Fair assists transitioning students with disabilities

By Sara Bruestle | Mar 20, 2013
Courtesy of: Elizabeth DeRoche Christopher DeRoche works at the Skip Rock Distillery in Snohomish. Christopher, who has autism, is a special needs student at Mariner High School. He is about to graduate, and getting a job is one step he and his family are taking as he transitions out of school.

As students with disabilities graduate from high school, many of their families find themselves asking: What now?

These students and their families can find continued support at the16th annual Snohomish County Transition Resource Fair to be held March 26 at Cascade High School in Everett.

The fair is an opportunity for families to meet more than 60 agencies and find out about the resources and support available for their children with developmental disabilities as they transition from high school.

“There’s a big gap between when an individual is supported in the schools system and when they transition out into adult life,” said Matt Hayden of the vocational agency Diversified in Mukilteo, one of the agencies that will be at the fair.

“You can stay in the school system until you’re 21 if you have a disability, but after that point, you have to make sure you have your footing pretty solid.”

The free fair will be from 4-8:30 p.m. and focuses on students with disabilities ages 14-21. Programs and services are available to help them successfully become a part of their community.

“Your life is going to change very massively, and here [at the fair] is everybody that can help you,” Hayden said. “It’s kind of like one-stop shopping for advocates and support.”

Agencies will provide information on advocacy, assistive technology (such as iPads to enhance communication), financial support, educational resources, affordable housing, transportation, in-home support, guardianship, Social Security, wills and trusts, canine companions, recreational opportunities, health care, counseling, employment and more.

“Everything you need is provided through your school, but that stops after you graduate,” Hayden said.

“That’s why even individuals age 14 are encouraged to go, because you need to know that that person you’ve been working with for five years will no longer be able to work with you.”

The following free classes will also be offered at the fair:

• 3:30 p.m. Snohomish County Developmental Disabilities Board Meeting

• 4:30 p.m. Transportation Options Panel

• 4:30 p.m. Wills and Trusts

• 5:30 p.m. Legal Decisions at Age 18

• 5:30 p.m. Access to Healthcare in WA State

• 6:45 p.m. Housing Options Panel

• 6:45 p.m. Transition Success Stories

• 7:40 p.m. Overview of Social Security

• 7:40 p.m. Overview of the Division of Developmental Disabilities

Elizabeth DeRoche, of Everett, is in the process of helping her son Christopher transition out of school. Christopher, who has autism, is a special needs student at Mariner High School.

Now that Christopher is 21, he and his family are finding that they need to connect with resources and support other than what has been provided through the Mukilteo School District.

“Once he gets out of school, I don’t want him sitting at home doing nothing,” DeRoche said. “What comes after school? What is there for him?”

As part of his transition, Christopher recently got a job working at the Skip Rock Distillery in Snohomish. He works two hours a day, two days a week. It’s not much, but it’s a start.

His family will go to the fair to find classes and resources to help Christopher become more independent and continue work on communication, as well as sibling support for his two younger sisters.

Christopher’s is one of three success stories featured at the fair. Though he hasn’t graduated yet, Christopher and his family are taking the steps necessary to make his transition from high school easier.

“The overall goal is for an individual to feel confident and secure in their transition into adult life – into their own destiny,” Hayden said.

The fair is co-sponsored by Snohomish County’s Human Services Department, the Snohomish County Transition Council and Everett Public Schools.

Cascade High School is at 801 E. Casino Rd. in Everett.

For a list of agencies attending go to www.snoco.org and search Developmental Disabilities. For more information, contact the Snohomish County Developmental Disabilities’ Division at 425-388-7259 or ddinfo@snoco.org.

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