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Planning a Life Transition Conference: Meeting Families’ Needs

By Nancy Mader, Director of Transition Projects; Pat Nemia, Director of Massachusetts Family Voices,
and Katie Dahlerbruch, Massachusetts Family Voices Intern

The Planning a Life (PAL) two-day transition conference has served hundreds of parents, family members, and professionals throughout Massachusetts over the years.

The conference has provided a baseline of knowledge around the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), transition assessment, adult service agencies, and community resources. Also, it has furnished opportunities for parents and professionals to learn together about how they can better serve their students.

PAL has provided an umbrella of information that has met the needs of many families, but not all. For this reason, we are creating more specific PAL conferences based on feedback from families and to better meet the needs of more families.

Last spring we piloted Planning a Life: Preparing for College, a one-day transition conference for families of students on Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) who will graduate with a high school diploma with the vision of attending college.

The PAL conference covered disability disclosure and self-determination, Section 504 and American with Disabilities Act (ADA) accommodations, and hosted guest speakers from the disability services office of a local community college and community agencies that support college students. The day was a great success and made it clear that we need to expand our conference to reach more families.

This fall, the LINK Center is teaming up with Massachusetts Family Voices, both projects of the Federation, to create a PAL conference for families of students with medical complexity on IEPs.

Through our conversations with parents, we learned that our PAL conference did not account for the additional challenges that these families may face in transition planning and determining post-school outcomes for their children.

At this conference, we plan to cover the basics of transition planning included in the PAL conference and elaborate on the potential post-school outcomes for students with medical complexity, with the intent to better guide the transition planning process. In addition, presenters will address transition from pediatric to adult healthcare services, guardianship and alternatives for decision-making, and healthcare financing.

We aim to help families effectively communicate with the IEP team and better advocate for the goals and benchmarks necessary for the successful transition of their children with complex medical needs.

We are so excited about these new PAL conferences and can’t wait to meet new families from across the state. Please keep an eye on our website and social media for date and location announcements.