Educational Options After High School for Students with Special Needs
As a person with learning disabilities, or the parent of a student with LD, there are many decisions to be made about the future, post-high school. Maybe college is one option, or a different educational opportunity may be the right choice. Perhaps a career path such as an internship, apprentice program, or some entrepreneurial enterprise is more suited. Whatever direction is ultimately taken, the following information will help provide some insight and assistance as options are reviewed. A terrific site that should be visited by parents and students alike is www.heath.gwu.edu/node/134.
Some students and parents haven’t even considered college an option before due to developmental/intellectual disabilities; well it’s time for that thinking to change. The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (www.thinkcollege.net/topics/opportunity-act) has really made an impact on college programs all over the country. There are adult education programs, job training programs, occupational certificate programs and new comprehensive postsecondary transition (CPT) programs. CPTs are programs offered in over 140 schools around the country that provide students with ID/DD an opportunity to learn career, academic, and independent living skills as they prepare for the future.
“Think College” (http://www.thinkcollege.net) is an outstanding resource for potential college students with numerous links and a plethora of information. College options for students with intellectual disabilities http://lifeafterieps.com/college-options-for-students-with-intellectual-disabilities-think-college/ can help identify various other options as well.
College programs offer a wide range of options and potential benefits to most students. As a student with learning disabilities, or as the parent of a student with LD’s, there is so much to learn when thinking about a college or university, it can be overwhelming. The cost alone, for some students, can be staggering. The financial/legal http://lifeafterieps.com/free-transition-planning-tools/financiallegal/ aspects are different, as are the services and disability documentation processes. This handy chart http://www.ham.miamioh.edu//disability_services/documents/IDEA-ADA-504ComparisonChart.pdf by Stephanie Dawson of Miami University, offers a great side by side comparison of IDEA vs. ADA Section 504. Hopefully, students planning on entering college have been working with a good IEP team and they, along with their parents, have been educated and counseled about the different choices, options and requirements necessary to becoming a college student. If that has not been the case, then college planning for students with disabilities http://lifeafterieps.com/tag/college-planning-students-with-disabilities/ should help with getting the process started.
These schools offer basic, core requirements that usually allow for transfer to higher learning institutions, along with liberal arts and science subjects. Most also have degree programs for training in specific occupations, such as criminal justice, medical assisting, computer programming, etc. Community colleges provide an A.A., A.S. or A.A.S. degree upon matriculation. For some students this provides for a more conducive step-up transition to University, allowing for live at home stability while acclimating to all the new changes college brings.
Four-year colleges and Universities all differ in size, location, cost and admissions standards. Students who graduate earn a B.S. or B.A. degree. These students can go on to graduate school or institutions of higher learning, where there is no end to what may be accomplished. Networking By and For College Students with Disabilities http://weconnectnow.wordpress.com/ is a student run resource where undergraduates can connect and share resources and experiences from around the world.
Adaptive Technology / Assistive Devices
Whether preparing for college, pursuing a career, entering a Life Skills program or choosing any other path forward, it’s vital to understand rights and options regarding these products and services. Vocational rehabilitation agencies are generally responsible for most costs associated with these needs/services (except those provided by educational programs/policies), as long as they are in line with State policies. It should be noted that it is vital they be addressed and included in the Individual Employment Plan (IEP). The following is a non-inclusive list of available services:
- Adaptive services
- Auxiliary aids
- Assistive technology (speech recognition systems, talking calculators, software that predicts and edits words)
- Collateral support services
Two great sites for more information are http://www.washington.edu/doit/Faculty/Strategies/Academic/Adaptive and http://www.paulabliss.com/accomd.htm/ .
Mary Mazzoni at “Life After IEPs” provides some really good information and resources at http://lifeafterieps.com/assistive-technology-planning-resources/ .
Life Skills Programs
Some students with developmental disabilities need more concentrated services than most schools can provide. Life Skills programs are educational programs designed to help young people learn the skills necessary for independent (or semi-independent) living. Most programs are found in residential environments and provide training in:
- Effective Time Management
- Social Skills
- Basic Personal Hygiene
- Career exploration
- Situational Awareness
- Money Management
While there are a number of LSPs around the country, they are generally costly, require an application/interview process and students must meet certain criteria before enrollment. All of these conditions vary widely from program to program, as do the educational programs offered by individual facilities. A good place to start your research is: Young Adult Transition and Gap Year Programs. http://www.iser.com/young-adult-transitions.html
Every state has a vocational rehabilitation agency whose major function is to assist individuals with disabilities to prepare for, get, or keep employment. Typically, vocational rehabilitation counselors help an individual:
- Explore Interests, skills and experiences
- Determine support needs (AT/AD)
- Develop employment goals
- Devise an Individual Plan for Employment (IPE) to help achieve goals
In most states, VR services are provided at no cost. In some states, some of the services available are based on the individual’s financial need. The VR services a person is eligible for are outlined in an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE). These services may include one or more of the following:
- Vocational counseling and guidance
- Job placement assistance
- College or vocational training
- Supported employment services
- Skills training
- Job coaching or tutoring
- Assistive technology services
- Referral services
- Follow-up services up to 90 days after job placement
Services may be provided directly by the VR counselor, coordinated with other agencies, or purchased by the VR agency as needed. Purchasing services means VR pays another agency or organization to provide services. For example, VR may pay for skills training, or for a community employment agency, to work with an individual on their behalf. Click here to find the location of the nearest state Vocational Rehabilitation office. http://askjan.org/cgi-in/TypeQuery.exe?902 . For an expanded list of local agencies and services visit The DRM Regional Resource Directory . http://www.disabilityresources.org/DRMreg.html .
Originally published in July/Aug 2014 Issue of Parenting Special Needs Magazine.
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