Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Supported Decision-Making in Illinois

Hello & Happy Spring!

This week, we will be sharing information related to Supported Decision Making (SDM). If you missed our latest webinar on supported decision making and transition-age youth with extensive support needs, you can find the recording on the Family Matters website: https://www.fmptic.org/recordings/family-matters-recordings. You will find pertinent information, as well as a ton of great resources below. As a special education teacher, I wish that SDM had been a legal option of decision-making to support my students and their families in Illinois when I first started teaching. As of February 2022- it is! I hope you find this information and resources helpful to you or those involved. Feel free to share these resources with those that you know! Sharing is caring 🙂

We are always here for any questions you have or experiences you may want to share! 

Talk soon!


What is Supported Decision Making? 

  • Supported decision-making (SDM) is a tool that allows people with disabilities to retain their decision-making capacities by choosing supporters to help them make choices. 

  • A supporter is someone who the person using SDM selects to help them in decision making. These are trusted advisors such as friends, family members, or professionals.

  • Supporters agree to help the person with a disability (principal) understand, consider, and communicate decisions, supporting the individual with a disability to make their own, informed choices. 

The Illinois Supported Decision-Making Agreement Act

  • For adults (18 or older)with intellectual and or developmental disabilities (ID/DD) 

  • Provides legal recognition to SDM agreements

  • Requires third parties (landlords, service providers, medical professionals, schools, vocational providers) to recognize terms of the SDM agreement(s)

  • Find more information HERE

What does Supported Decision-Making Look Like? 

  • Finding tools to support a person with a disability to understand, make, and communicate their own choices: 

    • Plain language, Visual and/or Audio Access

    • Extra time to discuss options

    • Create a list of pro’s and con’s

    • Role Play

    • Bring a supporter to a appointments to take notes and support the individual to remember and discuss options

    • Opening a joint bank account to manage financial decisions together 

  • Supporters may…

    • Help the principal gather information on:

      • Living options, work situations, medical treatment,
        relationships, benefits, resources

    • Communicate information, track services, support appointments

    • Assist with questions, Support advocacy

    • Have conversations around final decisions

  • Supporters may NOT

    • Make decisions for the principal

    • Access any information without consent

    • Uses information about the principal for any purpose other than supporting the principal

    • Be paid to be in this role

Supported Decision-Making Process Flowchart

Guardianship vs. Supported Decision-Making: The Basics



  • Decided by a judge

  • Person with the disability does not have control

  • The person with the disability can lose the right to:

    • Choose where they live

    • How they use their money

    • Who they spend their time with

  • The person with the disability makes the decisions

  • The person with the disability is in the control

  • Supporters help the person with the disability with:

    • Everyday things

    • Medical decisions

    • Where to live or help with money

Guardianship vs. Supported Decision-Making: Assessment of Needs



  • Based on the person’s I.Q. score and diagnosis

  • The court looks at what the person can do independently, without any assistance or support

  • The court assumes that these needs will remain the same over the course of the person’s life

  • Strengths and support needs are discussed by the person with the disability and their supporters

  • Person’s abilities are based on assessment of what they can do alone and with support

  • The person with the disability has the ability to modify supports and supporters overtime 

Identifying Alternatives to Guardianship Tool

Supported Decision-Making Resources

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Transition Assessments

Hi Everyone,

We hope this email finds you well and that you are enjoying a few days with warmer temps! This month, I will be sharing about different transition assessments that can be utilized to support transition-age youth. After a brief summary of popular assessments below, you can find websites that are free to teachers, students, and families with hundreds of transition assessments! For families, these could be shared with the school or completed at home. Once completed, findings can be shared with the IEP team prior to the annual meeting or at it! In two weeks, I will be sharing different considerations and opportunities to make when engaging with transition assessments and transition planning. We are always here for any questions you have or experiences you may want to share! 

Talk soon!


  • Transition Planning Inventory- 3rd Edition  (TPI-3)

    • Formal assessment tool 

    • Used to measure skill knowledge across various domains of transition (e.g., work, academics, independent living). Those completing the assessment (e.g., teachers, families, students) must decide if they agree or disagree with the statements they read about the readiness of the student transitioning into various environments. Specific to work, results from the TPI can determine further training and support, as well as preferences and interests at work. 

