HMS’s social workers specialize in working with children with special needs and their families. They provide support to students, families and staff. An advocate for students, they connect families with community resources and benefits and helps them to navigate the social-service system. They ease the transition when a student enrolls at HMS and when the student leaves at graduation or for another placement. HMS social workers realize our students are members of families and are served best when the needs of their whole family are met. To that end, we have started providing Sibshops for siblings of our students, to acknowledge and support the important role siblings play in our students’ lives. HMS social workers ensure parents and families stay up-to-date on changes in local, state, and federal policies that may affect their HMS student and family.
The social workers also facilitate the interdisciplinary team process, keeping communication lines open among all parties. When a child is ill or hospitalized, they communicate regularly with their family, maintaining the connection between school and home.
Our multidisciplinary collaborative team — including parents and representatives of the students’ community agencies — identifies goals and experiences that will best prepare our students for active adult lives. At age 14 each student begins participating in functional life skills (FLS) group. The curriculum for FLS was developed to meet the observed and reported needs of graduates in post 21 residential, social and volunteer environments. Individual goals and objectives emphasize making the most of time remaining in a school program, including use of assistive technology for maximizing instruction and independence. We work on life skills such as gaining internet access for interpersonal communication, information, consumer activities, using an adapted telephone and establishing contacts in the greater disability community. We also focus on developing self-protection skills, directing personal care staff, and ways to get involved in their community. We create experiences designed to foster independence by identifying ways to be independent even when students are totally physically dependent on other people. In this regard we also have the students discuss/explore what it means to have CP and participate in the CIRCLES program of self-protection, intimacy and developing relationships, and making and keeping friends.
A vital element of the move to increase social opportunities outside of the family, our residential program prepares students for living away from home, directing caregivers and identifying and accessing leisure interests. Advocacy, self-awareness and self-protection, community experience, as well as opportunities with creative arts, support our education program curriculum.
Our transition specialist assists families and transition-age students with navigating the systems for life after age 21 . We provide an outline of what to look for every year from age 14 until transition out of school, focusing on everything from medical and emotional transition, to equipment (acquisition of, use and maintenance), training of others, opportunities to be involved with others and having access to leisure activities. The transition specialist helps to identify the type of adult programs/services that are most appropriate for each student. After obtaining the most current program information, the transition staff sets appointments for visitations and frequently tours the facilities with families so that strengths and needs of each program can be reviewed following the tour.