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617-658-9800

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603-818-8526

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Transition Assessment, Planning and Consultation Services at NESCA

Some Frequently Asked Questions

Transition is the process, ideally beginning at age 14 if not sooner and extending through high school graduation and beyond, by which an adolescent or young adult masters the life skills necessary to function independently in post-secondary school or the workplace. NESCA provides transition assessment, planning, consultation and support coordinated by Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS.

What do we mean by transition?

·        Transition in this context is the process of progressing from one life stage to another. The movement from secondary school to college and beyond, into the workplace, can be exciting but daunting. Our society has, in practice, addressed transition arbitrarily as an individual event coinciding with the completion of high school. At NESCA, we have redefined transition as a process that anticipates this milestone but extends beyond it, because ideally, the work should begin early and continue well beyond the event.

 What is transition planning and consultation?

·        Transition planning and consultation involve understanding and nurturing an individual’s post-secondary vision, and helping that student and his or her family identify resources, services, skills and strategies necessary to realize it. Young adults clearly benefit from the development of a long-term relationship dedicated to the construction of a solid bridge to adulthood that remains supportive beyond completion of secondary school.

 Why do we need this?

·        The transition from high school into college, vocational training, employment and/or independent living is a big shift and is stressful for every student, but for those with disabilities it can be that much more challenging. Research suggests that students who have participated in active planning toward realization of their own vision experience more success and satisfaction as young adults. It is important to remember that skills necessary for living a fulfilling and independent life go well beyond academic success.

 Why should we begin now?

·        Learning to cross the street, attend a sleep-over, buy one's own ice cream cone and make a phone call are all early steps toward transition. The list of skills to be mastered is infinite (aren't we all still working on something?) and prioritized based on the student's vision, but the more skills a student can truly master before making the transition, the easier it will be for everyone. In whatever novel situation follows high school, the more automatic a skill is, the more easily it will transfer to a new routine and setting.

 How does this differ from the process in the public schools that sets IEP goals and produces the Massachusetts Transition Planning Form (TPF)?

·        We collaborate with families and schools to optimize the use of the TPF, to assure that it is closely aligned with the student's vision and IEP goals. However, transition planning often needs to go much further. Transition services at NESCA complement school-based programs and remain available to a student through the entire transition period.

 Does NESCA perform transition assessments?

·        Yes. Highly individualized assessment is a very important aspect of the planning process. In many cases, neuropsychological evaluation will serve as the starting point from which other formal and informal assessment needs, including specialized aptitude testing and community-based observation, will be identified. This process is ongoing.

 Who benefits from transition planning and consultation?

·        This is a highly personal decision for each family and there is no age too early or too late. Massachusetts mandates that schools address transition goals beginning at age 14, but there are advantages to beginning to address transition even earlier. This allows a student and his or her family to enter into the school conversation fully prepared and with a better-defined vision to guide their work. It also allows the family to incorporate the long-term vision into their lifestyle and parenting decisions. Transition planning and support can also be provided for students later in the transition process as well as for those who have already completed high school.

 Who provides transition planning, consultation and case management at NESCA?

·        Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS is NESCA’s Director of Transition Services. She has been facilitating group programs for children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders since 2004. She received her Master’s Degree and Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Risk and Prevention Counseling from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Before joining NESCA, she was Program Director for the Northeast Arc’s Spotlight Program, where she oversaw drama-based programs for youth ages 6-22 with Social-Cognitive Deficits. Challen also spent four years at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Aspire Program (formerly called YouthCare) where she founded an array of life and career skills programs for teens and young adults with Asperger’s Syndrome.

 Who are the other members of NESCA’s transition team?

·        Neuropsychologists Jason McCormick, Psy.D. and Kate DellaPorta, Psy.D perform transition assessments in closely coordination with Kelley Challen. For more than a decade, Dr. McCormick has specialized in working with adolescents and young adults, particularly young men, with Asperger’s Syndrome, and is renowned in the field. Dr. DellaPorta performs community-based assessments, and addresses the emotional needs of students in transition through counseling psychotherapy. The nature and extent of their involvement are determined by the individual needs of each client.  

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