All Tuesday Tips

We’ve learned a new word. Teaching proper netiquette, the do’s and don’ts of online communication, can help students better understand what is socially acceptable when they are online for personal or professional purposes. Encourage your learners to consider how an outsider, perhaps a future employer, would view their media sites.

Help students understand that what they write and post on social media platforms, things like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, are public, are permanent, and can have a long-term effect. (And middle school teachers, this applies to many of your students as well, since they may already be experienced social media users.) Nowadays, future employers, co-workers, college admissions officers, and faculty can and often do check out an applicant’s or individual’s online presence.

Tell your students to choose a long-term email address they can use for college and employment applications, resumes, and scholarship opportunities. Encourage them to leave out nicknames or anything inappropriate. Ask them, "Will this email address make a good impression?" A professional email address doesn’t always have to be a full name. Some suggestions might be a combination of first name, last name, and/or initials.

Be sure to share the Top 20 Social Networking Etiquette Tips for Teens with your students. By teaching netiquette rules for working online, you can promote online and real world best practice: Be kind and courteous and treat others as they want to be treated.

Other Resources

As of last week, the General Assembly is back in business at the Indiana State House. That may be especially interesting for your students this year, because state legislators are working on our two-year funding plan—the Indiana Biennial Budget.

Since Indiana puts together a budget only every other year, budget years get a lot of attention. When the General Assembly convenes in January (and even before Jan.1), they hear from stakeholders including state agencies (e.g., IDOE, FSSA, Department of Agriculture), individuals, special interest groups, businesses, schools, cities, and townships, all of whom have suggestions on how the state’s money should be spent.

The budget is the legislative blueprint for how much we will spend on programs and services in our communities for things like COVID prevention and treatment programs, transportation, job training, law enforcement, and Medicaid. This is a great time for students with disabilities (and their teachers and families) to learn about how to have a voice in the budget process for issues that pertain to them.

The key to success in college for students with disabilities is often planning, re-planning, and planning some more. You already know about the importance of academics, the Core 40 diploma, and self-determination. But just as important may be finding the right “fit” with colleges and universities willing to support students who need assistive technology support, individualized classroom (or online) accommodations, effective peer tutors, and creative social inclusion strategies.

Help students and their families begin to explore the possibilities by pointing them to the following resources:

  • Postsecondary Education in Indiana—a page of the Center on Community Living and Careers (CCLC) website offering resources and information about support programs for degree-seeking students with disabilities on several Indiana college and university campuses. The webpage also has information about the six Indiana colleges and universities offering college experience programs to interested students in their last year of school prior to exiting with a Certificate of Completion. (Note that eligible students must live in the districts collaborating with one of the six programs.)
  • Is College for You: Setting Goals and Taking Action and ¿Es la Universidad para ti?—a publication of the Center on Community Living and Careers.
  • The Postsecondary Education Resource Collection—featured on the INSTRC website.
  • What’s Next?, Issues No. 5 and 6—a newsletter for students with disabilities who’ve recently exited school, What’s Next? provides information and resources on a variety of transition topics. Issue No. 5 focuses on planning for college. Issue No. 6, due out next week, focuses on the importance of filling out the FAFSA.*

For those of you supporting students in the midst of college visits and planning, the INSTRC website also includes the following resources and assessments. On the Resource Search page just check the “Postsecondary Education & Training” box. On the Transition Assessment Matrix search page check the “Education/Training” box and scroll through to find related assessments, several of which are also available in Spanish and Burmese.

  • The College Planning Worksheet
  • College Campus Visit Reflection
  • College Preparation Checklist
  • College Technical School Initial Review
  • Postsecondary College School Comparison

    *Bonus Tip: During your case conference meetings, be sure to let families know about signing up for the What’s Next? newsletter. By giving them the link to the What’s Next? webpage and encouraging them to fill out the survey there, you can also include the newsletter on the IEP when filling out the transition information box! (That’s the one that says, “Document the written information that was presented to the parent and student regarding the available adult services provided through state and local agencies and other organizations to facilitate student movement from school to adult life.)

