Special Education stakeholders met at John Adams Middle School last Saturday to discuss transitions at a Special Education Spring Forum sponsored by the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and the District’s PTA Council. Superintendent Tim Cuneo noted at the May 2 forum that the subject of the forum was “an area that was identified by Special Education parents.” He also mentioned that he has “seen a real change in the attitude and the climate” internally within the School District. “There’s now a can do, we will, and move forward kind of approach.” Before we had a culture “that was resistant and a culture that wasn’t as responsive as it should have been.” Two keynote speakers from L.A. Goal also addressed the stakeholders. L.A. Goal’s literature states that their mission is to provide educational, vocational, and recreational programs to provide opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities to increases their independence and employability.L.A. Goal Executive Director Petite Konstantin views herself as “a person trying to effect transition, modification or change” for her clients. She stressed that the “most important input you can get when doing a needs assessment is to ask the individual whether it’s a child or adult what do you want? You need to build a trust that they will come to tell you what they want and you will get it for them.” Brad Silverman who works as a professional artist and actor, was born with Down Syndrome. He explained in his remarks that “I was born with a disability but more importantly I live my life so people can see my abilities. Kids with disabilities need to be given a chance to receive quality education and opportunities in order to become contributing adults in society.” Forum participants also broke into break out sessions to share experiences and learn from each other about the transitions children experience during their time in the School District. The major transitions occur when children enter preschool, kindergarten, middle school, high school, and after they graduate, but for Special Education students these transitions can be more challenging. It is therefore very important that Special Education students receive the proper support to help them make these important transitions. It is also important for the parents of Special Education children to be well informed. When a Special Needs child turns three, parents must transfer responsibilities from early intervention providers to their local school district for Special Education preschool classes. The child must be evaluated again before they enter kindergarten. If a child remains in Special Education, evaluations will continue all the way through their schooling. When a Special Needs child turns 14 plans will be made for their transition to high school. Starting at 16, plans will need to be made for their transition from high school to college or work. In some cases Special Needs children will be permitted to stay in their school district beyond the age of 18 in order to continue their academic training and/or reinforce life or work skills.
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