Whether you are just starting your search or it has been a long journey to get to this point, allow me to help you navigate the sometimes complicated transition from high school to post secondary for your young adult with LD/ADHD and/or Autism Spectrum.  It may seem at times like you are wading through a thick forest of trees, but there are rays of hope and options to consider more today then even five years ago.

I come at this quest to help your young adult find the “right fit” as a parent who has been in your shoes.  A parent who has had to advocate for my LD/ADHD child throughout his school years, both in the public and private school system.  I feel your anxiety, your apprehension and yes, your excitement about the next step in your young adult’s life.  Because it should be exciting for both you and your young adult! After all, isn’t that our job as a parent? To help our children become confident, responsible and independent adults?  It may take some a little longer than others, but that ultimately should be our goal.  Contact me if you are ready to embark on this new journey. Together we will search for the “right fit”, hand-in-hand, step-by-step.

Connecticut Shore Tour May 2016


13116385_10153755033692979_8533424560594411011_oIn May I joined a group of independent educational consultants and toured five schools/ programs in two days along the beautiful Connecticut shoreline. While each serve students with individualized needs they each do it in a very different way.

Our first stop was The Grove School in New Haven, Connecticut. This small co-educational therapeutic boarding school meandered across a country road. Three very engaging students guided us around campus showing us the academic buildings, health center, residence halls and even their farm animals complete with a chicken coop.  The Grove School specializes in helping kids 7th through 12th grade with social, emotional and learning challenges that have impacted the quality of their lives. The Grove School helps each student understand themselves and their needs while meeting their academic achievements in a safe and supportive environment.  They also offer a post-graduate/transition program “tailored to the student’s individual interests, capabilities, and goals. This includes opportunities to gain further education at local colleges, adult educational programs, trade and technical schools, as well as employment, and volunteering experiences.”

Next stop was Chapel Haven East. This residential program in New Haven, Connecticut supports adults 18-28 with “special challenges to live independent and productive lives.” They offer an Asperger’s Syndrome Adult Transition Program designed to be a transition to independent adult life. After meeting three of their clients, who were engaging in their own unique way, staff members led the tour through the resident hall where classes are also held such as Financial Management. We also were led through a house on campus where students are provided more independence. Chapel Haven East is embarking on a $41M capital campaign to completely reimagine their campus to fit within their architectural surroundings and make it look less institutional. It is in need of updating but with the vision of the program director after this project is complete it will become a model for other programs serving the autism spectrum population also including the aging population in an assistive living community.

Vista Life Innovations in Madison, Connecticut shared their unique way to serve their population of individuals with disabilities. Vista offers “community-based transition programming, employment services, advocacy services, arts programming, recreational programming, benefits counseling, assessment services and a summer program for prospective students.” The program helps each of their residents live independent lives each working in the community and learning life skills such as cooking for themselves and their roommates, cleaning their living spaces and managing their money. They offer homes and apartments within the community that may be family owned as well as a larger residence hall setting. Vista offers a broad range of services that includes transitional programming, assessment services, arts programming, day programming and much more. The community art program is offered for residents and connected to a gift shop.

The next day our first stop was to Oxford Academy in Westbrook, Connecticut. This one-to-one individualized learning program for young men was impressive. After visiting with a panel of six boys ranging from 9th to 12th grade it was easy to see who this school served and the benefits of one-to-one individualized learning. Oxford Academy is “A holistic curriculum and one-to-one teaching allow for students to take appropriate academic risks and build self-confidence.”While the school did not necessarily cater to students with learning challenges, the one-to-one environment can “find success through increased self-awareness and strategic effort. “We were invited to their community meeting and observed each student while they sat in their own study cubby. Student’s independence at Oxford allows them to  walk or ride their bike into town during free time.

Our last stop was Franklin Academy, the little school on the hill that sprawled acres focusing exclusively on boys and girls in grades 8 – 12 who have been diagnosed with Nonverbal Learning Disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Asperger’s Syndrome. Their program “combines four integral components:  Academics, Social/Emotional Understanding, Executive Functioning, and Self Advocacy/Self Reliance.” After viewing the residence hall, classrooms, the recreation hall and a community meeting we were treated to a lunch with students as well as a panel discussion with the students. The students we met at Franklin were very aware of themselves and how their diagnosis affects them in their studies and in life. The FLI program is offered for seniors and postgraduate students and supports them in their growth toward independence, responsibility, and self-advocacy leading to skills necessary for optimal college success.

