If you’re a parent or caregiver for a youngster with a disability, chances are you’ve spent more hours than you can count worrying about your child’s future. As children become teenagers and prepare to transition from school to work, concerns only multiply.

With February’s designation as “Jewish Disabilities and Inclusion Awareness Month,” Jewish Community Services will present “Planning for Today and Building for Tomorrow: A Four-Part Workshop for Parents and Caregivers of Individuals with Varying Abilities.”

The free series, held on four consecutive Thursdays throughout February at the Park Heights Jewish Community Center, will give parents and caregivers the information they need to navigate the complex journey ahead.

When it comes to transitioning from school to the workplace, “most parents and caregivers are at a loss,” says Andrea Fenwick, senior manager of employment support services at JCS.

Fenwick is the mother of a 23-year-old son with autism. “I’ve been down this road. I know all the obstacles and pitfalls of trying to navigate the system,” she says. “There’s a lot they need to know.”

During the first session, attendees will learn about mobility and travel issues. “We’re helping people to travel independently so they can get to work on time,” says Fenwick.

One thing that she says many people are not aware of is the need to begin planning for the future long before your child is ready to leave school.

“If you haven’t already applied for services with [the Maryland Developmental Disability Administration] by the time your child is 14, you may not be able to get connected,” Fenwick says. “Most likely, your child will be placed on a waiting list.” That means when the young adult needs DDA’s assistance with concerns such as employment, housing and other support services, they may be waiting for a long time.

Estate planning, which is covered in the second session of the series, can also be confusing. Families or individuals can save money for education, housing, transportation and job training in tax-advantaged savings accounts for individuals with disabilities or ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) accounts. But the Social Security Administration has limits on how much one can save without being penalized, says Fenwick.

“You have to know what those limits are or it can snowball,” she says. Similarly, Social Security overpayments can also pose problems for families, adds Fenwick. The workshop’s third session will help attendees to handle overpayments to avoid owing money to the Social security Administration.

The final workshop session will teach parents and caregivers how to discover their loved one’s vocational strengths and create a customized job for them.

“With job customization, you can look at the needs of an employer and the strengths of an individual, and make a match,” says Fenwick. “A job can be tailored or customized to a specific task that could benefit the business. For example, a job seeker may not be able to perform all of the related tasks for a sales associate position, but they can help the business to become more efficient by restocking and organizing merchandise during peak hours.

“Ultimately, we’re trying to have people with disabilities included in our community and as independent as possible so they can be their best selves,” Fenwick says. “Hopefully, by raising awareness, we can help people to see that folks with disabilities are more similar to us, than they are different.”

“Planning for Today and Building for Tomorrow” workshops will take place on the following dates:

Feb. 6
“Mobility Travel Training to and from Work”
Presented by Jamie Leboe, JCS career coach, and Tova Jaffee, JCS’s Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) team leader

Feb. 13
“Estate Planning to Ensure a Loved One’s Future Care”
Presented by Mary O’Byrne of O’Byrne Law, LLC

Feb. 20
“Handling Social Security Overpayments”
Presented by Steve Land, JCS service coordinator

Feb. 27
“Identifying Career Strengths – Employment Discovery and Customization”
Presented by Corey Smith, senior consultant of Griffin-Hammis Associates Inc. This session will take place at the Park Heights Jewish Community Center from 5:30-7 p.m.

All sessions except for Feb. 27 will take place from 1-2:30 p.m. at the Park Heights Jewish Community Center, 5700 Park Heights Ave. For information and to RSVP, call 410-843-7353 or email cwhite@jcsbaltimore.org.

In addition, Baltimore’s Jewish community will commemorate “Jewish Disabilities and Inclusion Awareness Month” with additional programming. Here are some of the highlights:

Intro to American Sign Language Class
Mondays, Feb. 3, 10, 17 and 24, 7:30-9 p.m.
Macks Center for Jewish Education, 5708 Park Heights Ave.
Rachel Turniansky: 410-735-5022 or rturniansky@cjeb.org

CHADD Meeting: Partnering with Your Child’s Teacher
Wednesday, Feb. 5, 8-9:15 p.m. at Park Heights JCC, 5700 Park Heights Ave.
Special educator Brenna Blount will help parents of children with ADD/ADHD develop a clear plan to approach teachers.
Faye Friedman: 410-843-7524 or ffriedman@shemeshbaltimore.org

Kol Echad Inclusive Shabbat Service
Friday, Feb. 7, Oneg 5:30 p.m., Service 6 p.m.
Beth El Congregation, 8101 Park Heights Ave., Pikesville
Interactive, sensory-friendly Shabbat service for children of ALL abilities.

JDAIM at JTown
Friday, Feb. 7
JTown at the Park Heights JCC, 5700 Park Heights Ave.
Julie Wohl: 410-735-5027 or jwohl@cjeb.org

Shemesh Chefs Shabbat
Thursday, Feb. 20
SHEMESH Chefs: A Specially Prepared Friday Night Dinner Place orders now through Monday, Feb. 17. SHEMESH Board members will assist a local chef in preparing a meal for sale, at $36. Proceeds will cover a SHEMESH program for parents in the Baltimore community.
Place your order by texting or calling 410-925-8677 or online at associated.org/shemesh

JDAIM Movie Night: “The Mighty”
Monday, Feb. 24, 6 p.m.
Park Heights JCC Community Room, 5700 Park Heights Ave.
Rachel Turniansky: 410-735-5022 or rturniansky@cjeb.org

Ten Tips for Nurturing Happier, Healthier, Better Behaved Children with Dr. Pat Friman
Wednesday, Feb. 26; 7:30-9:30 p.m.
Beth Tfiloh Community School, 3300 Old Court Rd., Pikesville
Clinical psychologist and internationally known parenting and behavioral expert provides advice to parents. Sponsored by SHEMESH
Register: shemeshparentlecture.eventbrite.com

For information on these and other events, please visit the Baltimore Jewish Abilities Alliance at baltimore.jewishabilities.org .

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