    • Focus 

      • Preferences/Interests, Strengths, Support Needs / Performance 

    • Mode 

      • Questionnaire / Interview

    • Cost

      • $363.00

  • Transition Assessments and Goal Generator (TAGG)

    • Formal Assessment

    • The TAGG is an online scale that is completed with students, family, and various education professionals. Eight constructs are measured within the TAGG: strengths and limitations, disability awareness, persistence, interacting with others, goal setting and attainment, employment, student involvement in the IEP, and supports within the community. Results from the TAGG are norm-referenced. Specific to work, results from the TAGG identify a student’s strengths, needs, preferences, interests, and goals in terms of employment 

    • Focus 

      • Support Needs / Skill Performance

    • Mode 

      • Rating Scale 

    • Cost

      • $3.00 

  • Functional Living Skills- Pathway to Independence (AFLS)

    • Formal Assessment

    • The AFLS  is designed to assess functional, practical and essential daily living skills for everyday life. This assessment is not only designed to assess various aspects of the transition from school but supports practitioners or educators in monitoring progress throughout time of the various goals and objectives that can be created from this assessment. Example assessment protocols include basic living, home skills, community participation, school skills, independent living skills, and vocational skills. 

    • Focus 

      • Support Needs and Performance, Skill Knowledge, Strengths

    • Mode 

      • Rating Scales

    • Cost

      • $.249.95

  • Picture Interest Career Survey (PICS), Third Edition

    • Formal Assessment

    • The PICS is a picture-based assessment that is given to students to measure their interests in employment activities and settings. Evaluators use 36 images and provide three of those pictures at a time, for students to choose from. Pictures resemble real people working. Due to the pictures selected by the student, the evaluator can create a vocational profile of what the student most prefers in terms of vocational activities or environments.

    • Focus 

      • Preferences, Interest

    • Mode

      • Picture 

    • Cost

      • $68.95

Free Resources! 

Looking for more great transition assessments and tools? Check out the links below!

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Love Has the Power of Gratitude


Welcome to February!  I hope you had an enjoyable month. 

I am excited to tell you about a coworker of mine. She will share her love for her daughter and how her life is precious.   She will tell us about being a mom.  And that is why I decided to interview her this month because it is the month of Valentine’s Day.


I work with a beautiful young woman named Lynn. She is a mom of a beautiful daughter who is on the Autism spectrum and also is hard of hearing. Lynn is hard of hearing so she also has a disability herself


 My friend Lynn reminds me that love has the power of gratitude.




Below I will share my interview with Lynn.


 Tell me about your life.


My name is Lynn Ortiz, and I am currently the Simulation Lab Coordinator at the UIC College of Nursing.  I’ve been a nurse for over 20 years, but I left the hospital setting a little over 5 years ago because I wanted to be in a teaching environment.  I love what I do as Simulation Lab Coordinator here – I help faculty build, develop, and facilitate simulations that help nursing students mimic the real-life hospital setting, taking care of patients that they would see during their clinical rotations.


I am married with two children, ages 13 and 17.  Both of my children go to school in Oak Park, where we live.  My husband, Rey, is a certified registered nurse anesthetist and works for UI Health.  My extended family are all part of the UIC family, and I am close (literally and figuratively) with my brother and sister, who both live less than a mile away from me also in Oak Park.


In our spare time, my husband and I both like to work out and surf.  My husband grew up in Hawaii, and it is both our dream and plan to retire (and surf) there.  I like to joke that my youngest is our “souvenir” from Hawaii – I was pregnant with her when I lived in Hawaii over 10 years ago, and she was born in Honolulu.


How is it being a mom to a child who is on the autism spectrum and is also hard of hearing?


Being a mom of an autistic and hard of hearing child can be challenging, but it does have its rewards.  As much as possible, I try to help my eldest with self-advocacy, which I know can be difficult for a child on the spectrum.  Learning to be organized and speak up for yourself is difficult for Tori (my child with autism and hard of hearing).  I have noticed a drastic improvement in academic performance, which I think is important.  Tori now takes initiative to be more organized.  Understanding content and learning information has never been an issue or difficult – Tori was always able to speak and perform on an intellectual level – it was just a matter of organizing thoughts and learning time management, which I’ve helped Tori tremendously to master.


The hard of hearing part is something that I can relate to, because I myself am hard of hearing.  Teaching both my children (they are both hard of hearing) how to put on their hearing aids and to know what resources at school are available to them was such a key component to aiding their learning.  It’s hard when you’re a teenager because you’re always looked at or judged by your peers.  But I made both kids understand not to be so wrapped up in what others think of them – it’s important to feel included, and the only way to feel included is to utilize the resources you have.  I think that information was so valuable to my eldest.


How does this affect your family? What kinds of accommodations does your daughter have that help her be successful in school? 



I think my husband is as patient as he can be living with 3 persons who are hard of hearing.  I love both my children so very much, and I think we both just want our children to succeed.  I look at my eldest as someone who has so much potential; Tori is intelligent, sweet, and extremely kind.  


Tori uses an FM system at school to help with lecture.  I believe the FM system pairs with the hearing aids by amplifying sound, but they don’t use the FM system during things such as sports or if there is too much noise.


