“I wish people knew that even though we have disabilities, we can prevail”
Annual Montana Youth Transitions and Association of Rehabilitation Conference provides event for RIIC staff to support needs of youth with disabilities in Montana.
Several RIIC staff presented at the Montana Youth Transitions/Montana Association of Rehabilitation Conference in Great Falls, November 14 – 16. The conference is geared towards youth with disabilities, families, educators, service providers and counselors to connect, collaborate, and learn more about transition planning.
A variety of workshops were offered including, but limited to, the areas of creative employment opportunities, self-advocacy, identifying and developing transition resources, assistive technology, and teaching and developing work readiness and quality IEPs.
RIIC staff specifically presented and participated in the following sessions:
MonTECH provided some lively discussion and hands-on demonstrations with an open lab and trivia session to help others learn about assistive technologies (AT) for individuals, families, and communities. They also sponsored a session on AT for those who are deaf/blind, deaf or blind, hard of hearing, or who have low vision with the help of Jason Corning, a life-long advocate and founder of Three Monkeys Communication, LLC, and Laura Benge from the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults. In addition, MonTECH presented AT for success in high school, college and the workplace, which included speech-to-text for writing and organization, apps and software for math and reading with dyslexia, and tools for note taking.
Catherine Ipsen, RIIC Associate Director, provided a live demonstration of the Vocational Rehabilitation Self-Employment Guide, which is designed to assist VR counselors and consumers navigate the self-employment process. Despite that people with disabilities engage in self-employment at higher rates than people without disabilities, it is an underutilized option within VR agencies. Self-employment is a particularly valuable job option for people living in rural places where traditional opportunities may be limited. Ipsen also helped facilitate a roundtable discussion with business owners, parents, and VR representatives about how some business owners have utilized self-employment in the transition process and how the planning process can begin in high school.
The RIIC’s Alternatives to Guardianship Toolkit, presented by Theresa Baldry, provided a platform for conference participants to discuss and learn about what supports transition youth may need to become decision makers in their own lives. The toolkit explores the areas families say are most important to them including education, medical and financial needs.
Life is filled with challenges, mistakes, and some failures. The Rural Institute Consumer Advisory Council (CAC) facilitated a workshop for youth called “Failure is your friend. Seriously!” Together, attendees explored how to face tough times, deal with disappointment, accept when things are ‘good enough’, learn from mistakes, and view failure as a stepping stone to future success.
A nice follow up to that was the “cracker barrel” session, facilitated by the CAC for the second year in a row. In this session, youth and young adults with disabilities share their hopes, dreams, fears, and what they wish adults around them would or would not do to help and offer support. The session is a somewhat relaxed conversation and helps shape what future discussions by the CAC will cover. Some of the thoughts that came from that session included fears about taking action, hopes to reach goals, and dreams to teach American Sign Language and go to culinary school. On their “transition wish list” was more affordable access to technology and assistance and wishing other people realized that, despite having disabilities, youth can prevail.
RIIC provided a handful of resources and information at the conference in the company of a variety of presenters and supporters and is honored to be part of such a highly valued event.
Follow the links below to watch videos from youth, parents, teachers, and VR counselors about why they attend the Montana Youth Transitions conference!