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Students with Disabilities

Working with Youth with Disabilities or Who Receive Special Education Services

Successful completion of high school is critical to success after high school. School districts are required to provide transition services for students with disabilities in order to improve post-school outcomes of employment, education and independent living. 

The successful transition of youth with disabilities from school to employment, education/training and independent living is a focal point of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and a policy incentive within the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). (IDEA) Often youth with disabilities face unique challenges that must be addressed in order to reach their post-school goals of postsecondary education, employment and independent living. By age 16, a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) must include transition services which will assist the student in reaching his/her post-secondary goals. 

Transition services are a coordinated set of activities whose outcome is to design a process that promotes movement from school to post-school activities.  Some students remain in high school until they are 21 years old. Since most high school students typically graduate at 17 or 18 and go onto higher education or employment, students with disabilities who remain in high school until the age of 21 have fewer opportunities to interact with same-age peers without disabilities.  The transition services should be developed to increase the opportunity to interact with same-age peers in age–appropriate settings and provide opportunities for students to gain independent living skills, social skills, employment, and self-advocacy in real-life settings and to participate in age-appropriate activities in their communities.   These services ideally are located outside of the high school in community settings which may include the development of integrated and supported employment.  A student’s specific needs, based on preferences and interests, define the services that can be included in the transition plan.

Youth with disabilities must be able to access work experience activities. These experiences focus on assisting student develop broad, transferable skills for postsecondary education and the workplace.  A quality workplace experiences program can make school-based learning more relevant by providing students with the opportunity to apply knowledge and skills learned in the classroom to real world situations.

Work-based Learning (WBL) is supported in the school and at the work- site.  While school-based learning focuses on academic, career readiness and technical preparation as a part of the classroom curriculum, work site learning occurs away from school in a business or community organization. The IEP team evaluates the employment needs of a student and then documents the activities and/or goals for the student in the Individualized Education Program.  The IEP team may also identify supports available from non-educational agencies to assist the student in meeting the IEP goal of employment.

The WBL coordinator may be involved in the transition planning of youth with disabilities.  This occurs through attending meetings and working with the IEP team.  Once the needs, activities, and goals of the student have been identified, the role of the WBL coordinator is to develop a work-based learning skills plan, identify possible worksites, and develop and coordinate the placement and worksite activities of the student.  Collaboration is the key to providing youth with disabilities the best and most appropriate WBL experiences.

Employment Resources and Incentives for Youth Who Receive Special Education Services

Through the collaborative efforts of several agencies throughout Nebraska, youth with disabilities have opportunities to become employed adults within the communities in which they live. 

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Nebraska VR

Nebraska VR is an employment program for people who experience a disability. Everything Nebraska VR does and all of the services provided are for the purpose of helping people with disabilities prepare for, find, and/or keep a job. The program is voluntary and the services provided will be specific to the individual’s needs. Nebraska VR will work with the individual as long as he/he needs help to find a job. Nebraska VR serves all disability groups with the exception of those who are blind or visually impaired. These individuals are served by the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Nebraska VR provides individualized services. Once the individual has been determined eligible for Nebraska VR services a counselor will help develop an individualized plan for employment or IPE.

In Nebraska every high school has an assigned Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) counselor who can help students who have an identified disability to gain skills, find a job and start a career.  They work with school staff to assess interests and strengths, explore careers and post-secondary training options, among many other individualized services.


Project SEARCH

Project SEARCH is a partnership between Nebraska VR, a business, area school systems, the Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Assistive Technology Partnership, and Division of Developmental Disabilities. This one-year school-to-work program is business-led and takes place entirely in the workplace. The experience includes a combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and hands-on training through worksite rotations.

Helping Students Develop Competitive Employment Skills

Project SEARCH is a high school transition program that provides training and education intended to lead to employment for individuals with disabilities. Students who have completed their academic requirements may apply if they are in their last year of high school. Each interested student is required to make a formal application to the program and to interview with a selection committee. Students are selected through a rating process by a committee consisting of representatives of a school, Nebraska VR, and the Project SEARCH host business. All students must be eligible for services with Nebraska VR.