Transition assessments are key to determining a student’s postsecondary goals and developing a quality transition IEP. Admittedly, though, it can be difficult to find transition assessments that target students with significant disabilities.

As you’re searching, keep in mind: You can adapt transition assessments to fit the needs of your student. You do not have to use an assessment exactly as written. Consider these assessment adaptations for students with high support needs:

  • Use pictures instead of or in addition to questions on an assessment.
  • Read transition assessments to students.
  • Create an activity where the student discusses relative topics right before they complete the assessment.
  • Use a scribe for the student’s responses.
  • Limit multiple-choice questions to two possible responses.
  • Transfer assessments to Google Forms or another virtual method.

Using authentic and other forms of transition assessments may also help appropriately assess students. Interviews, observations, and task analyses can all be transition assessments if used to determine the student’s strengths, preferences, and interests related to their postsecondary goals.

Save these resources (and this tip) to a folder!

Happy Holidays! Tuesday’s Transition Tips will return January 5. We’ll miss you, but wish you peace, goofy board games, jigsaw puzzles, family and friends (even if it’s on Zoom), the anticipation and excitement of little ones, sprinkles on cookies, cozy naps, mugs of hot chocolate, and all the joys of the season. Stay warm and safe, everyone!

The Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities (MHDD) National Training Center is a clearinghouse of information providing information and resources about “evidence-based, trauma-informed, and culturally responsive” practices that address the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities. MHDD is a collaboration among University Centers of Excellence on Developmental Disabilities (UCEDDs) at the University of Kentucky, the University of Alaska Anchorage, and Utah State University. (Just FYI, Indiana’s UCEDD is the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community, the home of the Indiana Secondary Transition Resource Center.)

Among the resources on the MHDD website, you’ll find fact sheets like:

  • “Dual Diagnosis 101";
  • a toolkit on mental health, stabilization, and wellness for individuals and families;
  • the link to a youth suicide and prevention plan;
  • videos from students and experts in the field; and
  • training webinars.

Note that MHDD also includes resources in Spanish and plain language. 

Saving for the future is now doable thanks to ABLE accounts. Sometimes parents of adult children with disabilities who are receiving Social Security or Medicaid may be concerned about employment for their child. They’ve heard that benefits could be lost if their love one earns above a certain threshold. What are ABLE accounts, why would someone want to have one, and how do they work? All good questions!

ABLE, which stands for Achieving a Better Life Experience, is a savings and investment program created by the U.S. Congress for people diagnosed with a disability before age 26. ABLE account owners can save up to $15,000 per year from their own earnings or from benefits payments, inheritance, or from friends and relatives who may want to contribute to the account. The great thing is that an account holder can save up to $100,000 in an account without losing their Medicaid or other benefits. Account holders who work can save even more money per year.
Many states now offer ABLE account programs. Individuals and families exploring the ABLE possibilities can even compare and contrast different state program advantages, like debit card options, investment plans, and tax advantages before they enroll.

ABLE plans also work well with existing future-planning arrangements. For instance, many families set up special needs trusts for long-term supports and an ABLE account for shorter-term savings and spending on things like housing down payments or new technology. Families who originally set up a 529 plan for college savings can also roll over those funds into an ABLE account.

Refer families who have questions to:

Watch for upcoming webinars on ABLE accounts and other benefit topics. We’ll keep you posted!

Gratitude negates attitude. Seems appropriate in this season of thanksgiving, doesn’t it? But in a year like 2020, how do you teach your students to express their gratitude to the people in their lives?

Researchers say that the act of being thankful can do amazing things. On that list, they include the ability to live happier, more satisfied lives filled with self-esteem, hope, empathy, and optimism. Some researchers also believe that people who express gratitude develop relationships that are more positive at home and school.

With that in mind, here are a few suggestions for activities you can do with your students to build an attitude of gratitude.

