When a parent has a child or a set of children whose high school days are nearing an end, it can be a worrisome time if the youth or set of youths doesn’t have his or her future lined up yet — especially if that child has a disability that could hinder them in their search to find their future career path.
However, Chad Phipps, a director with the Scioto County Board of Developmental Disabilities’ Service and Support Adminstration, Bridges to Transition Specialist and Southern Ohio Council of Government representative Theresa Rowland, and Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities representative Jackie Hines don’t want to see the struggles that many kids have ended up having when they’ve reached adulthood.
And it’s knowing how important intervention can be that drove the trio to accepting an opportunity to come to the Autism Project of Southern Ohio’s latest monthly meeting at the New Boston Community Center on Saturday evening. There, the trio spoke to approximately 40 people in attendance — including parents and youths from elementary school to high school age — about services that could help them on down the road.
“We just wanted to get the word out and speak to the families to let them know that these services are available,” Hines said. “It’s all about informing the families so that the kids can receive the assistance that they need in order to navigate employment if they want to try to find that.”
“This is basically about outreach,” Phipps said. “We’re just trying to get the word out to families and students about transitional services for those youth who are getting ready to graduate, and the planning process that can take place. We want people to be aware of the agencies that are available to them so that we can help them through the process after school is over, or even before school is over, which is the best practice. It’s all about collaboration and connecting systems.”
“It’s incredibly important to get the word out to us,” Rowland said. “It makes certain that individuals have the opportunities to fulfill their dreams of working in the community, so it’s great for them.”
The face-to-face outreach that was offered by the Scioto County Board of DD via its SSA program, the Southern Ohio Council of Government, and the Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities is critical, especially considering the amount of support that each program offers.
Phipps, who says that the Scioto County Board of DD will help anyone that was diagnosed with a disability prior to the age of 22 and who meets eligibility requirements across the county and state, oversees a program that offers service coordination, individualized planning, service quality monitoring, and service referrals.
“Knowing the supports that are out there, and the levels of supports that are offered, is huge,” Phipps said. “We also try to get this out to the school systems, the professionals, and the teachers that are out there, so that if they don’t know much about our agencies, we can make those connections, as well.”
While Phipps’ program assists with providing and looking over services, Hines works with the OOD to assist individuals with disabilities in their attitudes and habits in the workplace by developing work techniques and social skills that can allow them to succeed through the OOD’s Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation program. The BVR, according to the Ohioans with Disabilities website, offers assistance to eligible individuals with physical, mental, and emotional disabilities by providing direct, personalized services to assist said individuals in finding and retaining meaningful work and personal independence.
“People are usually very relieved,” Hines said when hearing about the program. “Just knowing that there’s help out there for them to navigate and try these things is big for them. They are just so happy to have some assistance from us to help them figure out what the next step in life will be for their kids.”
Bridges to Transition, which works together with both programs, not only provides job training, coaching, and development, but even offers a series of summer camps to individuals who want to seek additional training.
According to its pamphlet, Bridges offers a Summer Youth Career Exploration camp — which is offered for students in between the ages of 14 to 16 years of age, where students can job shadow and visit sites, either individually or in groups, for one summer — and a Summer Youth Work Experience program, which is offered for students over the age of 16, but who haven’t graduated high school yet, for four to six weeks. It focuses on a mixture of classroom instruction, job training, and work experience at various sites over two summers, with participants receiving minimum wage payment while in the program. Both camps come at no charge to the students who participate.
But while these programs are offered online, there’s only so much that an individual can learn through a computer or a mobile device, which is what made Saturday’s APSO meeting so valuable to those in attendance.
“I definitely see the value in this type of outreach as far as going out and meeting the people, making sure that they know about the services, and most importantly, making sure that they know how to access the services,” Phipps said. “It’s good to put a face to a name and, by meeting them and knowing what they are going through, point them to the right avenue. Systems can be complicated sometimes for people to access and comprehend, so that’s why we want to get out there and make these connections, so people know who to contact.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7