UCEDD Success Stories - Sonoron UCEDD at University of Arizona

Tucson, AZ

June 10, 2022

CORE FUNCTION: Community Services: Demonstration Services

The Transition AHEAD Roundtable is a day-long, one-on-one set of activities. It is designed to purposefully engage both the young adult and their family in collaborative activities with Sonoran UCEDD staff and staff from outside agencies and organizations. In a holistic manner, the Roundtable addresses five key areas: Employment, Healthcare, Education & Training, Relationships and Community, and Independent Living. Importantly, this busy day culminates in a brief Roundtable presentation led by the young adult about what they have identified as their strengths, as well as key goals and meaningful supports they want in order to achieve their desired level of independence. The overall process is intended to help each emerging adult begin to achieve outcomes that connect to their own lifelong aspirations. It also helps the adults in their lives identify opportunities and actions they, too, can take to support those aspirations.

Parents emerge with a new (sometimes renewed) sense of what is possible as a positive future for their son or daughter. They are surprised at the number of agencies and organizations that are there to support them; and, they are grateful for the chance to meet one-on-one with individuals who represent those groups. They are equally appreciative of the level of participation and competency their son or daughter demonstrates throughout the day. These two things give them energy and hope.

School staff have the opportunity to hear from the youth about their goals and desires at the last part of the Roundtable. They have expressed their amazement with hearing the student advocate for themselves and what they want for their future and how helpful this information is for their transition programming. School personnel have stated that in many cases this is the first time the student has expressed or shared these interests and goals.

The greatest impact on youth is that, for the first time, they are at the table as an equal and actively engaged participant in conversation and activities about their own transition from school. Working alongside their parent/guardian, community partners and UCEDD staff in a wide variety of activities, they are encouraged to speak and act as self-advocates. Importantly, throughout the whole process they are supported and validated. As the day progresses, each young person seemed to enjoy the opportunity to explore and express their personal interests, activities, and dreams. Youth provided the following feedback:

  • It [Roundtable] went really well. They got one-on-one and had me actively included.
  • I like to know there are people to help me.

During the pilot of the Transition AHEAD Roundtable (ending March 2021), our team met and worked with a diverse group of youth. The six (6) youth were recruited from 3 different school sites, including one tribal area school.

Their ages ranged from 17 to 22, with an average age of 19. All youth also identified as having an intellectual and/or developmental disability, with co-occurring reports of anxiety, difficulty with communication or social interactions, behavioral complications, and other cognitive issues. Additionally, several youth had no formal means of communication and other youth and families did not speak English requiring language interpreters.

Future year activities will be focused on further development of the Arizona model, application to other diverse populations, and expansion geographically through design of a telehealth approach. Project staff will collaborate with community partners to conduct 20 Roundtable events with youth with disabilities and their families over the next year. We will build on what we learned in year one and expand diversity of participants to include youth with disabilities who are Native American and Hispanic, are in foster care, have hearing impairments and other severe disabilities, and are younger in age. Based on our experiences in year one with rural and Native American communities, we will continue to address access issues related to technology and internet capabilities. Additionally, language interpretation will be explored to increase availability and real-time interpretation following our year one experience. Our conversion to a virtual platform allowed us to learn new things about implementation which we will further develop and test strategies as well as explore application using a telehealth approach that builds remote site capacity and sustainability.