Volume 3 Issue 5

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State Updates:

Shelley, ASPIRE Arizona Case Manager, tells us about one ASPIRE family.

Rodolfo and Dolores 17 years ago, Dolores Martinez, a month before the birth of her fourth child was told her son, Rodolfo, was going to be born with Spina Bifida. A hospital social worker recognized her feelings of uneasiness and connected her with Raising Special Kids. With the help of their resources, her own determination, and working with a parent mentor she was able to get the necessary resource to help her son. She now serves as a Family Support Specialist with Raising Special Kids, Arizona’s Parent Training and Information Center, to help other families like herself needing the resources.

Rodolfo is currently a senior, and will be attending a local college. Rodolfo recently received a scholarship to help cover materials for college along with financial aid, and at his last meeting he was excited to show his class schedule to Shelley. Way to go Dolores and Rodolfo!

Hailey After getting behind the wheel of an accessible vehicle, another teen, Hailey, is super motivated to get her license next year. She is determined to drive before her sibling! The family is currently working with a Benefits Specialist to obtain a PASS plan with Social Security. Hailey will be able to save for a vehicle. Then Hailey will work with Vocational Rehabilitation to get the modifications she will need so she can get to school on her own, and eventually work as a Child Life Specialist after college.

ASPIRE Colorado recognizes high school graduates and all Colorado families! In addition to graduation, ASPIRE youth and families are setting and achieving goals in the areas of work, school and independent living. ASPIRE Colorado wants to recognize all these accomplishments. Case Managers are planning Appreciation and Graduation celebrations events in eight counties across the state during June. To learn more about these events, and to RSVP, contact your Case Manager.

Seth is the picture of ASPIRE success! When he first began working with ASPIRE, he was uncertain about the possibility of employment. With encouragement from his mom, he did not completely disregard the idea. He was excited to work with his ASPIRE Case Manager and liked the idea of setting goals. Some of the goals Seth has completed include: signing up for Vocational Rehabilitation, learning about important documents he will use as an adult, identifying kinds of jobs he would enjoy, completing samples of resumes, and many others. Seth has taken many steps forward, and once he finally decided he wanted to work, nothing could stop him.

Seth began working with Vocational Rehabilitation, who provided a Job Coach. The Job Coach has coordinated work experiences for him, and helped him fill out applications. Today, Seth is a paid employee at his favorite bowling alley! This was one of the jobs he identified while working on his ASPIRE goals - finding jobs he would enjoy. Seth does many things at work including giving people their shoes, resetting the computers and lanes, and putting away bowling balls. Seth has met new friends at work where his sense of humor has blossomed, and he feels more independent and valued.

North Dakota
In North Dakota we have three ASPIRE youth graduating from high school. All have plans for post-secondary education. These youth are completing their FAFSA applications, writing essays for scholarships and finding ways to save money for college.

Summer will be a very busy time for ASPIRE North Dakota youth. Several youth will have their first work experience this summer. ASPIRE Case Managers have been working with families, vocational rehabilitation counselors, schools and many other organizations to make these work experiences happen.

Several youth will be attending various summer camps including a weekly camp which runs during the summer months, a summer Theatre Experience (where the youth will earn high school credit), Farmers Union Leadership camp, Deaf and Hard of Hearing camp and Camp Grassick (which has both a Transition camp and a two week camp which teaches youth daily living skills). Some youth will be attending driver's education classes this summer. Case Managers work with organizations in their communities to help pay for camps.

Youth and parents have been learning more about finances and are now figuring out how best to save the most money. Benefit Specialists continue to be very helpful to ASPIRE families. They dispel myths about youth working and their SSI benefit. North Dakota Case Managers are very excited and looking forward to the growth they will see over the summer.

South Dakota
Linda Schoon, South Dakota ASPIRE Case Manager, shares this story of amazing teamwork and changing expectations.

"During early ASPIRE meetings with Jacy and her mom, we discussed employment, education and independent living skills. Mom was feeling uncertain about Jacy’s future. Jacy had volunteered at her church food bank, and attended Special Olympic events but always with supervision. Mom did not know if Jacy would ever be able to work or live independently.

Mom talked about Jacy being very vulnerable and her lack of boundaries. She did not feel there would be a job where Jacy would be safe without constant supervision. And as far as living independently? Mom said, “No way, that won’t happen.”

As we have worked together over the past 2 years developing goals and connecting with resources and interventions, many positive changes have happened for Jacy. And mom’s thinking has changed.

Jacy’s IEP included attending an alternative school setting called the Community Living Apartment where she learns hands on daily living skills as an alternative to classes that she struggled to understand. At her apartment, Jacy is learning all the daily living skills needed to one day live independently in the community.

