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Transition Conference Helps DSCC Participants Prepare for Adulthood

November 21st, 2019

Logo for 15th Annual Illinois Statewide Transition Conference

Families and professionals from around Illinois attended the annual Stepping Stones of Transition Conference to improve outcomes for transition-age youth with disabilities.

More than 550 families and professionals gathered at the 15th annual Illinois Statewide Transition Conference to gain skills, resources and information to help youth with disabilities prepare for adulthood.

The conference, titled “Stepping Stones of Transition,” took place Oct. 17-18 in Collinsville.

The event targets adolescents, parents, caretakers, vocational professionals, healthcare professionals, educators and others involved with improving outcomes for transition-age youth with special needs. 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 23 participant families 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.

Lily Dining is the mother of 14-year-old Paulina, a participant in DSCC’s program. This year’s conference was their first time attending.

“We have learned so much, to the point where I don’t know what I want to do first. It’s been so informative and we are well taken care of,” Lily said of DSCC paying for their conference fees and hotel stay.

Lily appreciated that DSCC made sure Paulina, who uses a wheelchair, had an accessible hotel room.

“Everything was so smooth and well-organized.,” she said. “I was free to just learn and not have to worry about how I was going to pay for it.”

Nineteen-year-old DSCC participant Joy attended the conference with her aunt Cecilia. They found several breakout sessions helpful as Joy begins to plan to enter the workforce. Cecilia said she’s eager to work with Joy to identify her strengths and pinpoint jobs that would be a good match.

Joy and Cecilia also enjoyed attending a special meet-and-greet for DSCC families and staff who were at this year’s conference.

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

  • Independent Living
  • Education and Training
  • Employment
  • Community Integration
  • Health Care
  • Self-Advocacy

DSCC participant Collin Monical, 18, attended the conference with his parents. His father, Greg, said each person in their group had different perspectives about transition and found sessions that addressed each of their interests and concerns.

Greg said most of his selected sessions involved help with government programs.

“I was not only impressed with the educational benefits of governmental programs. The human aspects presented through these talks were most enlightening,” he said.

Greg said he was particularly inspired by keynote speaker LeDerick Horne, who discussed his own experiences growing up with a learning disability. LeDerick is now a disability advocate, motivational speaker and spoken-word poet.

“Hearing these positive stories is just incredible… As parents, we tend to see a lot of the negative about disability. Every once in a while, you have to step back to see how far our children really have come,” Greg said.

“We will dwell on the materials presented from the conference for a long while. I believe that we now know more about what is out there and could perhaps ask more pointed questions in the future. Thank you so very much for the assistance provided to make this into a reality.”

More than 20 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 Family Advisory Council member Joyce Clay, who is a professor of nursing at Richland Community College, presented a breakout session on the “The Joys and Challenges of Medical Transition.” Joyce shared her experiences with her own daughter’s complex medical needs and the strategies she has learned to enhance the transition process as her daughter moved from the pediatric to adult setting.

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.

“This year’s conference was a great success helping improve transition outcomes for youth with disabilities/special healthcare needs,” DSCC Statewide Transition Coordinator Darcy Contri said. “I am so happy to have had the opportunity to be involved for the 15 years that DSCC has helped host this conference. It just keeps getting better each year.”

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