  1. Get creative. Capitalize on student strengths—and fun. Pictures, cartoons, videos, texts, photo collages, flowers, and offers to help are all great ways to express thanks.
  2. Make use of that tech. Using the student’s tech of choice (augmentative communication device, cell phone), help them program a recorded prayer or poem or a simple message to family so that they can say grace at Thanksgiving.
  3. Beautify with leaves of thanks. Have students create a “tree” of thanks with a vase, a branch, and cutout construction leaves. Find how-to-instructions here. (Smiles, favorite authors, Netflix, grandpa’s goofy hats, 5-minute-breaks, mom hugs, PlayStation, pumpkin pie, a possible vaccine—whatever.)
  4. Give Zoom gratitude. If you’re online, practice expressing thanks with your class. If no one’s volunteering, start with the little things (like the leaves, above).
  5. Use music. Try a little inspiration with Kelly Clarkson’s “Thankful,” dance it up with Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “Gratitude,” or help students create their own gratitude playlists. Check out this list for songs in multiple genres.
  6. Show them how. Be sure to model to your students how it’s done. Thank them for the work they’re doing in these tough times. Send an email to the tech support people for keeping us connected (show it to your students). Send a Thanksgiving card to a loved one who can’t be there in person this year.

And on that modeling note, we’ll start. Thank you for all you do for your students...for your willingness to keep learning with us...for your patience….for reading Tuesday’s Tips. And thanks for hanging in there this year.

We wish you all peace, family, fun, two slices of pie, and a Happy Thanksgiving. Tuesday’s Tips will return December 1.

It’s often said that technology makes life easier for everyone. However, for people with disabilities, technology is more than a convenience. It’s often a necessity to make all things manageable.

Right now, your school is supplying the tech tools your students need for success in the classroom; however, that responsibility ends with the student exiting school. It is important to make careful considerations for adult services. Therefore, the student, family, and other case conference members should identify assistive technology (AT) needs; discuss how the technology will be funded; and establish a plan for equipment training, if needed. This discussion and planning should occur early in the transition process, while students are still in high school, so that they and their families can prepare for tech needs when they leave school.

Some resources to keep in mind:

  • The Indiana Assistive Technology Act (INDATA) Project at Easterseals Crossroads in Indianapolis offers funding assistance, lends AT devices and equipment, and reutilizes used equipment to give free of charge to Hoosier individuals with a disability. Not only can you borrow AT from their loan library, but their staff will also train you to use the equipment and devices.
  • Indiana Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) may provide necessary AT to your students found eligible for VR if they are preparing for or entering employment or training.
  • Additional funding sources to explore include Social Security work incentives, the student’s employer (if the technology is considered a reasonable accommodation), private foundations, local charities, and health insurance including Medicaid or Medicare.

It’s Election Day. We hope that if you haven’t yet, you will get to a polling site and make your voice heard by casting your vote.

With today’s Tuesday’s Tip, we want to point you to a great resource you may not have explored. The Jobs Accommodations Network (JAN) offers free, confidential and practical solutions that help people with disabilities enhance their employability. Bolstered by tips from JAN, you and your students can show employers how they can benefit from the talents of your students with disabilities.

JAN’s Searchable Online Accommodation Resource (SOAR) allows you and your students to explore various accommodation options in work and educational settings.

Another great feature on the JAN website is the A to Z listings of disabilities and accommodations. You can search by disability, limitation, work-related function, topic, and accommodation. JAN's A to Z may not address every situation, but as you explore the site, you will find it very beneficial to your students as they plan for employment.

Have a question about JAN? Review JAN's Frequently Asked Questions.

One of the first steps for young adults eligible to receive employment services through Indiana Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) is to choose a community employment provider. VR and employment providers work with job seekers to identify their Individual Path for Employment. But how does a transitioning student choose an employment provider? With the assistance of the VR Pick List.

Once VR determines that a young adult is eligible for VR services, the VR counselor or intake staff member will share a VR Pick List with the job seeker and their family. (Note: Individuals working with area community rehabilitation providers will also receive a pick list through their case manager. This one’s different!)

The VR Pick List is available on the Indiana VR website for each county in the state. Job seekers and families are encouraged to look through the services offered by the employment providers in their area. Some providers specialize in providing services and supports to job seekers who are blind or vision impaired. Others offer benefits counseling or behavioral skills intervention. It’s important for job seekers and families to contact and interview providers to find the right match.

Review the VR Pick List for your county and share it with your VR-eligible students and their families.