A parent or a child participating in the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) might worry about the huge hurdle they could face when the child’s education is mixed with a major change. EFMP members sometimes have a learning challenge and need resources to support them in being successful during such a time, especially when the major change involves transitioning from high school to college. Figuring out exactly what new skills could benefit a student and his or her family isn’t always clear, though. Also not easy: Knowing how to develop those skills once you’ve determined which ones might help.
“We’ve worked with military families. They’re so resilient and resourceful, yet they still ask for our guidance in developing strategies and skills,” said Alexander Morris-Wood, creator of Navigator PREP, an individualized skills-training program designed for soon-to-be college students and their parents.
Morris-Wood, who introduced Navigator PREP in 2018 for Beacon College students-to-be and has expanded it to any student interested in attending any college, wants to know how a student sees his or her own strengths and weaknesses. He also seeks the student’s parents’ perspective, along with the high school’s insight.
“Do they all see the same strengths, the same challenges for the student?” asked Morris-Wood, who is also director of transition services and outreach at Beacon College in Leesburg, Florida, which was founded to serve students with learning disabilities. “We provide a complete, multi-perspective assessment to define the student’s and his or her parents’ most pressing needs.”
The next step is creating an individualized curriculum. No student nor family receives the same plan. Families are teamed with a transition counselor — an individual experienced in higher education, teaching, or counseling — and receive live, online sessions scheduled at convenient times. Each student will have sessions twice a month and parents once a month. The transition counselor will check in with both regularly to track progress, and the student and the parents can also view online webinars for additional information. Families can choose between three-, six- and nine-month Navigator PREP programs. The investment is $2,000, $3,000, and $4,000, respectively.
“Prices for similar services at other colleges once you’re enrolled are $2,500 to $7,500, on top of tuition,” shares Morris-Wood, “and we work with you before the student goes to school, so you’re ready beforehand.”
The three-month PREP program begins in May, the six-month program in February, and the nine-month in November. Those who choose the nine-month program sometimes work with their transition counselor to refine their list of prospective colleges.
Morris-Wood designed Navigator PREP while working at a high school and staying in touch with alumni attending college. He observed what skills former students were lacking and wanted a program to provide training to his current students before they attended college. His Navigator PREP transition counselors now teach non-class specific techniques. They include emotional regulation, social integration, independent living, self-awareness, and executive functions such as planning and prioritizing and problem-solving. The first year of Navigator PREP, Morris-Wood and his transition counselors guided eight students who planned to attend Beacon College; this year they’ll work with approximately 200 students headed to dozens of different colleges. Since founding the program, they’ve helped people from 33 states and two foreign countries.
One student who Morris-Wood worked with was transitioning from a high school with a graduating class of 14 students he knew most of his life. His Individualized Education Program, a legal education agreement between a school and a student, had always included an accommodation of being allowed to complete all homework during classroom time. Such an arrangement wouldn’t be possible after high school.
“We helped the student get ready for college, where he’d have to do homework outside of class and reach out to make friends,” says Morris-Wood. “With us, he learned about estimating the time assignments would take, managing unstructured time, and how to make connections with new people. We’re thrilled that he has thrived in college, earning a 3.9 GPA, becoming a student ambassador, and reporting that he is happy. That’s the best thing for me to hear — that students who work with Navigator PREP are happy.”