As North Carolina’s Protection & Advocacy (P&A) program, Disability Rights NC welcomes the opportunity to share our concerns and suggestions relevant to improving transition outcomes for youth with disabilities.
We are concerned about the need for earlier vocational rehabilitation (VR) participation in connection with the school to work transition process for young people with disabilities. It is our belief that students with significant disabilities and their families need information about employment opportunities as early as possible. We would like to see VR involvement with students having the most significant disabilities as early as middle school, nurturing the expectation that employment is the first and best option for all individuals, regardless of the nature and severity of their disabilities. We also continue to be concerned with the procedures for referrals between VR and local management health entities/managed-care organizations to maximize access to employment services for its clients. It seems that individuals receiving services from local management entities are often unconnected with services offered by VR, and vice-versa. We believe that VR is the natural provider of these types of services as it is the longest standing Federal program for helping people with disabilities move into employment.
Based on our experience representing special education students, we also propose recommendations, identified below, to improve transition services and to encourage the collaborative partnership between state/local VR and state/local education agencies for the benefit of students needing transition services. These recommendations presume early collaboration between VR and education agencies with administering transition assessments, developing transition plans and providing transition services for students having intellectual disabilities and significant learning challenges, including specific learning disabilities.
• Develop a list of formal and informal assessments to be administered for the purpose of developing transition plans. Transition assessments are the foundation for developing a student’s postsecondary transition plan. Absent age-appropriate assessments, students are denied transition plans that help them achieve their post-secondary goals.
• With student participation, develop transition goals that will help them become competitively employed or stay in higher education programs. Transition goals that are vague, unrealistic and immeasurable cause students substantial educational losses as students do not receive any services that are calculated to support post-secondary skills after high school.
• Help identify and provide transition services that provide students meaningful opportunities to achieve their post- secondary goals. The failure to identify and provide specific activities and services denies students the opportunity to acquire skills that help them become more independent and employable.
We appreciated this opportunity to provide you with our suggestions. We are hopeful they will more actively engage VR and education agencies with developing and implementing transition services that improve transitional outcomes for all students with disabilities.