Aurora Beacon-News - Oct. 20, 2015 | Original article

By David Sharos

Transitioning to adulthood for people with disabilities was the focus of a panel discussion held in Aurora Monday night at Waubonsie Valley High School.

U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-Naperville) hosted the panel discussion, which offered information for parents as well as caregivers of people with disabilities who are in the transitioning phase from childhood to adulthood. Foster was joined by state Sen. Linda Holmes (D-Aurora), as well as representatives from a number of agencies including the Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Rehabilitation Services, Great Lakes ADA Center, the Ray Graham Association and PACT, Inc.

"I don't have children with disabilities but I know as a parent, I worry about them all the time," Foster told a crowd of more than 70 people. "Parents want to know how to take care of their children in all phases of their life, and in terms of those who have disabilities – not all parents are aware of the contacts that are out there."

Foster also praised the Aurora area, saying that "historically, it has had good support and services" and also spoke about the advantages of employing those with disabilities.

"This happens to be National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and I feel employing those with disabilities is a good economic opportunity," he said. "We have found these individuals to be good, dedicated employees. We also need to focus on issues like transportation and vocational training and providing more affordable housing."

Foster added he continues to support legislation that would increase voter registration among those with disabilities as well as backing new technology that would make the voting process easier.

Holmes said her interest in those with disabilities "started close to home."

"I'm the only state legislator I know who has multiple sclerosis, and while I don't have any signs of a disability we need to make reasonable accommodations for those that do," Holmes said. "We have made some legislative progress is this area, and we need to continue to offer gainful employment for all citizens."

Holmes said her biggest concern is for those with autism whose numbers, she said, continue to rise.

"The question is what will happen to these children when they reach adult age and still need services and their parents are no longer able to care for them," she said. "I don't feel those problems have as yet been addressed adequately."

Parents and caretakers spoke of the need to learn about other resources as well as advice about the transition for individuals into adulthood. Robert Sacks of Naperville said he has a disabled adult son and another about to finish high school with mild disabilities.

"I think it's important to keep up with the resources that are out there as things change," he said. "With a second child that is still in high school, I need to look to the future and see what is available here."

Susie Redfern of Aurora said she was hoping "to get some leads" regarding her son who is 21 years old and learning what they both might face during the transition period.

"I want to know what we're up against, and I worry about the funding available for daily activities," Redfern said.

Roehl Llanes of Aurora brought his 18-year-old daughter along who has disabilities and said that he was looking for information about "education, finance, and job training."

"I'm hoping to get a clear scope of what services are out there as I don't know completely," he said. "Meetings like this hopefully give you some answers, as well as (a chance to) meet some of the organizations that offer support."