The Big Picture

Thoughts on big issues, challenges, and celebrations of the education work we do....

Four employment questions you should be asking…

And a few resources for finding answers.


Everyone has heard that there is no such thing as a dumb question. 

If one person is wondering about something, there must be other people unsure about the same thing, right? But most of us have questions we hesitate to ask, especially when we want to look confident—like at the start of a new job!

For transition students, employment is one area where everyone has a lot of questions. Whether you are exploring different work experiences or starting your first paid job, there is a lot to learn. That means finding answers to questions—including the ones that you worried might sound dumb (even though you know there is no such thing).

Transition teachers and youth transition specialists are always great resources for employment questions. When your team of support professionals is not available, you might do some research online. If so, be sure to use trustworthy websites to find valid information. and are two examples of helpful resources for employment questions.


Here are four questions everyone may ask at some point in their employment journey, along with links to find more information.

What questions should I ask during an interview to know if the job is a good fit?

Interviews are mostly a time for employers to ask the questions, but at some point they’ll offer a chance to ask about the company and expectations for this position. Learn more about answering and asking interview questions (and learn which questions NOT to ask during an interview).

I like my job, but I don’t think I am paid fairly. How do I ask my boss for a raise?

Talking about wages and benefits can be an uncomfortable conversation—but feeling underpaid is even more stressful. What if you learn that co-workers earn more than you? There may be good reasons for that, but you have the right to address the issue of equal pay. And if you’ve earned a pay increase, learn how to approach your supervisor to ask for a raise.

Someone at my job is bothering me. What should I do about that?

Harassment at work is never okay or funny. If a workplace begins to feel unsafe or hostile, no employee has to accept what is happening. Sexual harassment may be the most well-known form of offensive behavior, but harassment can range from bullying comments to unfair treatment because of race, religion, gender, or disability. Learn what to do if you experience a hostile work environment. If the harassment is from the top, learn how to recognize inappropriate actions from supervisors. 

I heard about another job I might like better. How should I make that change?

When new opportunities come up, leaving one company to join another can be tricky. Maybe a different job offers better pay, or a better schedule, or more interesting duties. Learn how to watch for your next step up the ladder of success. When you do accept a new job, learn how to make that change in employment happen in a positive manner.

Bend Autism program designated as training site for Oregon Educators


High Desert Education Service District’s Bridges program has been designated as an autism training site for educators statewide. A partnership with Bend-La Pine Schools, Bridges is a specialized classroom, housed at Lava Ridge Elementary School, that provides intensive instruction to students in grades K-3 on the autism spectrum. Bridges was selected as a training site by the Oregon Program Autism Training Sites and Supports project, which brings evidence-based practices to Oregon schools throughout the state. Bridges is the only elementary level training site in Central Oregon and now one of more than 40 across the state. Additional early childhood special education training sites are currently being established within HDESD program that serve children ages birth to 5 years.

 “The Bridges program at Lava Ridge is a wonderful model of how to support learners with autism and other developmental disabilities,” said Alicia Balfrey, autism consultant for OrPATS. “First and foremost, it is clear that the teaching team in the classroom genuinely respects and cares for each of their students. They make an effort to get to know each student and their unique qualities and needs, and those strong relationships help the students thrive! The program seamlessly incorporates a variety of evidence-based and best practices for students receiving special education, and they strive to implement those teaching strategies at a high caliber. They are always willing to learn or try something new with the students in order to help them reach their fullest potential. It also seems they make an effort to connect with families as a means of including caregivers as a crucial part of the educational team.”

 According to Balfrey, the level of organization in the Bridges classroom is one key factor in the program’s success. With a consistent daily schedule, and strong team engagement and communication, Balfrey explained that every member of the team knows what they should be doing at each moment of the day, which maximizes instructional time for the students. She adds that student independence is another important factor in Bridges’ success.

 “Students are encouraged to be as independent as possible throughout the day and receive instruction in multiple formats including group learning, direct instruction, and independent work. Every time I have the pleasure of visiting the Bridges program, I think to myself, ‘This classroom runs as smoothly as a well-oiled machine’,” said Balfrey, adding that student artwork and positive messages on the walls also creates a welcoming learning environment. 

