Invisible Differences Services
Invisible Differences: Full Program
Invisible Differences helps cognitively-typical teens and young adults with neurobehavioral challenges, learning disabilities and mental health disorders complete their education and engage in productive, fulfilling careers. Counseling and coaching for students in the full Invisible Differences program continues through college. Family members, schools and employers of individuals with invisible differences also receive support from the program.
The full Invisible Differences program is a four-year program and includes:
- Transition Services (with college counseling);
- Transitions to College Workshops;
- PEERS® Social Skills Intervention;
- Fast Track through College: A College Simulation;
- March to College;
- Parent Inclusion Network; and
- On-going support through College
Each of these services is described below in the A La Carte Services section. To see how these services are delivered over 4 years, click here.
Invisible Differences: A La Carte Services
Legally required, goal-directed services for diverse learners (college-bound Freshmen through Seniors) to ensure students are knowledgeable about their life choices post-high school, are prepared to live independently, and can successfully transition from high school to college. Services are provided in a variety of forms, including both instructional and experiential, and customized to each individual student.
Transition topics include:
- Assessment of student’s needs, preferences, and interests
- Independent Living Skills
- Legal Rights and laws protecting students and adults with disabilities
- Skills for Adapting to College and Advocating for what you Need to
- Disclosure of disability
- Social skills
- Building a Support Team
- Best match and fit colleges consistent with grades, scores, student’s
- interests and services needed
- Career interests and opportunities
College Counseling for Students with Invisible Differences
Deciding which college to attend is a major decision for any student, but even more critical for diverse learners. Although colleges are legally required to provide services for disabled students, the range of services offered by different schools is quite large. Some schools choose to exceed the legal requirements while others do the minimum. In addition, some schools may be more experienced with certain types of disabilities than others. The support and environment provided by the college are critical for the student’s success and therefore understanding what makes each college unique and selecting schools for best fit is very important. Counseling services include:
- Recommendations for best fit colleges
- Confidential research of specific services and individual colleges
- College applications
- School selection
- Disclosure of disability
Parent Inclusion Network
Although college students are legally adults, parents continue to be a critical factor in their diverse learner’s college persistence and graduation. Therefore, they too need to understand the legal rights that protect their child and best practices that help students succeed. Parent meetings are held each year and parents also participate in the individualized college counseling.
Transitions to College Workshops
A series of 90-minute, on-site, interactive workshops prepare high school students with invisible differences, and their parents, to overcome known barriers to college persistence that are unique to diverse learners and to successfully transition and adapt to a post-secondary education environment.
The ten workshops cover the following topics:
- Introduction to College Life for Diverse Learners: What’s so Different from High School?
- Legal Rights
- Disclosure, Documentation and Disability Services
- Choosing and Applying to College
- Self-Advocacy Intensive (students only)
- College Life
- Resources, Roommates and Tips for Success
- Finding and Keeping a Job
PEERS® Social Skills Intervention
PEERS® (Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills) is a 16-week social skills workshop, developed at UCLA, that teaches teenagers and young adults with special needs to make and keep friends. PEERS® is the only evidence-based social skills program in the US and Center for Companies That Care is the only certified provider of PEERS® in Chicago. PEERS is available in two formats: school-based during the day where teachers and staff serve as coaches or school-based in the evening when parents/guardians serve as coaches.
The program’s effectiveness is due to several factors:
- Social skills are broken down into concrete rules and steps that are practiced repeatedly throughout the 16 weeks and in a variety of settings.
- Parents or teachers have a formalized coaching role for the students and reinforce the lessons.
- The rules and steps are ecologically valid for teens and young adults. The strategies taught are actually used by teens and young adults in the real world. These strategies may or may not be the strategies adults think teenagers should use.
- The intervention can be modified according to the individual needs of each teenager
Fast Track through College: A College Simulation
The College Simulation is a fast-paced, interactive, competitive workshop that prepares high school Seniors for the social, financial and academic realities of college. In half a day, students experience many of the situations and challenges they will encounter during college. Following the simulation, students participate in an equally important and comprehensive debrief led by college students and recent graduates.
March to College
March to College is an annual All-Ages College Fair and 5K run/walk dedicated to increasing college graduation rates among at-risk youth and diverse learners. Students are prepped to visit the colleges at the fair and ask questions about academics, college life and support for disabilities. All students receive a College-Bound t-shirt.
Summer Stretch & STEM Institute
Summer Stretch & STEM Institute is a series of concurrent programs running in July & August for at-risk high school & college students. Designed to minimize summer learning loss and prepare youth for college and career success, this program offers certificates in STEM topics, exposure to a multitude of career choices, and professional skill- and confidence-building opportunities. Overall, the program helps students stand out when they apply to college or for high-demand, higher paying jobs both during and after college. To employers who say that there is a shortage of college graduates who are educated in challenging fields, who bring diversity to their organizations, and come with meaningful social skills and work experience, Summer Stretch & STEM Institute is the answer.
- Service Excellence
- Career Awareness Internship
- Sales Certificate
- Computer Modeling
- Microsoft Office
- College On-boarding Colloquium
Invisible Differences: Professional Development
Professional Development workshops, lasting from one hour to one day, focus on preparing students who have invisible differences to go to and graduate from college. Schools may select topics from the list below and the Transitions to College Workshop topics described above.
Setting the Stage
- Why students aren't graduating from college
- Critical Success Factors for College Graduation (among disabled students)
- Legal Rights and Pitfalls
- Social-Emotional Challenges and Support
- Processes for getting support/accommodations
The Role of High Schools
- Transition Services and Activities
- Educating Families too
- College Applications and Selection
- The Stakeholders: students, families, high schools, colleges, employers