Jacy connected with Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) services and completed pre-employment job skills training. She participates in Project Skills, which is a job-training program through the school and VR. Last January Jacy started her first paid work experience at a local coffee shop as a dishwasher. She has advanced to cook, cashier, and server.

Mom said that two years ago she would never have believed that Jacy would be doing all these things as she transitions to adulthood. Even though Mom is still protective and has concerns about safety, she is realizing that Jacy is accomplishing more than she ever expected. She is thrilled and very proud of Jacy!”

This is just one example of what happens when youth, parents, Case Managers, Vocational Rehabilitation, schools, communities and resources work together as a team.

To see Jacy's story, go to https://youtu.be/xcg512Dpgts

Since May, contractors serving ASPIRE Utah families have provided greater access and services than ever before. Each month, these contractors (i.e., Fair Credit Foundation, WINGS [Guardianship], and Utah Parent Center) host “ASPIRE Family Connections” events held statewide. During these events, parents can learn about valuable community resources and start to build a network of supports and resources to rely on after ASPIRE ends in late 2018.

In addition to these monthly events, ASPIRE Case Managers are scheduling with contractors to individually meet with families to address their specific interests and needs. So if you are an ASIPRE parent who would like to meet with our helpful contractors, let us know. Call (844) 880-9171 toll free.

Staff Highlight - Teresa Nielsen

Teresa Nielsen

"I was born and raised in San Jose, California and moved to Colorado almost 13 years ago. In 2010, I received my Bachelor's in Social Work. Since then, I have worked in the Human Services field with different populations from those struggling with addiction, chronic homelessness and underemployment. My passion is helping families struggling with different obstacles, by offering support in reaching their goals to self-sufficiency. My hobbies outside of work include crocheting, listening to live music, and hanging out with my two year old son, Otis."

Teresa Nielsen
Case Manager

May 15, 2017

In This Issue:

The Director's Corner

North Dakota
South Dakota

Staff Highlight - Teresa Nielsen

ASPIRE Website

Follow ASPIRE on Facebook

"Include Us in YOUR Newsletter!"

ASPIRE Partners

Contact Us

The Director's Corner

There are times when having a disability has extra expenses for a family. Frequent medical visits mean there are more copays and out of pocket expenses. Adding lifts and grab bars, or widening doorways are also added costs. In 2014, Congress passed a law, the “Achieving a Better Life Experience Act,” otherwise known as ABLE. These ABLE savings accounts are a way for anyone to save on behalf of a person with disabilities. Since the contributions are after-tax dollars, the interest earned on the account is not taxed. And the best news of all is that the amount in these ABLE savings accounts are exempt from being counted when agencies like Social Security or Medicaid start counting assets. So the funds in the ABLE account aren’t included in any $2,000 asset limit.

That sounds simple, but there are always other details as well. For example, the money must be used for disability-related expenses, on behalf of the designated beneficiary who has the disability. It can supplement other benefits, but it cannot supplant benefits from Medicaid, SSI, private insurance or earnings. Another detail is that the person must have a significant disability that began prior to turning 26 years old. They can be older than 26, but the disability had to have begun before their 27th birthday. The annual limit of deposits in one tax year is $14,000. And each state sets the maximum amount in the account.

To learn more about ABLE accounts and the many rules, check out the ABLE National Resource Center http://www.ablenrc.org/. Find your state and see what’s happening with ABLE accounts for people with disabilities and especially for ASPIRE youth and their families.

Carol Ruddell
ASPIRE Project Director


Include Us in YOUR Newsletter!

Do you connect with youth and their families through a newsletter, or know of an agency that does? Let us know if you would like some information about ASPIRE or PROMISE to include in your newsletter. We will gladly provide you with a brief article and additional information. Simply email us at
aspire@aspirewest.org or call 1-844-880-9712.



ASPIRE Website - www.aspirewest.org

The ASPIRE website is a great place to find resources for youth and their families in your area, as well as contact information for all six of the ASPIRE states, and information about ASPIRE and the PROMISE Initiative. If you received this newsletter from a friend or colleague and would like to be on our mailing list, click on the "Subscribe" link to sign up for our newsletter.

You can also view ASPIRE related events in your state by going to your state page, then clicking on the upcoming events link on the menu.

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ASPIRE Partners

ASPIRE is excited to partner with the following agencies:

ASPIRE Partners: Utah State Office of Rehabilitation, Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, and the Office of Public Instruction, Colorado Office of Community Access and Independence, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, South Dakota Black Hills Special Services Cooperative, North Dakota Center for persons with Disabilities at Minot State University, Arizona Governor's Office for Children, Youth and Families

Be a part of the ASPIRE Newsletter

If you would like to be included in our next newsletter, email us at aspire@aspirewest.org or call 1-844-880-9172.