Seriously Unique High School Transition Program

The program provides real-life work experience to help youth with significant disabilities make successful transitions from school to adult life. Each student participates in three 10-week internships during the school year. In each rotation the student learns job-specific skills while having the opportunity to put employability skills into practice. Monthly progress meetings are held to help students define their career goal and to plan necessary steps to achieve that goal.

Program Model

Project SEARCH is an international trademarked and copyrighted program model, which focuses solely on employment for Project SEARCH interns.

The cornerstone of Project SEARCH is total workplace immersion in a large business. For five days a week students report to the host business, learn employability skills in the classroom, and job skills while participating in a variety of work experiences. Managers at the internship sites work with the Project SEARCH staff to support the students during the day. Students get continuous feedback from the internship manager, co-workers, and Project SEARCH staff. A certified special education teacher and job coaches work with both the students and the business staff. Students end their day by reflection, problem solving, planning, and journaling key learning points. The goal upon program completion and graduation is to utilize skills acquired during the internship for gainful employment.

Want more information?

VISIT the VR Website

EMAIL the Marketing Team at Nebraska VR

EXPLORE Project Search Contacts

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Easter Seals of Nebraska

Easter Seals of Nebraska provides programs and services for employment and training, assistive technology and job accommodations, medical rehabilitation, camping and recreation. Easter Seals Nebraska’s Benefits Specialists help their customers develop an individualized plan to reach self-sufficiency through full use of state and federal work incentive programs.  Social Security Disability Insurance beneficiaries, Nebraskans served by the state vocational rehabilitation program and young adults with disabilities who are transitioning from school into the workforce all benefit from these Easter Seals services.

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Job Corps

Job Corps is a free education and training program that helps young people learn a career, earn a high school diploma or GED, and find a good job and maintain employment. For eligible young people at least 16 years of age that qualify as low income, Job Corps provides the all-around skills needed to succeed in a career and in life. Nebraska students may qualify at the Nebraska or Iowa locations.


Nebraska Ticket to Work

Ticket to Work connects individuals with free employment services to help decide if working is right for the individual and to prepare for work, find a job or maintain success while working. If the individual chooses to participate, services will be provided such as career counseling, vocational rehabilitation, and job placement and training from authorized Ticket to Work service providers, such as Employment Networks (EN) or the State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agency. The service provider chosen will serve as an important part of an “employment team” that will help on the journey to financial independence.

Everyone age 18 through 64 who receives Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits because of his or her disability is eligible to participate in the Ticket to Work program. Participation in the Ticket to Work program is free and voluntary.

VISIT the Website


Goodwill Industries, Inc.

Goodwill helps people with disabilities or barriers grow into more independent lives with effective programs that assist with employment and life skills, recovery, healthy lifestyle, finding and keeping good jobs, and securing safe and affordable housing.


Private nonprofit corporation providing employment, residential and day habilitation services for individual with intellectual disabilities.


Nebraska Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (NCDHH)

Promotes and advocates for individuals who are deaf, deaf-blind, or hard of hearing to achieve equality and opportunity in social, education, vocations, and legal aspects impacting their daily lives; enhance and monitor access to effective communication and tele-communication technology.

Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Nebraska State Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired is an employment resource to get assistance in adult and work life.  If a visual disability makes it hard to find a job, get training or achieve personal independence, NCBVI may have services available to assist in meeting adult goals.  Some services include adjustment to blindness, counseling, job seeking and keeping assistance, vocational training, telecommunication and sensory aids and low vision services. 

Social Security Administration, Supplemental Security Income

Another important participating agency is the U.S. Social Security Administration.  This agency administers a cash assistance program known as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is based on a disability and financial need.   Students receiving SSI benefits are eligible for SSI Work Incentive Programs.  These programs allow students to participate in paid employment while maintaining their SSI Benefits.  Through the use of Work Incentives a student can:

  • Engage in paid employment.
  • Increase income without loss of cash benefits or eligibility for other benefits such as Medicaid.
  • Offset expenses incurred as a result of their work.
  • Save for further postsecondary education and training or to start a business.

SSI Work Incentives available to students with disabilities may include: Earned Income Exclusion, Student Earned Income Exclusion, Impairment-Related Work Expense, Plan for Achieving Self-Support, and Blind Work Experience.  Through the use of accommodations, technology, training, and support, many work goals for youth with disabilities can be reached that may not have been possible in the past.