RMHS utilizes Denver Mill Levy property tax funds to support transitioning student’s plan for future.
As a parent, preparing for your child’s future can be stressful especially if he or she deals with an intellectual or developmental disability (I/DD). For Gabriele, mother of Tristan who is on the autism spectrum, the thought of creating a detailed and focused plan for her son’s post school future seemed daunting and very difficult until she met Lori Parker and Ruth Newell.
Ruth and Lori are both facilitators for PATHs to PossAbilities, an organization that helps individuals and businesses reach their desired future through person-centered planning. They both have experience raising children with disabilities and created PATHs to PossAbilities to help individuals, of all ages and abilities, map out a plan to reach their dreams.
Tristan stands in front of the 12-foot PATH Plan he created with his mom, Paths to PossAbilities facilitators and community of support.
“Children with I/DD often think they are limited to what others tell them they cannot do, be or dream,” said Ruth. “The PATH plan uses person-centered planning to break down those barriers to find the person’s truest dreams.”
When Ruth and Lori asked Tristan what his dreams were, he was unsure. They were motivated to help him find out. Ruth and Lori asked leading questions, framing the questions as yes/no and like/don’t like to get Tristan to begin thinking more concretely about his dreams.
The Path Plan has three phases: The first phase introduces the process, identifies strengths, dreams and goal and identifies an individual’s community of support; the second phase includes the actual creation of the PATH plan with the help of the individual’s community of support; and the third phase involves a transcription of the PATH graphic, follow up communications and determination of the next steps.
Community of Support
Gabriele, Tristan’s mother, was a bit pessimistic about entering the PATH programming process because she believed they had very limiting foundation of support besides her mother, Tristan’s grandmother. But with the help of Lori and Ruth she found out that was far from true.
Ruth and Lori helped her realize that Tristan had a large community of support whom touch his and his mother’s life every day. Tristan invited his teachers, speech therapist, PT, OT, music therapists, 1:1 Aide, family friends, vision therapist, Activity Options PASA staff, and other family members out of the state and out of the country whom were more than happy to give up 3 hours of a Saturday to help Tristan put his PATH Plan together and, more importantly, make his PATH Plan a reality.
“It was both eye opening and a huge sigh of relief to know he had a support system I didn’t even think about,” Gabriele said. Everyone he invited came to assist in making the PATH plan or sent their ideas via email to be included in the brainstorming. Thanks to Facetime and WhatsApp even his cousin in Switzerland and family in California were in the room virtually.
Tristan created the PATH plan in February. For 3 hours, he brainstormed his dreams and goals with his circle of support and let it unfold on 12-foot poster paper. Using visual drawings and words, they mapped out his plan starting with his dreams to identify what the action steps would need to be.
They worked backwards starting from a 2-year goal, 1-year goal, 6-month goals and 90-day goals so it would not overwhelm Tristan nor his circle of support.
The people in the room gave suggestions with knowledge about Tristan’s experience to help him realize his dreams. They organically fed off each other’s energy and brainstorming ideas in the room and volunteered to help where it made sense for them. Gabriele was told more than once by Lori and Ruth not to put her name down as a default person as others in the room wanted to be the leader for a particular goal.
“It’s the people that step up that are the magic in the room,” Ruth said. “We just facilitate.” The community of support usually take initiative to help individuals reach these goals in this process.
Tristan’s PATH Plan taped to his basement wall in his Sensory Room.
For example, Tristan has a dream to travel to Disneyland. He needs to get comfortable around people first. The people in the room helped create a plan for him to get use to people by going on “man- dates” —outings with male friends and trusted adults. Someone in the room volunteered to take him to a car racing show they have a connection to and Tristan loves. Two others volunteered to join to make it a group trip.
It excites Tristan to take an active role in planning his future instead of having people just giving him choices of what to do, Gabriele said. The PATH Plan can easily be updated or modified in the future if his needs or desires change.
Based off his interests and skills in maps and computer, Ruth and Cara, Tristan’s computer science teacher at T.A.C.T., recommended possible career paths such as a bench tech, coder, data entry or a career in graphic information systems.
Denver Mill Levy Funding
“Without funding from mill levy, this would not have been possible,” Gabriele said.
Gabriele reached out to Tristan’s RMHS case manager Sarah Keisling for help paying for the PATH Plan after seeing Ruth’s presentation at Project Independence by THRIVE Center, a mill levy partner that is a training program for parents, youth and teens with I/DD. “The cost was definitely the barrier of entry for me.”
Gabriele received funding for the PATH Plan from Denver mill levy property tax through the RMHS Client Assistance Program. The program uses Denver mill levy property tax for individuals with I/DD to increase access to services and increase options to address individual needs.
For Gabriele it has given her an opportunity for peace of mind when it comes to preparing Tristan’s future. Now Tristan can move forward based off his own plan rather than what she thinks is best for him.