Change of culture is coming

Vermont to change culture of disabilities

by JESSALYN GUSTIN AND JONATHAN MARTINIS

Change the Culture, Change the World: Increasing Independence by Creating a Culture of Coordinated Support

For people with disabilities, there are many side trips on the journey from student to graduate. If we create a culture of coordinated support, schools and service providers will meet obligations to help people with disabilities dream and lead independent and meaningful lives. If we create a culture of coordinated support, people with disabilities will have the same opportunities for success and security as non-disabled peers. If we change the culture, we will change the world!

We are proud to work with Vermont as it develops the first statewide plan for creating a culture of coordinated support. Vermont has brought together a task force, which we are coaching, to create a culture of collaboration throughout the state and systems. Representatives of the legal, education, employment, advocacy, mental health and developmental disabilities communities are joining together in this effort. We hope Vermont’s vision will be an inspiration and model across the country.

What is culture of coordinated support?

In a culture of coordinated support, people with disabilities work with agencies and organizations – like schools, vocational rehabilitation agencies, and other service providers – to plan and coordinate efforts.

So, schools will not only provide special education services, but they will also coordinate with others serving the student to complement and supplement their work. Providers will work with each other so their plans and processes address student goals. As a result, students will receive support in a more effective and efficient manner.

Culture of coordinated support model is consistent with existing legal requirements.

For example, schools are required to coordinate and collaborate with providers of employment, independent living and other supports. Vocational rehabilitation agencies are asked to coordinate with schools on transition services as early as possible and provide pre-employment transition services to assist students with disabilities. Medicaid rules require providers to create person-centered plans that address community participation, employment, income and savings, health care and wellness and education.

Recommendations to plan and coordinate work

To create a culture of coordinated support, students, families, schools and providers should coordinate to know what others are doing and will do for the student. Student support plans should have a section on coordinated support, describing how each agency and provider will work with the others to help the person achieve goals. To develop a far-reaching plan, we recommend following these guidelines:

  • Think, listen and listen again: What are the person’s goals in important life areas like education, employment, housing, financial planning and medical care?
  • Recognize opportunities and challenges: What does the person need to achieve those goals? What are the challenges the person must overcome to reach them?
  • Identify allies: Who are the people, agencies and organizations that can provide those supports and help the person overcome those challenges?
  • Empower and implement support: Which people, agencies and organizations will provide those supports? How and when?
  • Coordinate Efforts: How and when will the school, people and providers work together?

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