience as an advocate and the passion I developed from making our voices heard has been absolutely invaluable for me both personally and professionally.

After closing the Medical Home project in 2008, I was asked to help launch the Becoming Leaders of Tomorrow (BLT) training and advocacy group.  The goal of this group was to help individuals with disabilities gain the skills and opportunities needed to empower themselves to direct their own goals for the future.  As the group progressed, we created a toolkit that can be found on the BLT website:  The toolkit encompasses information on various topics ranging from education, employment and tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The BLT project was another great stepping stone for my growth as an advocate.  I worked more closely with individuals with various types of disabilities, not just physical.  Gaining a greater multi-dimensional perspective of the disability community not only strengthened my voice as an advocate, but also my perspective of individuals, as a social worker.

While I was pursuing my Masters Degree in Social Work last year, I was asked to participate in 2009-2010 Utah Regional Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (URLEND) training program.  I represented the Social Work portion of the interdisciplinary hands-on learning approach of the URLEND program.  Though there were many other aspects of URLEND that are memorable for me, the activities I remember the most were the clinics.  We were asked to visit various clinics throughout Salt Lake City and Logan and work closely with families to provide any support or expertise they may need, but also to learn about the daily struggles they experience as a caregiver of a child with a disability.   These clinical experiences were absolutely invaluable to my professional perspective.  I was able to see the advantages of “one stop shopping” clinics where the child was able to see many disciplines (audiologist, speech pathologist, orthopedic specialist etc.) during one half day appointment rather than having to make multiple visits per month to ensure all the child’s health issues were being monitored.  Many parents personally praised the “one stop shopping,” stating that it made life so much easier to get it all done in one day.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a URLEND trainee and the information that I learned from the program as a whole will only help me better serve my future clients, both with and without disabilities.

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Putting the autism puzzle together

December 17, 2010 by JoLynne Lyon

The ASSERT classroom provides direct services to children with ASD--and it has more potential clients than it can serve.

This month, Utah State University experts in the autism field shared ideas on studying autism, working with the families of people who have autism spectrum disorder, and preparing them for life after high school.

Those at the autism summit work on different angles of the Autism Spectrum Disorder puzzle. Some provide direct services, others train leaders and self advocates, still others conduct research on the best treatments, offer technical assistance to communities or investigate the genetics of ASD. They represented the Center for Persons with Disabilities and three departments within USU’s College of Education and Human Services.

Still, some common themes emerged. Direct service providers within the college often have many more potential clients than they can handle. Adults with autism—and many other disabilities—often struggle to transition to adult life,  find work and live independently.

Those who attended the summit also discussed challenges specific to their own fields. Among their concerns:

• Although genetic research in autism is a very active field–and many research groups claim they have autism-gene associations–only a small percentage of autism cases can firmly be associated with genes, said the CPD’s Dr. Anthony Torres.

• Trainees in the field who finish their college education are likely to enter a real world where resources are scant, especially when it comes to serving adults with disabilities. It makes educating future leaders difficult, said CPD Director Bryce Fifield. Should faculty members train students to follow advanced methods and practices that are not available in the real world, or educate them for the reality they will face when they graduate?

• Insurance companies balk at funding autism treatments in a field where evidence-based, successful approaches are just emerging.

Their conclusion: A more comprehensive approach between the many disciplines that work with ASD could help resolve these issues. The leaders within the College of Education agreed to share information across disciplines and departments to move toward that goal.

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