While Bridges is a self-contained program, staff strive to create meaningful inclusion opportunities for every student to ensure they have a chance to learn alongside their neurotypical peers. Bridges staff includes a teacher and nine specialists who bring additional expertise in Autism, Occupational Therapy, Augmentative Communication and Speech Language Pathology.

 “It’s been really amazing to watch kids become learners while building their skills and connecting with their peers in a general education environment,” said Sara Ausman, special programs administrator for HDESD. “The dedication of the team, and their attention to detail as they support kids to blossom is remarkable and inspiring. They work incredibly hard to address the individual needs of students while also looking at the big picture and long-term goal of helping them become part of their own school and community. We could not do what we do without all of the staff working together to create this unique learning environment. As a training site, we are able to share our experience and expertise to help build state and local capacity to serve more students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in a way that allows for individualized services for students.” 

 OrPATS Project Coordinator/Training Supervisor, Darby Lasley, explained that training sites are selected based on team willingness to learn and consistently implement evidence-based practices for students with autism in their public school classrooms. 

 “What really makes the Bridges program stand out is the level of dedication from all members of the educational team,” said Balfrey. “Not just the classroom staff, but their related service providers and administrators too. It makes a huge difference when administrators are involved in programs like these, helping to ensure the staff are well-supported, identifying areas of need, providing resources and training, and getting to know the students themselves. The Bridges program feels like a community of support for students, and I am so honored to be a small part of it,” said Balfrey.

Brewing up business skills in La Grande

Students stay energized at Taste of the Tiger Coffee Kiosk

 Where can you find a student-run business that combines customer service, managing payments, inventory control and a perfect hot mocha with extra whip cream? In LaGrande, Oregon, at the Taste of the Tiger coffee shop, transition students and high school students are serving up coffee drinks and more to a loyal clientele – and they are learning valuable business skills along the way.


Barista skills—there’s a latte to learn!

“The Taste of the Tiger business has helped a lot of students learn time management and accountability,” said Corey Ackerman, youth transition specialist for the La Grande School District. Ackerman has been the supervisor for the coffee business since 2004.

Students learn more than just making the perfect latte. Working in a coffee shop involves making customers feel welcome, tracking multiple orders at once, and keeping the shop tidy. Students also learn to handle pressure when there are lines of customers ordering through the windows. “Some of our student workers struggled with interacting with others. This job helped them learn to communicate, work with people and follow through on tasks,” said Ackerman.

The student baristas must work as a team during busy times. Often, two students will take orders and payments while the other two make and serve the drinks. Communication and attention to detail are important habits to develop during these times—both can be skills that lead to success at future jobs.


Building the coffee culture

Taste of the Tiger has been part of the LaGrande High School culture since it opened in 1996. Launching the coffee shop required support from many partners, including the Youth Transition Program, LGHS special education department and Career and Technical Education (CTE).

At the start, the program was simple. The coffee shop was set up in the school building with one professional espresso machine. Students with disabilities and general education students worked together with staff to learn the coffee shop business: making coffee drinks, keeping the shop stocked up and tidy, taking payment and tracking sales. The barista teams at Taste of the Tiger continue to include high school students from general and special education, along with transition students.

Over the years, Taste of the Tiger grew into an established business with a loyal following of coffee lovers. The menu now includes chai drinks and smoothies.

In 2021 the shop moved off campus into the J House Youth Center, across the street from the high school. The new space allows student baristas to take orders and deliver drinks into the youth center gym and into the breezeway outside.

Taste of the Tiger is open during weekday mornings and lunch hours. It is located on Second Street between J Avenue and K Avenue, across from La Grande High School.

What happens when an intern becomes an employee?

A win-win success story for the student and the business

In the spring of 2021, Rachel Parks was in her senior year at Bend High School and unsure of what would happen after graduation. With the help of her instructors at Bend High, Parks began an internship at Collective Pallet, a warehouse and shipping business in Bend. Almost a year later, Parks is still at Collective Pallet—now as a paid employee working in warehouse support. She is also a transition student at the Bend transition co-op.

How did Parks make that leap from intern to employee? According to Dana Black, founder and owner of Collective Pallet, Parks worked hard during her internship to develop the habits and skills that made her a positive addition to the team.


Internships as opportunities to grow

When Parks began her internship it all felt a bit overwhelming. A lot happens in the warehouse: arriving shipments get unpacked onto shelves, other boxes are loaded up and shipped out and many products need to be assembled before shipping. All of it felt new to Parks–the people, the products they worked with, the packing routines. The internship gave her the time she needed to get used to the environment and learn what was expected of her.

