When it comes to supporting youth transitioning out of high school, parents, teachers and friends all have a role to play. In the second part of our two-part series on transition planning, we spoke to someone who is familiar with all those roles.
Pam Neuman is a teacher and transition consultant for the Vancouver School Board (VSB). Her daughter, Jasmine, recently graduated from #Limitless, a youth transition service posAbilities designed in collaboration with the VSB. Pam spoke with us about the service and her family’s own transition journey. Check out highlights from our conversation with Pam below and listen to the episode here:
Families coming together
Pam knows all too well that many parents of children with diverse needs and abilities avoid thinking about life after high school. She used to be an “avoider” too. It was easier to start thinking about what she wanted for her students first.
“And then as we got closer, I started to think about what do I want for my daughter? Before, I just thought about what do I want for all of my students. Then I started thinking about, ‘What is it going to look like for her?'”
Pam got a glimpse at one possible future when a fellow parent told her about a program on Vancouver Island called Inclusion Works. The program was for CLBC-eligible young adults with developmental disabilities and operated under the “family governance model.” The families pooled their funding and put together a program that suited the individual needs and goals of their kids as they transitioned out of high school.
Inspired, Pam started to try to find other families, with children the same age as Jasmine, who might be interested in this model. The families then approached CLBC about how to do something similar to Inclusion Works.
The resulting project—named by the youth participating—is called #Limitless. It’s a part-time, community-based program which acts as a gateway to adulthood for young adults graduating high school. Like Inclusion Works, the program is more individualized than a typical community inclusion program.
“I think the biggest thing that worked was the communication—once we got going—the communication between the agency and the parents. And the focus on the individual goal development.”
Youth are able to pursue their own interests and goals while still spending time with same-age peers. As a collaboration between the VSB, posAbilities, and the families, youth are supported as they build skills, try new things, and even step into employment.
Jasmine, Pam’s daughter, enjoyed going to Limitless. She worked on personal goals, like talking to people and being a good listener. She also volunteered at a local neighbourhood house and hopes to go back after the pandemic.
Advice for youth and their families
“Find other families,” is Pam’s advice for people beginning their transition journey.
“You’re not in this alone. There’s a lot of us who are doing this. And there’s a lot of people I chatted with that were further down the road in transition that were happy to share their stories of things that worked, things that didn’t work.”
She also emphasizes that it’s important to think specifically about what you want, but not worry about making lifelong plans. There are many different parts of life that are important, from education and employment, to relationships, to deciding where to live and who to live with. Youth and their families should consider what they want from each of those areas. Yet, at the same time, people should remember that things will change along the way.
“I think you can keep an open mind and say, ‘Okay, this is working for me now,’ and then revisit it to see, ‘Is it still working? What more do I want? What do I want to add? What do I want to take out?’ I think that things are fluid. So you’re not trapped. If you’re in something that you don’t like, you don’t have to be in that forever.”
At the end of the day, she knows that all parents want is for their kids to be happy. The work of transition planning is about setting goals and making plans that can bring people closer to a good and full life. For Pam and Jasmine, that means having meaningful relationships. It means giving and getting lots of support from others. It means lots of laughter, and lots of love.
To learn more about #Limitless, email us at [email protected].
For an example of a family-governed group, check out the Victoria Community Connections (VCC) Society.
Youth and families can also connect with services, peer supports and other resources through organizations like the Family Support Institute, VELA Microboard Association, and Inclusion BC.
If you haven’t heard Part One of this series, featuring our interview with Navigator Meaghen Taylor-Reid, you can listen to it here.