My daughter Reva is 22 years old, and since we live in New Hampshire, the school district ends funding for students on their 21st birthday. For the past 2 years, my daughter has been attending a day program in the next town to us. In addition, she has been participating in overnights at another home 3 days per week. My daughter loves her programs and so do we. It was a long journey to get here starting several years ago.
When Reva was in the upper elementary school, 5th grade in our town, it became very evident to us that she was not succeeding in that program. Because of Reva’s complex communication needs, never mind sensory processing, being medically fragile and global delays, the staff could not meet her needs. Reva was becoming more frustrated and she ended up exhibiting self-injurious behaviors. After two deafblind consultants, one from NEC and the other hired privately through the district, it was evident that Reva needed an out of district placement. The school couldn’t meet her basic needs and I knew that they wouldn’t be able to meet her transition needs either.
Reva went to Perkins School for the Blind in the Deafblind program for 6 years. It was a wonderful experience for both her and for us. She was able to communicate her needs and become more independent. After a couple of years, we began working on her transition to adult services. The Team at Perkins, along with family, home staff, and support agencies in NH came to prepare a Person Centered Planning with the entire team. In addition, we did a SIS (Skilled Intensive Needs Scale). Both these tools help determine what her needs would be, and what services were required for her to be successful as an adult, and what funding would be required to achieve that success.
We identified a day program that we felt was a nice program that could meet Reva’s needs and wishes. After many visits to different programs and several meetings with staff, it was decided that Reva would do well at Opportunity Networks (ON) in Amherst, New Hampshire. We were thrilled because they were close to home, where Reva was returning, (she always lived at home.) and they provided transportation. They were going to have their Deaf staff work with Reva as her DSP (Direct Support Person).
While at Perkins, Reva started doing some overnights to work on ADLs, independence skills and socialization. She thrived in that environment. In addition, her being out of the house those few days was a benefit for her younger brother who is very similar to Reva, including being deafblind. It was important to us that Reva keep the same schedule, as she would continue to need to work on these activities. With the assistance of our Funding agency, we found a wonderful couple in the next town where Reva stays, part time.
The couples that Reva stays with 3 evenings per week are part of a foster parent program we have in New Hampshire. They started taking young men and women into their home 20 years ago. They usually have 2 individuals in a whole life program, where they are with them 24/7 and were eager to have Reva join their little family.
Now that we identified the programs that Reva was going to use, we needed to come up with a plan. The School developed a wonderful portfolio of her vocational, ADL, and social experiences. This with Reva’s Person Centered Planning document was shared with the new programs that Reva was going to utilize. We developed a schedule for her to transition into the new programs. During her vacations and days off, Reva would attend ON and the district would pay for her to go there. Before her last summer home, it was decided that Reva would start ON before her 21 birthday. She was to turn 21 in September and it didn’t seem that Reva would benefit attending school for only a couple of weeks.
Reva did very well during the transition period, which lasted over one year. She was comfortable and knew all the staff and peers before it became her permanent program. This process turned out to be very positive for her and everyone who works with her. It was so successful, her brother and younger friends are going to follow a similar schedule.