“Communication was hard for me when I started. I had a little trouble asking questions about what to do next and how to do things. It just took time to get used to it. Now I’m okay with communicating,” said Parks.

Parks started with small tasks. Her first assignment was packaging bookmarks to be shipped out. Her job has since grown to include a variety of warehouse duties, filling orders to mail out or checking new shipments for damaged goods. Along the way, Parks realized that she enjoys this kind of work and she’s pretty good at it too.

“I like this job because I like to be useful. It feels good,” said Parks.


The win-win of internships from the business perspective

Park’s journey from intern to employee has been rewarding for the Collective Pallet team, as well. “I’m so proud of Rachel and how she has grown over the past year. She has more confidence, even in the way she speaks. It’s been fabulous to see it happen,” said Black.

Each semester, Black invites students with disabilities into her business for internships and work experiences. A group of transition students comes twice each week to experience the business atmosphere and to learn job skills. The Collective Pallet team sets up projects for the students, like simple product assembly, applying labels to packaging or light janitorial work.

“We talk with the teachers, students and job coaches so we know their strengths. Then we give a lot of thought to what projects to prepare for them and how to teach them the steps to do each job the right way for a commercial setting,” said Black.

Because the same students return week after week, they can break down tasks into simple steps and build a routine that students remember. By the end of the quarter students have real skills they can add to a resume.

In addition to the resume skills, students learn the personal habits that will help them be a good employee at any business. One important habit is showing up on time, noted Black. “Students who arrive with the class and are ready to go—those students do so well,” she said.

Another quality that employers appreciate is the ability to listen with an open mind. Listening is not always easy in a new environment, but students who stick with it and listen to all the instructions can often master a skill more quickly. “Listening might also mean that the student has to switch gears and start something new. That’s part of the challenge,” said Black.

Internships and work experiences bring challenges for the business, too. At Collective Pallet, Black and her team invest time in planning and setting up each week’s work experience. They might adapt the project to match strengths and abilities in the groups. And when a student like Rachel Parks shows she is a good fit for the company, they may find that the internship turns into paid employment.

As Black explained, “It’s true that a business might need to carve out some extra time to make this kind of experience happen. But the work is so worth the effort. Helping transition students  gain confidence and employable skills so they can someday support themselves—that is fulfilling as an employer and as a person.”




Ready to make some social plans?

Follow these simple steps for planning an activity with friends. 

If you are a transition student, you’ve probably gotten pretty good at making plans. Students make education plans to succeed in school, financial plans to use paychecks wisely and transportation plans to ride the bus around town. Some students even make meal plans for cooking and grocery shopping.

In all these examples, plans help break down a big challenge into simple parts. Sometimes goals feel too overwhelming to tackle all at once. But when you take it step by step, it’s amazing what can happen.

Maybe one of your goals is to do more social activities and get together with friends more often. We all want to build a friend network and add fun events to the calendar. For some of us, meeting new people is as natural as breathing. For others, being social is more difficult and we’re not sure how to begin. Would a social plan make that challenge less stressful and more successful?

Social connections are an important part of every person’s wellbeing, according to Margie Blackmore, Transition Network Facilitator. “Connecting with friends helps keep away feelings of isolation and loneliness, which can feel overwhelming and make us sad.  We all need to find ways to nurture the relationships in our lives,” she said.   

Are you ready to do some social planning, but not sure where to start? Here are eight steps to use for planning. Think through each of these steps to be sure you cover all the details needed for a fun, memorable get-together.


Step 1: Choose an activity

Social planning starts by finding something that you and a friend or two like to do. Do you all like bowling, or movies or playing cards at home? Brainstorm ideas together, and maybe you’ll end up trying something new! You can also check online for ideas, especially if your town has a visitor’s information page. For example, Visit Bend  lists local favorites from pickleball courts to vintage video arcades.


Step 2: Consider your budget

Will the activity you’ve chosen cost money? If so, how much will you need, and does this work for everyone in your group? Sometimes the best gatherings cost little or nothing, like a game night at home or free local concert in the park. Hosting a pizza baking night at home can be more fun than going to a restaurant, and everyone can bring an ingredient.


