Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Project Launch Welcomes Teens and Families

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Project Launch Welcomes Teens and Families

Article excerpt

Two adolescents brought their families to the first transition clinic for youth with chronic illness and disability held at Shriners Hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on February 6. They spent the day talking with professionals and asking many questions.

One teen had concrete goals but needed a plan: What further education do I need? Can I continue my same health insurance if I go out-of-state to school? Will my health influence my choice of careers? Can the Department of Rehabilitation Services help finance my education? How will I get a personal care attendant?

The other had more personal concerns. How do I find the assistance I need to have alone? What if I want to get married? Will the medications I take interfere with birth control?

Both wanted to know how to find a physician. "I've seen my pediatrician since I was a baby. Sometimes I think it would just be easier to stay with him."

These are some of the issues all youth with disabilities face as they move into adulthood, yet few programs exist that provide guidance for youth with disabilities in planning for an their health-related concerns, not just their medical conditions. That's why the University of Minnesota's Adolescent Health Program and the National Center for Youth with Disabilities have joined with the Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Children with Special Health Needs; Shriners Hospital, Twin Cities Unit; and the PACER Center to start this Transition Clinic.

While transition planning occurs in the educational and vocational systems, health issues are not usually considered. This clinic will be a resource to the other transition services and will work in conjunction with schools and other resources to develop comprehensive approaches.

The truth is that many young people with chronic illnesses are not receiving special education services. Often they have no access to transition planning.

Project Launch: The Independent Living Clinic for Adolescents assists young adults and their families to make successful transitions to adulthood by helping them to develop a plan that addresses issues of health, education, work, social relationships, and physical, emotional and sexual health.

Each teen and family has the opportunity to meet with a variety of professionals. The goal, however, is to start with what the young person identifies as the most pressing needs. Most teens will not need to see every professional; the clinic allows for a variety of consultations.

* A nurse or social worker can review general health care issues, discuss insurance options, and consult on issues surrounding social activities and expectations; * A physician trained in adolescent medicine can help a young person identify medical and physiological issues, including making plans for ongoing care and the implications for healthy sexual development. The physician can answer questions about reproduction, childbearing and sexual vulnerability; make recommendations for contraception, manage menstrual disorders, and assist in the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases; * A psychologist can discuss psychosocial issues surrounding the transition from adolescence to adulthood - gaining independence, learning styles, managing self-care, identifying adolescent health risks and their impact; * A vocational counselor can help a teenager evaluate past work experience, explore career interests, train and assess needs, and assist in identifying strategies to meet individual goals; * A family resource coordinator can help the young person with disabilities and the family link up with community agencies, schools, physicians, and others as necessary. …

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