Sunday, March 14, 2010

Planning for Life After School

Ms. Helene F. Craner, L.M.S.W., the Associate Director of the Resources for Children with Special Needs, Inc., conducted a workshop on “Life After High School,” co-sponsored by the National Autism Association -New York Metro Chapter, on Wednesday, March 10, 2010.

Ms. Craner reminded the audience that “time flies and before we know it; our children on the spectrum have suddenly grown up” and that it is critical to plan – and plan early - for “Life After High School.” “In the eyes of the law, anyone who is 18 years old is an adult regardless of any disabilities. The transition from a child to an adult brings with it a whole special set of challenges for the young adult and his or her parents,” she said.

Ms. Craner explained the transition from the educational system to adult services – which, depending at least in part on the type of diploma a student achieves – occurs, at the latest at age 21. Ms. Craner walked the group through the period of transition and discussed how to prepare. While discussing the federal Individuals with Disability Education Act (“IDEA”), she outlined the rights and entitlements of transitioning students. She highlighted the mile posts on this timeline to adulthood and pointed out things that need to be done for a successful transition.

Ms. Craner explained that, “The parents should start to address work and career goal before middle school. If possible, the child should be given an allowance and be taught money management. By the age of 12-14, the student and family should participate in level I vocational assessment. Student should learn about different types of high school diplomas offered in NY State during the middle school years. At the age of 15, transition goals should be part of the IEP and from then on, transition should be discussed at every annual IEP meeting. A valuable gift is the gift of travel training and other transportation options that parents can give to their teenager.”

After leaving the educational system and the protections afforded by the IDEA, a young adult must prove that he is disabled to be eligible for public services. To prove eligibility, records such as IEP documents, psychological and physical evaluations, and disability determinations come in handy. She emphasized the value of good record keeping starting when your child first begins to receive services.

Ms. Craner explained that the intake to the N.Y. State’s Office of the Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD) in order to receive adult services is facilitated through its contracted agencies and borough wide offices. The child and the family must get through a long waiting list, psychological tests, reviews, and lot of paper work to establish eligibility for OMRDD services. She distributed contact information for various offices in the department of education, OMRDD, article 16 clinics, adult mental health services, independent living services, and tools for planning for employment.

She went on to explain that, because a child legally becomes an adult at age 18, there are additional safeguards parents need to address for children with disabilities. For example the parents should have planned for guardianship by that time. Financial planning, including applying for Medicaid and SSI also should be in place.

NAA-NY Metro thanks Ms. Craner for providing this important information to our families.

Ms. Craner can be reached at Resources for Children with Special Needs, Inc located at 116 East 16th Street, 5th Floor, NY, NY 10003. Tel: 212-677-4650. email: The organization’s website details the many services the organization provides to New York City residents, including training sessions. Further, access to a database of approximately 8,000 programs specific to special needs individuals can be found at

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