Step 3: Set the time, date and location

Time to get out your calendars! Find a time that works for you and your friends. If you’re planning to go to a scheduled event, like a concert, make sure you’re available. Think about how long it will take to get to your activity, how long your activity will last and how long it will take to get home. Be sure you block off the whole chunk of time in your schedule and note the exact place you’ll be meeting, too.


Step 4: Decide how you’ll keep track of your social activities

Once you start making plans with friends, keeping track of them is important. Will you keep the details on your phone, in a notebook, or on a paper calendar? Whatever system works best, you’ll need one spot to write down all the details, like the date, time, location and who you’ll be meeting. You can also list anything you need to bring with you–such as money, snacks or warm clothing for outdoor events.


Step 5: Plan your transportation

What is the best way to get where you are going? Should you walk, bike, carpool or take a bus? Maybe a parent can help with driving. All of these are great options for getting around in a community. One key to arriving on time is to plan ahead: check the bus schedules, ask parents if the driving time works for them or check the route for walking or biking.


Step 6: Swap contact information so you can confirm your plans.

Imagine this: you’re looking forward to getting together with a new friend, but you’re running late.  What if you don’t have their contact info? They might think you forgot about them. Be sure to share your phone numbers or emails in case plans change (and sometimes people do forget). One way to prevent this is to give friends a quick call or text to confirm the plans.


Step 7: Share your plan with those who need to know

Who are the people in your life who should always know where you are? It might be your parents or family, or a trusted friend. Be sure that someone knows where you are going, who you are meeting and when to expect you back. Sharing these details is important to keep you safe in case of an emergency.


Step 8: Review how your social plan worked

After your social activity has happened, take a moment to review how it went. Did everything go according to plan? This is the time to think about what you might want to do differently next time. Would you add another friend to your group, or try something new? Did this activity spark ideas for another get-together? As the old expression goes, practice makes perfect! The more social activities you plan, the better you’ll get at gathering friends and filling your social calendar.





Coming back to move forward, with Caraline Rutter

Returning to a Transition Program 

When Caraline Rutter graduated from North Lake School in 2020, she thought she had finished her education. She surprised everyone (even herself!) by coming back to school over a year later—this time as a transition student.

Tami Dark, special education teacher at North Lake School, remembers the day that Rutter reached out to her. Last September, Rutter called her former teacher with a simple request that ended up making a big impact on her life.

“Caraline was home trying to figure out her next step. One thing she knew for sure was that she wanted to get more exercise. She called me to see if she could come use the school’s weight room,” said Dark.

Only registered students are allowed to use school facilities, but Dark reminded Rutter that she qualified as a transition student. Even though Rutter had been out of the school system for a year she was able to re-enroll and make full use of the transition program. That meant using the school weight room and so much more.


Same school building, different goals and experiences

The North Lake School District includes students from Silver Lake, Christmas Valley and Fort Rock. The district covers a lot of territory, but the number of students is small. North Lake School serves under 300 students, from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Students with disabilities can receive transition services during high school and have the option to continue as transition students until age 21. But Rutter was the first student in the North Lake school district to take advantage of this opportunity.

Their first task was to establish a schedule that would meet Rutter’s needs. She wanted to get into better shape physically, for starters. Beyond that first goal, Rutter was ready to move forward with finding paid work and learning to drive. She worked with Dark and with Shayla Milner, the special education secretary, to create a routine focused on those goals.

Rutter now starts her day with a 45-minute session in the weight room. After her workout, Rutter meets with Milner for an hour of life skills. Rutter first worked to get a food handler card; her second goal was to pass the test for a driving permit. These days, Rutter uses her time in transition class to focus on financial topics like paying taxes and managing social security forms.


Work rewards that go beyond a paycheck

“Caraline showed so much bravery as she made these changes in her life. She doesn’t like to be the center of attention, so walking back into the school she’d already graduated from – that took courage,” said Dark. Rutter agreed that coming back into the building felt uncomfortable at first. But her drive to move forward was stronger than her hesitation.

Rutter accepted an offer for four hours of paid work each day with the school’s janitorial department. Half of that time is spent in the kitchen, cleaning and helping with food prep, and half doing general cleaning. Before her first day on the job, Rutter and Dark sat down with Gary Addington, facilities manager, to talk through the duties and expectations. This conversation set a positive tone for Rutter to ask questions. She now finds it easier to communicate with others on the job, and especially enjoys talking with Addington.