It was a treat to visit these very diverse schools and programs each exuding the flavor of their New England surroundings while serving the individual needs of their students.  Thank you also to our hosts for making this not only an informative trip but a fun one as well, lobster bib and all!

College Selection: The Final Choice

It’s down to the wire, time to make the final college choice. Having more than one college choice is an exciting opportunity for any student and their parents.  And while factors such as location, size, campus life and majors are important there are other data points to consider that might help tip the scale.  Here are a few items to consider to help make the difficult choice:

College Testing Resources

Colleges and Universities That Do Not Use SAT/ACT Scores to Admit Substantial Numbers of Students Into Bachelor Degree Programs

Financial Aid Resources

Net Price Calculator: Tool to Determine your Net Price to Attend a College or University.

Other College Selection Resources

College Completion Rates: List of Graduation Rates from Public four-year colleges, Public two-year colleges, Private four-year colleges, For-profit four-year colleges, For-profit two-year colleges.



What is your measure of success for your student after graduation?

Is it completing a four year college degree? Is it completing a two year associates degree? Is it completing a trade school and entering an apprenticeship program?  Or maybe it is obtaining gainful employment out of high school to help them be independent tax paying, health insured adults.  Or a combination of the above. Whatever your measure of success is for your student, it doesn’t happen by chance or at least successfully by chance.

I have witnessed many parents and students during their student’s senior year of high school who are panicked because they are not sure what direction to go. However, often times that same panic is not with the student.  Many of the students have a dream but unfortunately it isn’t realistic for a number of reasons. It might not be commiserate with their abilities,  doesn’t meet the financial constraints of their family or just isn’t well thought out.  Of course, there are those few that do have a good plan and that is when you say…go for it! If it fails, you are there for them to make adjustments.

Transition planning is so important to the lives of our students with LD, ADD and High Functioning Autism.  Transition planning should start when the student is in 8th grade and continually be updated each year and even well after they graduate.  Each year should have specific goals that includes the input of your student.  If you don’t have student led conferences at your high school request one and require your student be involved.  (that’s another blog, stay tuned)  Helping your student learn their abilities and how to reach their goals is an important self advocacy skill.

Strategies for Transition Planning*

Ideas for Students

  • Write down your long-term goals.
  • What do you think you need to do to reach these?
  • Read your IEP and transition plan. Is it happening?
  • If you want to lead your own IEP meeting or conference, tell others and ask for help, if needed.
  • Learn about your civil rights under the law, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Learn about your disability.
  • Learn to explain your strengths, and how to ask for reasonable accommodations.
  • Practice job interviews and/or asking for accommodations.
  • Talk with your doctor and parents about your health care needs so that you will be ready to take responsibility for them.

Ideas for Parents & Guardians

  • Observe your son’s or daughter’s independent living skills, work behaviors, social involvement, dreams, and hopes.
  • Call your child’s teachers and ask that transition services, including financial planning, be addressed at your next meeting.
  • Help your child learn about his or her disability and how to ask for the supports he or she needs.
  • Give your child responsibility for chores at home.
  • Role-play different situations with your child (e.g., interviews).
  • Introduce your child to adult role models with disabilities.
  • Look in your phone book and identify three new possible resources to help your son’s or daughter’s transition to adult activities.

Ideas for Teachers

  • Talk to students and families about transition services.
  • Ask to attend a conference, workshop, or other learning opportunity related to transition.
  • Teach students about their civil rights under the law, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Pledge to conduct collaborative, needs-based IEP meetings that empower youth and families.
  • Provide youth with step-by-step activities that familiarize them with the IEP process and prepare them to take active roles.
  • Call the local rehabilitation counselor or disability services case manager and coordinate a meeting.
  • Develop a folder that contains information you have about community resources and how to access them and share with IEP Team members, transition councils, families, students, and administrators.

*Strategies for Transition Planning section adapted from a publication of the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY) entitled, “Transition Planning: A Team Effort,” (1999; resources updated 2002) by Sharon H. deFur, Ed.D., College of William and Mary. Contact NICHCY for the original and complete publication.

Does your student have a plan for transition after high school?  If not, talk with your school principal or counselor to create one. Or email or call me and I can help get you started.