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Mentor Helps Families MAP Out the Future
Posted on January 22, 2014, by GAPMP
For the students engaged in Effingham County Schools Project Search, the post-secondary journey into their futures begins with an interview, a personal invitation and a MAPS. For Kathy Johnson, Effingham County Schools Parent Mentor and MAPS facilitator, the most exciting part is watching parents get on board.
Effingham County Schools Transition Coordinator Denise Dawson is in the driver seat for Project Search as manager of the program, while parent mentor Kathy Johnson is working hard to make sure that parents come along for the ride.
This year, the duo of Dawson and Johnson plan to facilitate two MAPS per month for all the students they are serving in Project Search in the 2013-14 school year. The MAPS (Making Action Plans) process is a research based person centered planning tool developed by John O’Brien, Jack Pearpoint and Lynda Kahn (see links below for more information).
Johnson is serving her first year as parent mentor and started her work in the district with the MAPS training offered last May called “MAPS to Goal Setting, A Person-Centered Planning Tool.” The training was as part of the college and career readiness initiative through the SPDG (State Personnel Development Grant). According to Johnson, it takes a lot of collaboration each month to assemble the MAPS. “ The teams include the student’s teachers, job coaches, hospital mentors, Voc Rehab and any family members the student wishes to invite,” Johnson said.
Johnson said this one-on-one time is very important to the MAPS process, “I believe that spending time getting to know the student personally and the personal invitations sent from the students are the keys to successful parent engagement with our MAPS facilitations.” She asks them questions about their interests for the purpose of generating excitement and enthusiasm about the MAPS process.
“One of my favorite parts of the invitation process is going back to my office with the questions/answers in hand to research their favorite music artist or song, find the meaning of their favorite color, or find inspirational quotes from their favorite author or television actor. Once I find just the right piece of inspiration I attach it to the bottom of the invitation (using the invitation template in the MAPS workbook) that the student then gives to his family members, friends, teachers, etc. This invitation gets the student excited about the MAPS process as well as the parents and other team members,” she said.
By Thanksgiving, the team had completed five MAPS. Johnson was encouraged by the recent positive experiences they witnessed during a parent training, saying “We recently held the first of a three-part Family Transition Workshop and asked one of the moms to come and share about the MAPS experience she had with her daughter. Our focus person was too shy to speak in public but graciously allowed her mom to bring her MAP to display. When this mom was through speaking there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. One of the most amazing things was hearing this mom describe what she learned about her daughter through the MAPS facilitation. The mom said that she only wished they would have had the opportunity to have a MAPS facilitation a few years earlier. She felt that because so much was revealed about her child’s gifts and desires the future now had more clarity and direction.
This parent’s shared MAP experience led to several other parents at the workshop signing up to have a MAP facilitated for their own children.”
Additionally, Johnson reports that students who have completed MAPS are more engaged and involved in their IEP meetings and transition planning. Not only does the MAPS facilitation offer an opportunity for those who will be involved in the student’s transition team (ie: teachers, job coaches, community members, family, Project Search instructors, Voc Rehab counselors,) but MAPS participants achieve the formation of three goals. Those goals form the core of a person centered transition plan for that student.
Johnson said of one of the MAPS, “The focus person was very shy and had a difficult time with answering any questions about her personal dreams and goals. She became very nervous and for several long quiet moments everyone in the room was feeling anxious for her. Johnson noticed that the focus person, in this case a 19 year old young woman, would often depend on family members to speak for her. “She, herself, even seemed surprised by the personal dreams and goals she shared. Her parents revealed they learned things about their daughter that day that they never knew before. Her family/support circle members stepped up and made action agreements to help her attain her goals. This focus person is currently working on obtaining her driver’s license and seeking employment.”
Like all parent mentors, Johnson understands the worries and struggles of parents who are working to help their children create solid post-secondary transitions into the world of college, tech school, post-secondary programs or work .
“My husband and I have been blessed with three beautiful and bright daughters. Isabel is 15 years old and was our first born and only biological daughter. She was the only princess for over nine years until she was dethroned in 2007 and 2008 when our two adopted daughters, Ava now 7 years old and Maelyn now 6 years old, came home from an orphanage in Guatemala to join our family.
The life training that came along with raising my three beautiful girls who between them share the following diagnosis’…OCD, ADD, ADHD, RAD, PTSS, ODD and Autism, is what prepared me to step into this new position in my life. I realize that these diagnosis’, this pot of acronym soup if you will, does not define who my daughters are or all that they are capable of becoming. These are the challenges that have taught me to ask for help. Challenges that require my family, our school system, our medical doctors, specialists, therapists and our community to become an even bigger adoptive family. I am truly blessed to be in a position as parent mentor to encourage, support and educate other families like mine who often feel overwhelmed by life’s challenges,” she said.