Turning 19 is a rite of passage for any youth. For those with disabilities it marks a change in the services available as the teen moves, or ages out, from childhood to adult services.
Navigating through these changes can be complex and daunting for both parents and the young person reaching the age of majority. Helping ease this process is the idea behind the third annual Transition Fair, organized jointly by Community Living BC, inclusion Powell River and BC Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD).
“It’s a pretty significant time in their lives so we’re trying to alleviate the stress,” said MCFD child and youth with special needs social worker Jackie Milsom.
Visitors can expect to see a number of different booths hosted by City of Powell River, various employment programs and community partners with information on work, family supports and recreational opportunities.
“We invite kids from 14 and up,” added Milsom. “It’s never too early to start thinking about your future and for kids with disabilities it’s even more important to start planning and thinking as far ahead as possible.”
Brooks Secondary School graduate Grace Hilton, now 22, has been through the process of transitioning to adult services.
“When I was a teen I wasn’t really independent,” she said.
“I moved out last year. I lived with my mom and sister before that.”
In addition to living independently, Hilton now works as a teaching assistant and volunteers for Brownies, the Powell River Kings and as a candy striper.
“I like [candy striping] because it's good for us and also good for the residents,” she said.
Her hobbies include bowling and working on projects at fibre space. She has the help of a support worker 20 hours per week.
“We have a few things we work on with Grace,” said support worker Ola McCuish. “Trying to budget, choose healthy meals and finding things Grace can do so she’s not bored here by herself.”
Hilton said since moving out on her own the cook’s training program she took at Brooks has been put to good use and she enjoys preparing chili, macaroni and stir-frys. Overall, she said she feels good about her move to adult services, but it has not been completely stress free.
“There’s been some ups and downs and confusion sometimes, but it’s been pretty successful,” she added. “It’s been almost a year since I moved in here.”
Hilton said she is looking toward the future and setting goals.
“I’m wanting to do more travelling if I could,” she said. “I’d also like to get a scooter to be more independent.”
She recommends other youth moving toward adulthood not to get overwhelmed or lose sight of what is important to them.
“Just follow your dreams and do what you feel is what you want to do,” said Hilton.
Transition Fair takes place Thursday, March 7, from 3:30 to 5:30 pm at Brooks Secondary School. For more information on the fair, email Community Living BC facilitator Meghan McAllister at email@example.com.