expert advice MORE
After Holding Your Child Back
Q: We have successfully put a child through special education. He graduates. Now what? What kind of job training and accommodations can we expect? How do we have independent working children?
A: Federal special education law (IDEA) guarantees that children with special needs are guaranteed an education until they turn 22. If your child's school graduated your child prematurely, that is before he or she developed the skills necessary for successfully managing the demands of young adult life and work, or to live as independently as possible, then they haven't been doing their job. In addition to providing services until age 22, federal law requires schools to develop a transition plan for high school students with disabilities which should provide for a smooth transition from school-based services to community-based supports. The latter might include training programs, sheltered workshops, special internships or young adult day programs.
Vocational programs for adolescents with special needs has long been a focus in a national organization called the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), a research and informational organization which supports research and dissemination of information about children and adults with special needs. Check out their website at www.cec.sped.org and search for post-secondary or vocational education. Make sure that you block in a lot of time in your schedule. There are volumes of information on this important topic.
Another thing you should be aware of is a program called School to Work, which is a federally funded initiative run through the your state's Department of Education (DOE). Local initiatives are run in cooperation with local businesses and school districts. In Massachusetts, for example, the exact locations and listing of involved individuals can be obtained through Massachusetts DOE - either by phone (781-388-3300) or through their website (you can link through the Federation for Children with Special Needs site at www.fcsn.org.), or contact the DOE in your state.
Depending on the level of the special need, some high school graduates find success in trade schools, or for-profit apprenticeship programs. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), any program that receives Federal funding must provide access and "reasonable accommodations" to individuals with handicapping conditions. You may wish to visit the ADA website (ada.gov) for information regarding rights and responsibilities of persons with disabilities in the workplace and their employers.
More on: Expert Advice
Jerome (Jerry) Schultz is the founding clinical director of the Learning Lab @ Lesley University, a program that provides assessment, tutoring, and case management services for children with learning challenges. Schultz holds a Ph.D. from Boston College, and has completed postdoctoral fellowships in both clinical psychology and pediatric neuropsychology.