ITP Series: Interagency Collaboration

The process of schools partnering with outside agencies is called interagency collaboration and is the focus today on Part 4 of the Individualized Transition Planning Series for Teens with Special Needs. If you are just joining us, get caught up by reading Parts 1-3. 

At this point in our series, post secondary goals have been drafted based on appropriate assessments, self determination, and person centered planning.

Annual IEP goals are being formed to support post secondary goals and everyone is mindful that at least one transition service is listed on the IEP for each post secondary goal. 

Today we will focus on transition services provided by outside agencies.

Interagency collaboration is the process of partnering with outside agencies who provide the support and/or the environment students need to achieve post secondary goals. Examples of outside agencies offering support include:

  • The Department of Rehabilitation
  • College and University Disability Services
  • Technology Access Centers
  • Centers for Independent Living
  • Transportation Services
  • Social Security Administrations
  • Vocational Rehabilitation
  • Local Businesses
  • Local Supportive Living Providers
  • Mental Health Agencies
  • Disability Related Agencies
  • Transitional Partnership Program

Why is Interagency Collaboration important?

1.  Consistency of Service and Familiarity with the Student

Aging out of the school system means leaving supports that have shaped the student for over a dozen years. A new team and new supports take over. The ideal transition of supports happens when the old team has the opportunity to work along side the new team so services, learning, and life skill acquisition continue without interruption. 

2.  Real Life Experiences

Learning and executing skills in simulated situations is different than real life scenarios. A marker of mastery is the capability to transfer a skill into a variety of settings. Interagency collaboration offers the opportunity to execute skills off of the school campus. 

3.  Ongoing Assessment and Applicable Alteration of Goals

Part 2 of the ITP series reiterated the importance of ongoing assessments and adjustments to goals. Interagency collaboration offers opportunities to get a real picture of what services are available and when. It also offers a variety of scenarios to assess strengths, weaknesses, and preferences that may change for the student with new experiences.

4.  Head Start on Long Wait Lists

Agencies have an application process. Chances are high you have been through at least one application processes for services and know how long it can take. Agencies are allowed to have waiting lists and wide differences exist within state systems due to community resources. Also, agencies tend to focus on a specific area of need. Therefor submitting applications to multiple agencies is necessary and each agency may have a different definition of disability. Linking the individual to agencies while still in the school system makes connections easier. 

So great! We are all on board with the importance of involving outside employers and agencies in the annual IEP goals. But here’s the bummer...interagency collaboration is complicated. For many school districts it is hardly possible. 

Interagency collaboration is an ongoing process of building relationships. Building relationships take time. Relationships are not the only link necessary between school districts and outside agencies, businesses, community organizations, and service providers. Also required are:

  • Information and Training
  • IEP Input
  • Establishing the Student’s Network of Support
  • Advocating for Changes in Transition Programs at a District Level 
  • Coordination of Services

How Can It Happen?

Ask you school who serves in the role as transition coordinator. If you are among the fortunate, your school district has a specified transition coordinator whose time is given priority to the above tasks. Make yourself and your child known to this person.

Unfortunately, more often than not, the role of transition coordinator falls on the special education teacher. It is unrealistic to expect the special education teacher to have time to do an adequate job as a transition coordinator. 

As the student’s advocate, there are steps you can take to help support the team and thus the transition process. Approaching the team with a mindset of serving, appreciation, and offering assistance goes a long way. Here are some ways you can help the team help your child:

Crazy Idea #1: Begin Creating a Transition Portfolio

Beginning in Middle School, start documenting experiences and desires with a transition portfolio.  Transition portfolios are a history showcasing personal interests, employment history, volunteer experience, action pictures of interests, etc. They are a powerful advocacy tool.

Self-determination is an area schools put much emphasis on for good reason. The more information you can present to the team showcasing desires of the student, the more attention those desires will receive. If the portfolio shows a clear history of interest and strength in an area then much effort should be placed in creating a path toward that direction. The “I” in IEP and ITP stands for individual and that may require a program individualized for your student not already in existence.

Transition portfolios are also extremely helpful to outside agencies because they offer a quick way to gather important information as well as be used for conversational support.

Do not worry if it feels like you are late to the transition portfolio idea. There may be information on your social media channels to pull from and use which showcase and document preferences, milestones, and meaningful quotes. The Resource Guide has excellent links to transition portfolios and the self-determination process.

Crazy Idea #2: Utilize or Create a Resource Map of Your Area

The motivation behind resource mapping is the idea that it takes multiple agencies, organizations, and businesses to cover all the bases of need. Resource maps showcase systems of support that can easily be scanned and filtered in the area. Bringing a resource map to the ITP team is helpful. The Resource Guide offers more on this topic. 

Crazy Idea #3: Start Networking to Create Relationships with Potential Supports

As mentioned in #1, your student may already be showing a strong interest in a particular area. Is there a person or place where that interest can be supported with your help outside of school? This step requires your advocacy but imagine if you could offer the ITP team a scenario already established and ready to be plugged in.

 

We have only reached the start line of what is involved with interagency collaboration.

It is incredibly important yet incredibly complicated and time-consuming.  For this reason, most schools are unable to offer an abundance of options or support in this area. Coming to the transition team with a mindset of assisting in the process and focusing on the student’s self-determination offers the best chance of success.