by Annette Pinder
There are all sorts of programs available for children with developmental disabilities — from residential care and treatment, to special schools, and programs. But what happens after the age of 18 when they are no longer eligible these programs? And what happens to those whose parents can no longer care for them due to illness or their own advancing age?
“Parents want the best for their children,” says Rhonda Frederick, Chief Operating Officer of People Inc. “We knew we had to do something to help. So we developed a college-based program for kids transitioning into adulthood called Young Adult Life Transitions (YALT) that allows young adults with developmental disabilities between the ages of 18 and 23, who wish to continue their education past high school to experience life on a college campus alongside their peers.”
One student, Terrance Hassan graduated from YALT in 2005. Despite graduating from high school, he couldn’t read, and was determined to change that. He achieved his goal through working with Literacy Volunteers, and gained acceptance to the NYS Youth Advocacy Group. A member of NYS Partners in Policy Making, he travels to Albany once a month to advocate for people with disabilities. Terrance was also accepted to the employment Training program through the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), and is currently employed by People, Inc. in Buffalo New York as a community based instructor assistant at the Buffalo State and Daemen Colleges YALT programs.
Stephanie Edbauer, another successful graduate, was in Daemen’s YALT program for five years, and graduated in 2010. An active participant in the Daemen Dorm project, Stephanie experienced college dorm life, and learned essential skills that helped her become more independent. Stephanie was always positive and well-liked, and completed internships at Parent Network of WNY, Darien Lake, Kiss 98.5 radio station, and Four Seasons Day Care. Stephanie currently lives in one of People Inc.’s residences and is enrolled in the People Inc. Community Active People Program. She is pursuing a career with her job coach’s assistance.
“Some students simply want to receive a GED,” says Rhonda, “while others want to explore different careers. YALT helps with resume writing, interview skills, employment training, getting along with co-workers, life-skills, learning to drive, using public transportation, joining campus clubs, socializing with non-disabled students, and being part of a campus community.”
Rhonda says, “Life is a challenge for students with disabilities and their families, and a weakened economy and New York State budget cuts have made it even more difficult.” She says, “People Inc. began in 1970 with a small group of parents and professionals who joined together to address the needs of individuals with intellectual disabilities. Our goal is to continue to identify where a need exists and work to fulfill that need, despite the challenges.”