I also signed up Tori for a support group called AANE (Asperger Autism Network).  They have open support groups every second Saturday of every month, and Tori signs up whenever they feel there is a need.  It’s great because Tori was able to make a lot of friends through the support group. 

Bridget: What will you say to the people who are reading this blog and what advice would you like to give to parents?   


I think the key thing is to be encouraging and supportive.  Sometimes as parents, it’s difficult to let your child take the lead because we always want what is best for our children.  But as our children slowly start growing into adults (like mine is about to become), it’s important to let them figure things out themselves, but teach them how to self-advocate the best way.  Before we let our kids take the lead, we as parents really have to listen.  What is it that they want in life?  How can we get them to where they need and want to be?  What resources are available?  In our own little way, we as parents become little researchers that try to find whatever help we can.  It’s important to teach our kids that it’s ok to need help.  It’s ok to not know all the answers.  Even as adults and parents, *WE* don’t always have the answers.  So, we have to learn to share that journey together.


Thank you,


Friday, February 3, 2023

Sarah Bak and Shepherds College


Bridget’s Blog for Jan 2023  Sarah Bak

Sarah Bak and Shepherds College

Hi everyone, I hope you are all doing well after the holidays have gone by. I hope you had a New Year’s blast with your family and friends?  Now we are in 2023 and a brand-new year has begun.


I had a party with my two friends, Ashley and Rachel, who I wrote about in my last blog.  They had a party and invited a lot of people and we all had a fantastic time. I think this is one of the first times I have been invited to a New Year's Party. We had a blast.

 Let me tell you about a friend of mine named Sarah Bak, I know Sarah because we acted together in the Ups for Downs theater program with EDGE of Orion. Sarah is a young woman who captures love through her heart and smile.

Sarah graduated from Glenbard West high school in Glen Ellyn. She was involved in the Dance team and a cheerleader.  She did a lot of really fun activities in high school. One of her favorite classes was Horticulture.


Sarah has been in many plays and is a wonderful actress. She was a very funny maid in Mary Poppins, and she was a really scary Ursula in the Little Mermaid. Through the EDGE of ORION she has participated in many different plays. We had the chance to act together in a lot of plays.


Sarah is one of the self-Advocate from the NADS group SAIA. And a very strong and active person.


This is Sarah’s second year as a college student at Shepherd College in Union Grove near Kenosha.   She loves going to college and had lots to tell me about her experience. She is living with 6 roommates. The three roommates she mentioned are Amber, Margie, and Maria.   They live in a townhouse that is at the school. She has learned to be very independent.  She learns money skills and daily living activities and professional development that will lead to employment.

When she started college, she was a little nervous and afraid to be far away from home.  She got help to deal with the transition and it took a few weeks but soon she was fine.


She and her roommates share their meals together. She is responsible for a meal once a week.   She loves to cook and enjoys other people’s cooking as well. When she makes meals in her town house lasagna soup and tortilla soup are her Signature items.  Making meals helps her learn to be independently because she goes, plans her menu, and shops for all the items.


In the summer she loves helping with the garden and growing plants and veggies. The school has two gardens and a greenhouse and a farm stand.

She is in Choir & drama club.

Her social life is very important. They do parties like Halloween, holidays & thanksgiving.  They go to movies, coffee shops, carnivals, festivals, and holiday events.

Part of the life skills she has learned is how to be a self-advocate and to use her voice and speak up for herself.  She thinks that is a really good skill.  Her self-determination has grown since she started college. She asked others if she needs help


Shepherds College has a strong faith base. Sarah, is growing her spiritual relationships by going to SouthBrook church in the area.  She has a group on spiritual formation and goes to bible class as well. She Learns about the word of the bible while she attends Church on Sundays.


After her 3 years at Shepherds College, her goal is to live in Orlando Florida and to work for Disney and grow plants in a green house. She loves Disney world and the magic kingdom is her favorite place because her cousin works there. Her favorite flower is daffodils.


Her BIG dream is to own her own floral shop in Florida.


Sarah is having a great time in college and loves being more independent.  She is a pretty amazing person and I loved learning more about her life


Sarah’s ideas about being successful are:

·         Never give up!

·         Keep on going on,

·         Try hard.

·         Know what your purpose is

·         Get support from others when you need it and from your advisors

·         Never give up on yourself and work hard

·         Speak up for yourself.

·         Be organized and pay attention

·         Even if you are nervous, remember we are all nervous when we start new experiences. But keep going and you will be okay



Have a great start to the new year!


Supported Decision-Making in Illinois

Hello & Happy Spring! This week, we will be sharing information related to Supported Decision Making (SDM). If you missed our latest web...