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Transitioning Post-Secondary Studentswith Intellectual and Severe Disabilities Essay

Updated August 11, 2022
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Transitioning Post-Secondary Studentswith Intellectual and Severe Disabilities Essay essay

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For most young adults, the transitional process from adolescence to adulthood can be a daunting and intimidating undertaking. While the able body and mind individuals head off to either universities, the workforce or military pursuits at the culmination of their formal education; a unique and often overlooked sect of our population are left pondering their skills, capabilities and job prospects in a world often not prepared to accommodate them. Students with intellectual disabilities (ID) as well as other severe cognitive, physical and behavioral disabilities are often not given the multitude of life and career options as their general education peers are afforded for a multitude of obvious and unmistakable reasons. Although it is understandable to expect there to be certain mastered skills for particular jobs, it does not negate the fact that all young adults with disabilities deserve opportunities to become integral parts of society and the workforce.

All students with disabilities are mandated by the federal government to be provided with an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) throughout their educational journey. Although these documents can become wordy and certain terms may change; this map is meant to provide the students with the necessary tools to modify their instruction to accommodate their disability. These exceptional individuals deserve a team of professionals, family members, and community representatives/advocates to come together throughout their educational journey in favor of preparing them for both their secondary education and beyond. Equipping our youth with secure meaningful work after high school helps to provide for a stronger economy that is competitive and evolving.

The main objectives of the transition team are to make sure that the students with disabilities are assigned goals and curriculum that coincide with the skills necessary to get a job after high school and earn a living. According to research conducted by the Hammill Institute on Disabilities; between 1990 and 2005, there was a 19% increase in students with disabilities attending college or receiving some level of postsecondary education within 4 years of leaving high school. (Grigal, Hart, Migliore, 2011) Although this increase is seen as a positive result of reinvesting in the future of students with disabilities; the real question we should all be asking ourselves is, “Are the jobs and experiences, we are preparing our young adults with disabilities for, sufficient for promoting self-awareness and independence in self-care?

When evaluating the success criteria of transitioning a young adult into society for a productive daily lifestyle; we look at several factors and best practices. Several of these categories include: paid or unpaid work experience, employment preparation program participation, general education inclusion, family involvement, social skills training, daily living skills training, self-determination training and community or agency collaboration. These interventions and training tools used by both professionals and various members of the community all play a vital role in determining how we best prepare individuals with special needs for making self-directed choices and decisions in their daily lives.

One particular area of focus, that many educators and transitional specialists believe is essential to independent living, for young adults with disabilities is, “Social Skills”. Social skills and the deficit of them, that many adults with disabilities exhibit, have become a defining characteristic of young adults with a specific learning disability. Over the last forty years, many stride and attempts have been made to enhance social functioning through structured training approaches. Social skills interventions have become a popular adjunct treatment for students and young adults with disabilities. Although social skill deficits appear to be an integral part of the symptoms these individuals possess, problems in social skills training in regards to definition, measurement, and design have resulted in receiving limited empirical support but, nevertheless, holds promise for improving the social functioning of students and adults with disabilities. (Bender, W. N., & Wall, M. E. 1994)

For many years, partial and fully institutionalized programs for children and adults with disabilities lacked involvement from family members in the process of preparing those in need with the vital skills necessary to live independently. Moderate involvement of family members, can assist in the adjustment of these individuals into the community. (Bender, W. N., & Wall, M. E. 1994) Employment for many individuals with disabilities can sometimes be obtained via family members and friends’ contacts. Family members can play an important role in career decisions for individuals with disabilities as well as help direct him/her into a career field where they feel supported, respected, valued and included.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act has helped promote inclusion for adults in society starting from their early years in the educational atmosphere. Over the last decade, educational institutions have seen a rise in accessibility for this population into the general education classroom. The purpose and results of being educated in an inclusive environment allows acquisition of stronger academic skills that allows for more variety of skills in a post-secondary world. Earning a standard high school diploma typically indicates that a student has met the general education requirements for graduation, and a diploma is necessary for the military and postsecondary institutions. Receiving a diploma, as opposed to receiving certificate of completion or dropping out, has been linked to better post-secondary employment rates.

Self-determination training assists individuals with disabilities in becoming the primary causal agent, or person who makes things happen, in his or her life. Self-determination includes choice-making skills; decision-making skills; problem-solving skills; goal-setting and attainment skills; independence, risk-taking, and safety skills; self-observation, evaluation, and reinforcement skills; self-instruction skills; self-advocacy and leadership skills; internal locus of control; positive attributions of efficacy and outcome expectancy; self-awareness; and self-knowledge . (Landmark, L.J., Song, J., & Zhang, D. 2010)

Community or Agency Collaboration during transition planning is another practice that has been substantiated, albeit the least empirically substantiated. Heal et al. (1990) compared individuals with mental retardation who had been employed for at least 6 months to individuals with mental retardation who had not been successfully employed and found that the individuals who had job placement agency follow-up services were more likely to be successfully employed. Likewise, Benz et al. (1997) found that continuing employment support for 1 year after exiting high school could help individuals with disabilities be competitively employed. Interestingly, McDonnall and Crudden (2009) did not find evidence that the quality of the relationship between the youth with the disability and the rehabilitation counselor was related to employment.

The research studies I choose to reference helped to emphasize the need for more quality programs for students with disabilities. Over the last 25 years, the reinvestment in preparing our youth with disabilities has produced outcomes that allow students access to a larger variety of opportunities than ever before. A reemphasis on the quality of these opportunities helps highlight the fact that many of these jobs provide few hours, low wages, and take place within segregated settings. Some refer to these opportunities as a “bridge to nowhere”. (Carter, Austin, Trainor 2012)

The transitional programs developed for students with severe disabilities must be consistently equated with high expectations, person-centered and student-directed goals that support post school employment or education and practices that reflect collaboration with external partners, community agencies and organizations. (Grigal, Hart, Migliore 2011) Everyone on a student with disabilities’ transition team has expectations and a role to play, in regards to that student’s educational attainment and adult independence. Parents of these students have the biggest investment in their futures because they are solely responsible for their child’s well-being after high school.

After analyzing the research; I was unpleasantly surprised to see that the differences between parent’s expectations relied heavily on their disability. Parent’s expectations for attaining a high school diploma and pursuing a post-secondary education were higher for youth with speech/language or hearing and visual impairments than for other disabilities. Youth with Intellectual disabilities, autism, or multiple disabilities were the least likely to be expected to graduate from high school with a regular diploma or to attend post- secondary school. This analysis concludes that parent’s expectations reflected their experience of how the child’s disability limited activities and accomplishments. (Grigal, Hart, Migliore 2011)

Although a student’s disabilities can hinder their educational attainment and career opportunities; other studies shed light on the examining factors associated with improving early post-school outcomes. One particular factor highlights students, particularly male, who have held a paid, community-based job while still in high school. This aspect was strongly correlated with post-school employment success as well as more independence in self-care, higher social skills, more household responsibilities as adolescents and higher parent expectations. All these attributes were associated with increased odds of employment after school for young adults with severe disabilities. (Carter, Austin, Trainor 2012)

The most substantial and compelling evidence linking educational practices and positive learning outcomes for youth with disabilities can be found in the literature describing programs making extensive use of instruction in the workplace, direct job placement, and the provision of follow-up services. Research on this set of practices is extensive, in part because these approaches were instrumental in the early development of the field of secondary special education (e.g., adaptation of the vocational rehabilitation model to schools). Further, this arena of program practice focuses directly on the preferred outcome (e.g., em

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