Most of her paycheck goes toward saving for the future, but Rutter is also making one specific dream come true right now. Part of every paycheck goes to pay for the small pick-up truck she bought for herself–something that she has wanted for a long time. Owning that truck keeps her motivated to keep practicing for the driver’s license test.

“I’m so proud of how Caraline has stepped out of her comfort zone to do this work. She has grown in so many ways and gained confidence with each new step,” said Dark. By returning to the transition program, Rutter has found a support system to help her try new experiences and find success along the way.


Success story: “If I don’t work to fix the river, who will?” with Sebastian Heselton

When Sebastian Heselton had to choose a career path, he leaned towards becoming a plumber. There was no special reason he chose plumbing – it just seemed like a reliable kind of job. A Job Corps training program could get him started, and it seemed like a solid plan. But when Beth Kintz, transition specialist at Vernonia High School, encouraged him to try working in the greenhouse, his life turned in a new direction.

Heselton, age 19, graduated from Vernonia High School in June of 2021. He’s continued as a transition student this year, with a focus on trying different work experiences. When Kintz suggested an opportunity to work in the greenhouse, Heselton wasn’t sure what to expect—but this was a paid position through WorkSource Oregon, and he was happy to give it a try. As it turned out, the paycheck was just one part of what he liked about this kind of work. Heselton soon learned that growing plants was rewarding and satisfying work.


Digging into growing plants

“Hands in the soil, growing plants from seed…Working in this environment turned on a light switch for Sebastian. Just watching him get excited about what he was doing was so fun for us,”  said Kintz.

Heselton’s duties included starting vegetables from seeds and maintaining them until they grew large enough to be sold. He also grew native plants that would be used to restore the riverbanks of the Nehalem River. The greenhouse stored potted plants and tree seedlings from the Oregon Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which Heselton cared for until they were ready to be planted in restoration projects.

“The work is simple. Just potting the plants in soil and taking care of them. I learned a lot, especially about the different kinds of trees and what trees are in the same families. I like being part of a team, too—it never got boring and there were always things I could do,” said Heselton.


From the greenhouse to the river

Heselton’s experience with native plants has grown beyond the greenhouse. Through a grant-funded summer program, Heselton began working with the Upper Nehalem Watershed Council. This organization works to improve the local watershed habitat, including projects like planting native plants and trees along the river banks. “The organization was so pleased with Sebastian’s work during that VR program that they hired him on to continue the work,” said Kintz.

As part of the restoration projects, Heselton takes the trees he nurtured in the greenhouse and plants them along the river that runs through his town, just a few blocks from the high school. He likes the freedom of working outdoors and knowing that he’s helping to keep the river ecosystem healthy.

“We might plant ninety trees in a day, to fill in bare areas. For cedars, we add a wire cage to protect them from beaver and elk. The canary grass and stinging nettle can be annoying but I like being out there,” said Heselton.

As he explained, the trees do more than hold the riverbanks in place. The trees create shade, and shade cools the water, and salmon need cool water to survive. Heselton does not fish the river for salmon, but he values the healthy ecosystem.

“Without the trees, the salmon eggs won’t hatch. The water would be too warm. And if I don’t do this work to fix the river, who else will?” said Heselton.


A future in forestry

Right now Heselton is happy with his school-work balance. He’d like to see the restoration work continue long term, but funding for watershed projects can be challenging. Either way, he feels like he’s on the right track pursuing a career in greenhouse work, nurseries or forestry work.

Heselton credits his teacher with nudging him toward new opportunities, and that awareness shows in the advice he’d share with other transition students. “Ms. Kintz has done a lot to help me. She pushed me in the right direction when I wasn’t very motivated. My advice to others would be to ask people for help when you need it. And when opportunities open up, that’s when you have to really apply yourself,” he said.


Success Story: From Transition Student to Full-Time Employee, with Misty Pasko

Transition students try many different work experiences during their years as a student. Sometimes it might seem like each little experience doesn’t make much of a difference. But together they can add up to something pretty impressive.

