Continuing education for I/DD students explored

Published 5:14 pm Saturday, July 2, 2016

A partnership has been formed to explore options in providing the intellectually and developmentally disabled (I/DD) community with a life after leaving the school system.

Concern among community organizations and other agencies that work with the I/DD community has started a conversation about finding resources to provide a facility and programming for developing independence, work and life skills, and eventually, the ability to secure employment, according to Sandra Buckman, executive director of the ARC of Beaufort County, which offers a support structure for the I/DD community.

“We are very concerned that people with I/DD, who are transitioning from school, have nothing to transition to,” Buckman said.

Buckman said there are very few opportunities for the I/DD community to find continuing education after leaving the school system. Beaufort County Developmental Center employs a small percentage of people but not enough to give most an opportunity to stay active and engaged in the community after leaving school.

Kathy Macey, transition coordinator with Beaufort County Schools, said most in the community are sitting at home and doing very little after leaving the school system because of aging out or graduation. A small number of children with I/DD graduated from the county school system this year, with little hope of transitioning to something to stay involved and active. Within the next three years, 17-19 I/DD children are projected to leave the school system, and the outlook for those students is bleak, as well, she said.

Cathy Deal, a vocational rehabilitation counselor with DSS, works with the population to help transition students to something once they get out of school, but still, the opportunities are limited, according to Macey.

“There are no agencies out there for them,” Macey said. “It’s just criminal that they’re in school from the time they’re small to the age of 21 or 22, and the teachers do a fantastic job with helping them get work skills, life skills and independence skills, just to sit home and watch TV the rest of their lives. There is nothing creative, independence-building or life skills going on.”

Macey, Buckman and Deal recently traveled to Morehead City to tour a facility for the Station Club Program, one that meets needs for those with I/DD. The three, with the help and support of the community, would like to create a program in which the population could have somewhere to come and socialize with their peers and continue learning valuable skills to take them to the next step in life, Macey said.

The program would also need volunteers who could come in and teach arts, carpentry, horticulture and other things, Macey said.

“We need a place they could come during the day and feel included in the community and feel worthy of being a person,” Macey said. “Our hope is we can find a facility close to downtown so they can interact with the community, walk the waterfront, be seen and work on work and life skills and building their independence so maybe they could get some type of entry-level job. We are looking for a facility and funding to get this going. From what I understand, the community is very much interested; we just don’t know how to get it going. We want to start some type of dialogue to get people interested so this one group of community members can feel like they belong. We want them to have something to look forward to and aspire to and get them trained, so we can get them out in the community and employed. We have to do something positive and aggressive for these individuals.”