Parent Center: Parents, Let’s Unite for Kids (PLUK)
State Deaf-Blind Project: Montana IDEA Services for Children and Young Adults with Deaf-Blindness Project
Ellen Condon, Project Director
Montana IDEA Services for Children and Young Adults with Deaf-Blindness Project
In Montana, collaboration between the parent center (PLUK) and the state deaf-blind project is fostered by personal connections. I’ve known two of the PLUK staff members--Mary Hall and Theresa Baldry--for more than 15 years.
Most of our work together focuses on helping specific children. We pool our resources and take advantage of each other’s areas of expertise. It’s nice to have two people assess the same child and situation and come up with creative solutions. This is especially helpful for children who have complex needs. For example, Theresa, who is based in Miles City, is great with technology. I contact her when I need advice about tech for specific students. Mary is amazingly knowledgeable about the law, and together, she and I have leveraged our collective expertise to schools and families related to transition planning.
The personal relationships we have developed over the years are what make our collaboration work. We really like each other and enjoy working together. There are a couple of factors that I think led to the development of these relationships. First, as noted above, we each have strong areas of expertise. In addition to my role as the director of the deaf-blind project, I also direct projects that focus on transition planning for students with intensive support needs. I first met Theresa and Mary when they contacted me with questions related to transition, both for the families they serve and for their own sons with disabilities.
Second, personal connections are crucial in a state the size of Montana. When you have a service that covers a specific content area, as both our state deaf-blind project and the parent center do, you travel a lot and must rely on each other for connections in communities that are unfamiliar to you.
Although our approach is informal, it works well for us and I think we will be able to expand this style of working together in the future. Currently, much of our collaboration is centered around transition-age students and employment, but I hope that going forward we can forge new connections with parent center staff related to younger students and new topics.