Conference working on helping kids with disabilities transition to adulthood

BISMARCK, N.D. - The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction is working to make successful transitions for students with disabilities.

Social workers, teachers and parents gathered in Bismarck on Wednesday to discuss the transition. Instead of focusing on disability, they focused on the possibility for a bright future, with a couple of the success stories coming straight out of Hollywood.

Dionne Spooner has been working as a social worker for the last two decades, seeing what challenges families face when they have a child with a disability.

“It's not just in employment opportunities, it's in education, it's in living opportunities, it's in transportation opportunities, there's a lot of limits,” Spooner said.

But the years of experience didn't prepare her for having a son with Down Syndrome.

“As a professional, I felt that I always advocated for children with disabilities and their families, I tried my very, very best,” Spooner said. “But from a parent's perspective, a lot more emotions get involved and there's a lot of work left to be done.”

Spooner is one of hundreds gathered for this conference working on ways to help children transition into adulthood, college and getting jobs. She gets to hear from those who've been through the changes, including two of the stars of the A&E television show "Born This Way”, Steven and Rachel, both born with Down Syndrome, and in Bismarck to share their stories.

“People with Down Syndrome can do anything, like they can be independent, they can be in a relationship,” Rachel said.

“They can have a job,” Steven said.

Spooner said her now 8-year-old son faces challenges every day, but is also just like any other kid who loves sports, recess, and lunch. Spooner said she hopes her son has the same opportunities as any other person would as he grows up, including a full-time job with benefits, even if it takes him a little longer to get there.