2019 Midwest Transition Institute
By Deanna Rothbauer & Ann Mayes, Minnesota Deafblind Technical Assistance Project
The Third Annual Midwest Transition Institute (MTI) was hosted by the Minnesota DeafBlind Project, June 23-25, 2019, at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota. Eight teens/young adults and their parents attended this unique transition opportunity.
Nine other state Midwest deaf-blind projects (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin) supported and participated in the institute. Also providing support and resources were DeafBlind Services Minnesota, the Helen Keller National Center, the Transition Initiative Lead from the National Center on Deaf-Blindness, and the Minnesota State Services for the Blind.
The institute provided separate training for parents and families in one group and deafblind teens/young adults in another. Each deafblind participant was paired with a mentor who had either attended MTI in the past or is currently a deafblind community member.
The goal of institute was to address the five areas of Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS), including information about job exploration, work-based learning experiences, workplace readiness training, and instruction in self-advocacy. Counseling on opportunities for enrollment in post-secondary education programs was also available. The activities and information provided by the MTI were in alignment with Vocational Rehabilitation Services/State Services for the Blind objectives. Sharing information also helps to support a partnership and funding from VRS so that teens/young adults can participate in this rich transition experience.
Teens/young adults learned the power of conversation, advocacy, and obtaining information through active listening, also known as soft skills, which are critical when networking before and during employment. The group also took a trip to Feed My Starving Children, a nonprofit that provides nutritionally complete meals specifically formulated for malnourished children around the world. They learned the value of teamwork in order to pack as many meals as possible. All had a part. Finally, Wilderness Inquiry, a nonprofit organization that provides inclusive and accessible outdoor experiences, facilitated a canoe recreation activity. Much to everyone’s delight, every single MTI participant got in a canoe and out on the lake!
Parents and families learned about a variety of topics including customized employment, dignity of risk, basics of Pro-Tactile, and the ins and outs of transition planning. They also engaged in a simulated play about Helen Keller and made important social connections with other families.
Participants and mentors were provided with services from sign language interpreters, including certified deaf interpreters, tactile sign language interpreters, communication access real-time (CART), intervener services, spoken language interpreters, and Braille. On the weekend just before the MTI began, interpreters, interveners, and all deafblind project staff were invited to participate and learn the basics of Pro-Tactile. This excellent training was provided by Minnesota Deafblind community members.
The Midwest Transition Institute in St. Paul, Minnesota was a huge success, linking deafblind teens/young adults, parents, families, service providers, and state deaf-blind project staff, as well as personnel from the Helen Keller National Center, the National Center on Deaf-Blindness, State Services for the Blind, and DeafBlind Services Minnesota. Participants were able to experience a naturally occurring networking opportunity and connect with peers and mentors. Onward to Michigan for Midwest Transition Institute 2020.