Working with Youth with Disabilities or Who Receive Special Education Services
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).
Often youth with disabilities face unique challenges that must be addressed 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 postsecondary 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 years of age and progress to postsecondary 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 the student to 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.
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. 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.