Full Life Ahead: the workbook – a guide for transition
I spent two days last week at the 51st Annual International Conference of the Learning Disabilities Association of America. It was held in warm, sunny Anaheim CA at the Disneyland Hotel, where one can see mouse ears in the patterns of the wallpaper and hear Disney tunes piped in to the restrooms.
More importantly, those of us in attendance saw and heard an amazing diversity of experts who shared their knowledge about the differently abled. Many of the presentations and vendors focused on the needs of young adults with learning disabilities – which means, there’s a lot of information for me to turn around and share with you in the months ahead.
We will start the sharing with a workbook that helps students and families plan out the transition to adulthood. It is produced by the Full Life Ahead Foundation of Birmingham, Alabama, in collaboration with the Southeast Regional Resource Center (SERRC).
Full Life Ahead was started by parents who have had their own climb up the cinder cone, so to speak (Alabama not being known for its volcanoes!) This nonprofit organization helps people with “disAbilities” (as they put it) live an independent and productive life. They do so by holding workshops/retreats/training conferences; by publishing the workbook, in English and Spanish; by providing connections and technical assistance; and by promoting the idea of having a H.O.P.E. team for an individual with challenges.
H.O.P.E. stands for “Helping Other People Envision.” A H.O.P.E. team consists of family, friends, and professionals who form an alliance to help the individual identify dreams and expectations for the future, and provide support to turn them into reality. The team gets together every so often in a relaxed setting in what are called GAP (group action planning) meetings to brainstorm and problem solve.
The H.O.P.E. team is explained in more detail on the Full Life Ahead website, and also as part of the workbook.
If you read this blog post about transition, you might remember my comment about getting a headache from the transition workbook we were given. Happily, I can report that the Full Life Ahead workbook is user-friendly for parents and students alike. It is a sturdy, wire bound book with tabbed sections (which in my opinion should be standard for all resource books and cookbooks!) The book includes timelines, inspirational quotes, checklists, templates (for a resume, e.g.), questions to ask yourself and others, true success stories, places to write notes, a glossary, and the most comprehensive list of resources relating to disabilities that I can remember seeing. All of the information is presented with a positive and straightforward tone.
Certain sections of the workbook are geared toward parents, while others are intended for the student to refer to or fill out. Topics include self-advocacy, IEPs, college, employment, housing, money, health, and transportation.
Families, school systems, organizations, agencies, and service providers throughout the US are using the workbook. Follow this link to the Full Life Ahead website to read the comments of satisfied customers.
I think the success of the workbook lies in having been created by parents (Judy Barclay and Jan Cobb) who know what is useful and what isn’t. As they say in one of the earlier pages of the workbook: “We’ve been there … We’re still there!!” Later on the same page, they state: “We’ve filled [the workbook] with information we wish we’d had when our students were much younger.”
If you are interested, the workbooks can be ordered from the Foundation for $20 each ($15 for the Spanish edition), plus shipping. At this writing there are a few copies of the English edition available from Amazon sellers, but they cost a lot more!
The latest (fourth) edition of the workbook is from 2006, but I understand an updated version is in progress.
In any event, here’s a tip of the hat (with or without mouse ears) to Full Life Ahead for their successful outreach to families and for their role in empowering people with disAbilities.