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Conference Helps DSCC Families and Staff Prepare for Transition to Adulthood

November 6th, 2018

logo for the Illinois Statewide Transition Conference

Families and professionals from across the state attended annual Stepping Stones of Transition Conference to help youth with special needs.

More than 700 families and professionals gained valuable knowledge about helping adolescents with special needs prepare for adulthood during the 14th annual Illinois Statewide Transition Conference on Oct. 25-26 in Itasca.

The conference, titled “Stepping Stones of Transition,” is aimed at youth, parents, caretakers, vocational professionals, healthcare professionals, educators and others involved with improving outcomes for transition-age youth with disabilities. It highlights the opportunities and resources available for youth as they, their families and support teams plan and prepare for the future.

The University of Illinois at Chicago’s Division of Specialized Care for Children (DSCC) served on the steering committee to plan this year’s conference.

DSCC also covered the conference-related expenses for 39 of our participant family members across the state. Part of DSCC’s mission is to connect adolescents with special healthcare needs and their families to resources that prepare them for the transition to adulthood and adult services.

Juliette De Nova is the parent of three children in DSCC’s program, including her 15-year-old daughter, Natalie, who has Down syndrome and a heart impairment.

“Natalie is home-schooled, so I’m her teacher, her transition coordinator, I’m the whole kit and caboodle, so there’s a lot to learn,” Juliette said.

She is grateful that DSCC was able to pay for her conference fee and hotel stay.

“I really appreciate it. We’re a single-income family with three kids with medical issues,” she said.

DSCC also coordinated and covered the cost for translation services for non-English speaking participants who attended. One Spanish-speaking parent said she was amazed at how much she was able to learn to prepare for her daughter’s future, all thanks to DSCC’s efforts.

Another teenaged DSCC participant said he was so inspired by the stories he heard that he wants to share his own transition experience at next year’s conference.

The conference consisted of informative breakout sessions in the area of:

  • Independent Living
  • Education and Training
  • Employment
  • Community Integration
  • Health Care

Former DSCC participant Mary Kate DalCanton, 25, served as the conference’s first youth representative on the conference steering committee. This was her third year attending the conference and she loved having the opportunity to be involved with the planning.

“It’s actually kind of cool,” Mary Kate said.

“A lot of people who come to the conference are teachers and parents,” she added. “One of the reasons I wanted to be on the committee is to get more youth to the conference.”

Mary Kate planned a special Bingo Night for youth only during the conference to give young conference attendees the chance to meet one another and have fun away from their parents.

She solicited donations for prizes for players to encourage more people to participate.

Conference organizers honored Mary Kate for all of her efforts with a special award during the conference luncheon.

“I was very surprised,” Mary Kate said.

More than a dozen DSCC staff members also attended the conference to network, learn from others and strengthen their skillsets and the tools they use to serve our families.  DSCC’s Statewide Transition Coordinator Darcy Contri and Care Coordinator Angel Lawrence from our Champaign Regional Office led a discussion on how to put youth at the center of transition planning for healthier outcomes.

Additionally, DSCC sponsored the conference’s health care track for providers who play a role in the transition from the pediatric to adult healthcare system and those who build youth’s capacity and healthcare skills to prepare for adulthood.

During the health care track, Diane Becker of DSCC’s Home Care Quality Improvement and Enrollment Team presented on how providers and professionals can use data on the social determinants for health and success to change interventions and supports for youth in their area.

DSCC Care Coordinator Opal Andraka said she was inspired by her interactions with families from across the state during the conference.

“It was very eye-opening to hear them voice their questions and concerns in an open forum with subject-matter experts. Hearing them tell their stories is always a good way to remind us of our mission,” she said.

DSCC Family Liaison Violet Wiker staffed the Family Oasis Room, which gave families the opportunity to take a break and connect with other families.

DSCC Care Coordinator Autumn DeSilva worked DSCC’s booth at the conference’s exhibit hall. She said it was great to meet our participant families and connect them with their care coordinators in attendance at the conference.

Visit DSCC’s Facebook page to view photos and more information about this year’s conference.