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Graduating from high school is a big step for any student.

What comes next?

More Education? A job? Free time at home?

The questions may be overwhelming.

For students with disabilities and their families, the transition from high school to whatever comes next seems especially daunting. It’s easy to get lost along the path between disability services, educational opportunities and employment options.

Professionals who know the way will be gathered in one place Saturday Sept. 12 at the Transition Resource Fair presented by ADEC, Michiana Down Syndrome and Indiana University South Bend. The free, public event will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the IUSB Student Activities Center at 1700 W. Mishawaka Ave., South Bend.

“We planned the Transition Fair to help parents and families know the resources in the community and to become more familiar with these resources,” said Viv Blakeslee, Transition and Autism Coordinator at ADEC. “It’s a way to gather resources together.”

Viv Profile

Viv Blakeslee

The fair is intended for youth and adults with disabilities, their family members and friends, teachers, students, professional caregivers and community members. Nine breakout sessions will provide information about a range of topics, including how to access the Bureau of Developmental Disability Services (BDDS), how to get the most out of Social Security disability and SSI benefits; how to find job training programs and how to ensure a sound financial future.

Participants will meet and get to ask questions of community professionals. They’ll also get to network and share stories with families facing similar questions. They’ll leave armed with information and resources to turn to.

“Families go through so many transitions,” explained Viv. “Not just from high school, but all along the way. Parents have to decide whether they want their young person to stay in the young adult group in high school or go on to supported employment. Do they continue with Vocational Rehabilitation or go straight to a day program? If they want to go to a day program, which one? So many choices for parents to have; it could be overwhelming.”

She’s excited about the breakout sessions and the number of organizations coming to talk with participants, more than 60 as of Aug. 1. On the list are Autism Society of Indiana, Behavior Services and Therapy, Challenger Little League and the Social Security Administration. “We’re not limiting the information to resources for high school families,” said Viv. “Transitions happen at any age, and we’re trying to cover all the questions families have.”

Michelle McGuin, Director of ADEC Family Services, understands the importance of bringing resources together for a one-stop shop. “I just think it’s a great opportunity for us to be able to collaborate with these different organizations,” she said.

Article by Nancy Miller/ Mission Advancement Manager

Flyer and photo by Rod Tackett/Communications Specialist