Building the Team with Your Teen

An OSERS guest blog by Debra Jennings

Deborah Jennings

Debra Jennings is the Project Director for the Center for Parent Information and Resources

When teenagers reach their age of majority, a host of changes can and most likely will take place. For one, reaching the age of majority means that the young person is now considered an adult. In most states, this happens at age 18. The youth now has the same rights as other adults do, including the right to vote, marry, enter into contracts, and make decisions about his or her education, healthcare, and finances. These are big changes, for both the young person and his or her parents. Is everybody ready? Indeed, how do you get ready, especially when the youth has a disability that affects decision making?

The Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) is pleased to connect you with a new series of parent briefs on this very important subject. The series starts with Getting Ready for When Your Teen Reaches the Age of Majority: A Parent’s Guide and continues with tip sheets on getting ready for:

Why is age of majority such an important issue?

Because, bottom line, the age of majority happens whether the teenager is “ready” or not. And it happens whether parents are ready or not! That’s why it’s a good idea for parents to:

  • Take advantage of their child’s growing years (especially ages 10–14) to build skills needed in the future.
  • Connect with their state’s Parent Center as their first stop for information and resources about disability issues in general and transition planning in particular.
  • Foster a team approach that involves their son or daughter.
  • Lay a solid foundation through discussions, guided support and decision-making, respect, and opportunities for their son or daughter to learn the basic skills that an adult needs.

The Age of Majority series offers parents suggestions for doing just that. We’d like to elaborate for a moment on three of these four key suggestions.

1—Start early

Building confidence and decision-making skills takes time and practice. So it’s definitely savvy for parents and educators to begin early to prepare the young person with a disability for the eventuality of reaching the age of majority. Fortunately, there are resources available to help families and schools, many of which are noted in the Age of Majority series.

2—Connect with the state Parent Center

The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) funds a powerful network of Parent Centers (at least one per state) to inform and train parents of children with disabilities so that they have a reliable place to learn about their child’s disability, their rights under the law, and resources in their community, state, and nation. Parent Centers are an excellent source of information about transition planning, offering parent guides, webinars, training workshops, and the like to support parents and youth in preparing for life after high school.

Visit the CPIR Hub to find the Parent Center(s) for your state.

3—Foster a team approach

The Age of Majority series strongly recommends taking a team approach:

  1. to prepare a young person for reaching the age of majority, and
  2. to provide a network of support once adulthood is reached.

How much support a young person might need to live as independently as possible will vary from person to person. But there are many types of support available, from family and friends, to community agencies, to in-home services, and these can be matched to the needs of the individual. The tip sheets include many examples.

To hear an especially evocative and insightful description of how building such a team can make all the difference in the world to the adult life of a son with significant disabilities, take 5 minutes and listen to Ann Turnbull on the subject. You won’t be sorry you did.

In sum

Growing up is natural, it’s inevitable, and it’s exciting. We hope that the Age of Majority tip sheets will help parents and their young person get ready. May all our sons and daughters go forth, make their foolish mistakes despite our warnings, enjoy their triumphs, ask for our help when they need it, and build their lives as independently and satisfyingly as possible.

How the tip sheets were developed

The Age of Majority series was developed in collaboration between three OSEP-funded centers: the National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center (NSTTAC), the National Post-School Outcomes Center (NPSO, link after 12/2015), and the Center for Parent Information and Resources. We all are especially pleased that Parent Centers were involved in reviewing each tip sheet and helping to shape the tone and content of the series.

Deborah Jennings
Posted by
Project Director, Center for Parent Information and Resources

Celebrating 40 Years of IDEA

cross-post from ED’s HOMEROOM Blog.

This month, our nation marks the 40th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), signed by President Gerald Ford.

This law represents a landmark civil rights measure that has helped to give all children the opportunity to develop their talents and contribute to their communities. IDEA opened the doors of public schools to millions of children with disabilities.

Before the law was passed, children with disabilities in this country were not guaranteed equal access to a quality education. More than 40 years ago, nearly 1.8 million children with disabilities were excluded from public schools. In 1970, just five years before IDEA was enacted, only one in five children with disabilities had access to a quality education. In some states, many students with both physical and mental disabilities were denied an education—essentially shut out of classrooms across the country.

Education for students, including students with disabilities, has improved significantly since that time. Classrooms have become more inclusive and the future for children with disabilities is brighter. Significant progress has been made toward protecting the rights of, meeting the individual needs of, and improving educational results for students with disabilities.

Today, nearly 62 percent of students with disabilities are in general education classrooms. Early intervention services are now being provided to more than 340,000 infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families. Before IDEA, these services were not always available. Today, over 6.9 million students with disabilities have access to special education and related services. These services are often designed specifically for students to meet their unique needs.

While tremendous progress has been made over the years, we must continue the hard work to address the challenges that still exist. Although we are able to help many individual students to achieve their goals, we must continue to work at ensuring that allchildren have the supports they need and to find ways to ensure they can reach their full potential.

For more information, visit the Department’s new website featuring resources developed by our grantees, instructional best practices, assessments, and information on student engagement, school climate, home and school partnerships, and post-school transitions for students with disabilities.

Hannah Smith is an intern in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education and a Senior a the University of Missouri.

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An intern in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education and a Senior a the University of Missouri.

Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP)

Do you have a child in your classroom or at home who has difficulty understanding educational media because he or she is visually impaired, blind, hard of hearing, deaf, or deaf-blind? A solution is the free-loan collection of described and captioned educational media provided by the Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) through Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funding by the U.S. Department of Education.