This was the case for Misty Pasko, transition student in Vernonia. During her years at Vernonia High School and in the Youth Transition Program, she added a lot of experiences to her resume. For example, she has participated in Camp LEAD and SWIFT job programs, and a summer art camp in Portland. She learned baking skills through a Jobs Corps program, pulled invasive weeds with a forestry class, sold snacks and candy in the high school concession stand, and painted hand railings in a state park. Along the way, she also had work experiences in a grocery store and a local restaurant.

For Pasko, each of these experiences was a step toward finding a full-time job that she loves. Her time as a transition student is winding down, but Pasko is busier than ever, working full-time at R & S Market in Vernonia.


One job, but a variety of work

Learning a wide range of skills from different work environments gave Pasko a strong background in a variety of work. When Pasko interviewed with the market owner in November 2021, he asked what kind of work she was interested in. “Everything!” she answered. She did get hired on at the R & S Market, and now she’s learning to do a multitude of different tasks.

“I might work the checkout or do the courtesy bagging. Sometimes I’m on customer service or I’m there to be a back-up for others. I do stocking every Tuesday, and I’ve helped train a new employee. There’s always lots to do. It feels good to be busy,” she said. Pasko’s transition specialist, Beth Kintz, added that Pasko even has learned to run the machine that bundles the cardboard boxes into bales.

“Misty isn’t afraid to jump in and give new things a try. She doesn’t need to see things over and over. When she wants to accomplish something, she stays focused and works hard until it’s done,” said Kintz.


Learning to be an independent adult

More than any job or transition program, Pasko’s family had the biggest influence on helping her succeed. “My family adopted me when I was eight years old. I know my whole life would be different if I grew up in foster care. My mom let me try every opportunity and do things my own way,” said Pasko.

These days, as a full-time employee, Pasko is finding her own ways to manage life as an independent adult. Her schedule changes weekly, so she’s created new habits to keep track of her shifts at work and plan other activities around her work schedule.

She’s working on new habits to save more of her paychecks, too. “I’m saving for college, and I want to travel with my friends, too,” said Pasko. She uses an app to track her savings and is learning online banking to move funds from a checking account into a savings account.

What advice would Pasko give other transition students as they work toward their own goals? “If you have a tough day, just sit with it. Your next day will be better. I know this is true because I’ve had to use my own advice plenty of times!” she said. 

Pasko plans to continue her education in the future. For now, she looks forward to each day at the market, learning to manage life independently and being an important part of the team.


Success Story: It’s okay to be nervous, with Sam Compton

A person can feel nervous and confident at the same time, according to Sam Compton.

“When you feel nervous about trying something new, but you know you can do it, then believe in yourself even while you feel nervous. It’s okay to be nervous and it shouldn’t stop you,” he said.

Compton, age 19, is a transition student at Crater High School in Central Point, Oregon. In the Spring of 2021, he applied for a summer job working in the school cafeteria–even though it felt out of his comfort zone. He was hired on a temporary basis, but the staff asked him to stay on the job. The position is no longer temporary—he now works about twenty hours per week, preparing and serving the school lunch. Best of all, Compton has become a valued part of the cafeteria team.


Starting with a love of cooking

Compton learned cooking skills by spending time in the kitchen with his mother. “My mom is a very good cook, and I wanted to be like her. She started teaching me to make her dishes. The part I like best is seeing people smile when I serve them food I prepared,” he said.

Those basic cooking skills gave him confidence that he could succeed in a food service job, but he still had a lot to learn. Together with his transition teacher, Natasha Kaufman, Compton completed a lengthy application and practiced interview skills. He began  with support from a job coach, until he felt comfortable with his duties. He also got to know the people he works with, and that helped him gain confidence too.

“When I first started my job I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know anyone and it was nerve-wracking. But they were all friendly and with time I got more connected. Now I feel like we are all friends,” said Compton. The cafeteria team has learned they can rely on Compton, too. Each day he checks the task list, then starts his shift with the task that seems most important. That could mean cleaning dishes, preparing the vegetables and fruit, or wiping down tables and counters.

Of all the parts of his job, Compton’s favorite is working the food cart. This station is separate from the regular cafeteria, with a variety of menu options for quick, grab-and-go lunches. As students choose what they’d like, Compton packs up their lunch in a brown paper bag. He likes the customer service side of his work, taking orders and serving up food with a smile.

“Sam has really blossomed in this role. He has this bubbly personality that comes through in his customer service, and he inspires other students who go to him for help and direction. It’s great to see him step into leadership that way,” said Natasha Kaufman, transition teacher.


