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Public schools to host transition fair for special education students

Everyone needs help at some point. That is the message Tori Saylor will convey as keynote speaker at Carroll County Public Schools' sixth annual Transition Fair on April 10 to students with disabilities enrolled in an individualized education plan.

Saylor, 29, who lives in Utah, didn't learn she had Asperger's ayndrome, a disorder on the autism spectrum characterized by difficulty with social interaction, until she was 19.

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"It's important to recognize your limitations and when you need help," Saylor said. "I believe that's true whether you have a disability or not."

When she left high school for Bridgewater College in Virginia, Saylor said the transition was a difficult one. She said in high school she had a support system to rely on, but upon graduation that was gone — she was out in the real world.

"It is incredibly difficult to have a disability in a world where people just don't understand," Saylor said. "It was awful — I really struggled."

Saylor, who travels across the country talking about the challenges associated with having a disability and the importance of being a self-advocate, will talk to students and parents about the importance of understanding when they need help while transitioning out of high school.

Now the owner of a dog day care business, Saylor will share her personal strategies to self-reliance with students.

Saylor, who was enrolled in an individualized education plan in third grade, said students should make the most of their IEPs, which help them reach their goals.

According to the 2014 Maryland Report Card, about 8.5 percent of high school students in Carroll are enrolled in special education services. Students with disabilities are determined to be eligible for resources and services through the school system by undergoing an evaluation in line with the state's Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Once evaluated, students are enrolled in individualized education plans, which set goals for students over the course of the school year and determine support needed to achieve those goals.

Once students exit high school, they don't have the same support system in place, Saylor explained.

The school system is holding the transition fair to show students and parents the resources available to them in colleges, work programs and the community, including post-secondary programs available through the school system for students between the ages of 18 and 21, said Mary Pat Dye, post-secondary program specialist for Carroll County Public Schools.

The fair, which began in 2005, is held every other year, Dye said.

Jacy Haas attended the last fair and plans to go this year. Her son, Charles, diagnosed with autism, will graduate from the post-secondary program in May.

"It provides a lot of information that helps students and parents understand the resources available in the community," Haas said.

Reach staff writer Lauren Loricchio at 410-857-7862 or email lauren.loricchio@carrollcountytimes.com.

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If you go

What: Carroll County Public School's Transition Fair

When: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 10. Keynote speaker Tori Saylor's speech runs from 9:30 to 10:15 a.m.

Where: Carroll Community College, 1601 Washington Road, Westminster

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