Small Town to Big University: A Journey in Transition
Authors: Belinda Fayard, Parent and Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TSVI)
Keywords: transition, post-secondary education, TSBVI EXIT Program, PATHS program, Postsecondary Access and Training in Human Services, Texas Workforce Commission, TWC, independent living, volunteering
My 19-year-old daughter, Megan, is living her dream! She’s living independently at Texas A&M University and attending classes to achieve her goal of becoming a teaching assistant. Megan has a visual impairment and cerebral palsy, and it’s been quite a journey to get here. Megan and many individuals in her life have done so much to get to this point, and we hope that by sharing our journey, others can find ways to live their dreams also.
Growing up, Megan received the services of a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI) as well as Orientation and Mobility (O&M) training in her home school districts. Vision services began as soon as we brought her home from the hospital, and O&M began in third grade. She’s had some amazing instructors in her life and a supportive family system who continued the plan at home, expecting nothing but hard work. We, as parents, knew that the school team couldn’t provide everything our child might need in the limited time they spent with her. We spent many weekends planning out routes and walking them repeatedly until Megan was comfortable navigating on her own.
During Megan’s ninth-grade year, we started narrowing down her career options and planning for what would come after high school. She secured a volunteer job at a local elementary school within walking distance of the high school. We mapped out a route and practiced many times on the weekends to build her confidence with walking the half-mile through town on her own. The first day of the job, her O&M instructor traveled with her, and it was a huge success from then on. Megan volunteered two afternoons a week, and she had to travel there independently, in all kinds of weather. As with any new experience, Megan ran into the occasional obstacle, such as a downed tree or a moving truck blocking the sidewalk, but she problem-solved on her own, in the moment, and got to her job on time.
At the elementary school, Megan split her time between assisting in the art class, library, office, and in a kindergarten class. She loved it all! She expanded her volunteering to include an after-school program once a week at a different elementary school. Megan got some terrific exposure to working and discovered that she loved teaching. She also gained the self-confidence it took to travel alone in a downtown setting to get to work on time. Megan was recognized at one of the elementary schools as Volunteer of the Year for the 2019–2020 school year, and she hopes to be employed there one day.
The next step on the journey was the Experiences in Transition (EXIT) program at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI). Megan and her TVI applied for senior year, and she was accepted. This, in partnership with an Adulting 101 class through Easter Seals, funded by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), helped her work on independent living, job readiness, and technical skills. While at TSBVI, Megan moved into an apartment on campus and began working on using Lyft with her O&M instructor. She also participated in weekly cooking and cleaning lessons in her apartment. In about six weeks, Megan was truly managing to cook three daily meals and clean an efficiency apartment by herself.