The DCMP is also the go-to center for information about educational media access, including tips for effective use, research reports which support the need, and how-to guidelines for adding descriptions and captions to media. In addition, DCMP answers teachers’ questions about equal access and helps parents advocate for their children’s educational needs.

The best part is that there is no charge for any DCMP membership, products, or services! That is thanks to IDEA, which has a goal of a free and appropriate education for all children with disabilities. DCMP meshes perfectly with the IDEA pledge to ensure that educators and parents have the necessary tools to improve educational results.

The five key reasons why you should utilize this opportunity are detailed below.

Reason No. 1:
A Collection of On-Demand Accessible Educational Media

High-quality educational media with descriptions and captions is available through the DCMP. Registration is free to qualified members, including teachers, parents and other professionals who work with a student with a vision or hearing loss.

DCMP selects media that supports academic standards and provides enrichment to curriculum for students in pre-school through grade 12. Before any item is added to the DCMP, it is evaluated based on strict standards for technical and content quality.

Over 7,000 media titles can be viewed online or ordered for shipment to you in DVD format. Online media delivery is available via a fully-accessible media player for the web, including the ability to switch between accessibility options (captioning and description) and language options (English and Spanish). A searchable, interactive transcript feature allows for the location of specific content within a video, and supports re-watching key segments for content reinforcement. Additional viewing methods include the DCMP’s channel for the Roku set-top box, and an iOS app which allows students direct access to media. Student-based viewing is supported by a comprehensive permission system, allowing teachers/parents to grant access to subject areas and/or specific titles to groups or individual students.

Reason No. 2:
Provision of the Highest Quality Descriptions and Captions on All Media

Descriptions and captions are accessibility features added to videos (including those on the Internet) to provide equal access for students who are sensory impaired. Descriptions are additional segments of narration that explain or describe images to students who are blind or visually impaired, and they are inserted into pauses in a video’s original soundtrack. Captions are printed transcriptions of the video’s dialog or narration (along with identifying important sound effects and providing speaker identification). Captions provide access to students who are deaf or hard of hearing,

Ensuring the captions and descriptions are of high quality is of paramount importance, as this guarantees that the thousands of students who will view each DCMP media item during its lifetime will benefit from equal access. Captions and descriptions are created based on DCMP guidelines (see Reason No. 4 below), and a rigorous quality check is performed. One of the goals of the review of descriptions is to determine if the vocabulary used matches the grade level of the production. A review of captions verifies they are error free, synchronized with the audio, and displayed with enough time to be read completely.

Reason No. 3:
Information about Educational Media Access

The DCMP also serves as a clearinghouse of information on the subject of description and captioning for service to consumers, agencies, businesses, schools, and families. Offerings include numerous DCMP print and online informational resources as well as referrals to accessibility information from the websites of DCMP consumer advocacy partners and professional groups.

Site visitors can browse or perform a keyword search for DCMP articles and webpages written by DCMP staff members, educators, advocates, and others. Information about the DCMP accessible media loan program, procedures for applying for and using the media collection, updates concerning the availability of newly available media items, research related to production and effectiveness of accessibility features, and tips for effective use of accessible media are available in the DCMP Learning Center.

The DCMP search engine not only reveals results from the DCMP website, but also from the websites of twenty other national consumer, professional, and advocacy groups. Searchers simply click on a link and are led to information on these collaborators’ sites.

Reason No. 4:
One-of-a-Kind Guidelines for Creating Descriptions and Captions

Anyone wanting to create descriptions and captions for media may utilize the DCMP online guidelines which provide a framework for consistency and quality. These technical and style manuals have been used by providers, government agencies, businesses, school technology departments, teachers, parents, students, and others. They are the only such guidelines for educational media available in the United States, and have been adopted in several other countries.

The Description Key guidelines cover a range of topics from identifying what information needs to be described to determining how to describe it. Preparing educational description requires constant decision making with regard to the content and timing. The “key visual elements” of an educational program which are selected for description should be those that serve to convey a specific learning goal.

The Captioning Key includes information on language mechanics, presentation rate, sound effects, speaker identification, synchronization, and special considerations (music, dialect, slang, play on words, etc.). These guidelines have been translated into other languages, received international distribution, and have been utilized in various settings as a basic reference.

Reason No. 5:
Advocacy Regarding Media Access Issues

There are ongoing examples of lack of understanding, apathy, and prejudice that lead to inaccessibility in technology that dramatically impacts students who have sensory disabilities. Education and advocacy are crucial to overcoming these barriers.

As indicated by questions continually fielded at the DCMP, the majority of people are uninformed as to laws and regulations concerning description and captioning, the process of selecting a provider of these services, the steps necessary to perform description/captioning, and the costs of procuring these services. The DCMP is a comprehensive and trusted source for answers to questions about educational description and captioning.

Said Jason Stark, DCMP Project Director: “Equal access and opportunity for children with disabilities is the hallmark of the IDEA. Through the funding provided by the Department of Education under IDEA, the DCMP is able to respond to parents’ and teachers’ desire to provide learning opportunities that are more interactive, self-paced, inclusive, and engaging.”

Watch a video overview of the features of the DCMP media library at

For more information, visit the DCMP online at, or email

Jo Ann McCann
Posted by
OSERS Project Officer—Captioning and Video Description Projects. Member of Children of Deaf Adults (CODA), International, a non-profit organization for adult, hearing sons and daughters of deaf parent(s).