Learning from challenges and looking ahead

Growth always involves a few challenges. For Compton, the challenge was balancing time with family and friends, with time for work and school. He’s learned to stay focused on work and school while he is there, so that he can succeed in those environments. He makes time for family and friends outside of work and school hours, because those relationships mean a lot to him. But to separate those two parts of his life, he had to be open to feedback.

“I learned that if people give you criticism, or tell you how to do something better, getting defensive doesn’t help. You have to listen like it is a learning opportunity. Then you can start to do things the right way, from then on,” said Compton.

Compton’s next goal is to pass the driving test and get his driver’s license. He’s motivated by the freedom that comes with driving, and the ability to take over tasks like grocery shopping for his family. It’s a goal that makes him nervous, he admits.

“I need to take my own advice,” said Compton. “Reserve time to study for the test and believe in myself. Being nervous might make me double check things and be more effective,” he added. Because as Compton has shown, feeling nervous shouldn’t stop a person from succeeding at their goals.


HB2105 and Supported Decision Making

What the transition community needs to know

Among all the news headlines of 2021, one small-but-important event may have slipped under the radar. A bill known as HB2105 passed in the Oregon Legislature in early June, and Governor Brown signed it into law. This bill didn’t get a lot of fanfare or publicity, but it could have a big impact on transition students and their families.

HB2105 offers a positive new approach to how adults with disabilities can take charge of their own decisions. This approach is known as Supported Decision Making (SDM). SDM means that a person with disabilities can ask for help and advice from their doctor, their parents, their YTP specialist—any person who supports them in some part of their life. With input from this network, they make their own choices about their life, health, and future.

“This approach works for people with all types of abilities.  We all use support to make decisions in our lives, from minor choices to life changing decisions,”  said Marguerite Blackmore, Transition Network Facilitator with the High Desert Education Service District. 

Everyone relies on the advice from others, but the process of Supported Decision Making  is especially important for transition students as they reach 18 years of age. At age 18, youth become adults in the eyes of the law, whether or not they have disabilities. That means they are responsible for making their own decisions. At age 18, we all have the right to make choices about our activities, health, friendships and relationships, and future. But what about young adults with disabilities who need help managing those decisions?

Sometimes, the parents of students with disabilities set up guardianship arrangements, if they feel the student cannot make decisions alone. Guardianships can be an important tool for families to continue helping their children after they become legal adults. However, in a guardianship, the young adult with disabilities loses their right to make their own decisions. Until HB2105, there was no middle ground option where adults with disabilities could keep the right to make their own choices, with support and help from people they trust.

Learning more about Supported Decision Making is important for transition students and their families, as they plan for a bright and independent future. Here are some FAQs and resources to get started on the path to Supported Decision Making. 


Is Supported Decision Making a legal document?

No, Supported Decision Making is not a document or a binding agreement. SDM is a process of building a network of trusted advisors that can help with making decisions. The team of supporters might include family members, health care providers, friends, and legal professionals. Each of them agrees to help the person consider all the different options when making decisions.


What actions are required by HB2105?

Because of HB2105, all Oregon school districts must help students and parents understand SDM as a less restrictive  alternative to guardianship. At each IEP meeting, the school district provides information and resources about a student’s pathway as they exit school and transition to adulthood. Starting in 2022, that discussion will include information to help both students and parents understand the process of Supported Decision Making. 


What are the benefits of Supported Decision Making?

SDM is based on the belief that every individual has the right to make choices in their life, even if they need support along the way. By keeping control of the decisions in their life, individuals become more self-determined and independent. Research studies have shown that this approach leads people to experience better outcomes, such as…

  • Feeling more included in their community
  • Better chances for competitive employment
  • Staying healthier
  • More likely to date and socialize
  • Greater ability to recognize and resist abusive behavior


Ready to start working toward Supported Decision Making?

Here are a few more resources for transition students, parents, and teachers.

Video: Supported Decision Making Your Support, My Decisions

Top Seven Things to Know about SDM

Video: One student’s perspective

Video: Guardianship & Supported Decision Making: Which is right for you?

Decision making agreement.pdf

Making My Healthcare Decisions

Options in Oregon to Help Another Person Make Decisions

NPR.ORG- Article on Guardianship