How Can Students with Learning Disabilities Prepare for the Work World? (page 2)
As described by Zigmond (1990), the programming model for non-college-bound secondary-school students should include five features:
- All basic skills are taught by a special educator and instruction in basic skills is linked to transition planning....
- Required "content" subjects are taught by special educators....
- Vocational education is provided in the mainstream and coordinated with transition planning provided with special education....
- All ninth-grade students with learning disabilities will take a required course on survival skills [bold added] taught by a special educator....
- Students' schedules would reflect a light academic load in ninth grade to ensure successful completion of the first year of high school. (pp. 18-19)
One problem with this model, conceded by Zigmond, is that it requires special education teachers to teach in content areas in which they might not be completely proficient, although the level of the content would be lower than that typically taught in these subjects.
An important advantage of this model is that it provides two classes of vocational education for each of four years.
Programming Goals for Vocational Training
More and more authorities are moving toward a developmental approach to vocational programming. This assumes that an individual's career development occurs well into adulthood. Most developmental models of career development include three stages: career awareness, career exploration, and career experiences (Morningstar, 1997). Students' individualized transition plans
should include a vocational component that covers systematic vocational assessment, career exploration, job training, and vocational counseling to help set realistic goals. Vocational training needs to be diverse enough to reflect the range of occupational roles held by individuals who have learning disabilities. (Shapiro & Rich, 1999, p. 142)
Researchers have suggested several student-centered objectives for vocational preparation:
- Develop and implement assessment procedures which identify functional skills and interests related to current and future employment and training opportunities in the community....
- Provide necessary support services to ensure access to mainstream vocational classes....
- Provide at least four work experiences, six to eight weeks each, in identified areas of interest and skill for students between the ages of 15 and 18....
- Assist the student in locating and securing employment prior to graduation....
- Provide supervision and follow-up services to students in full-time or part-time employment until graduation (or the student's twenty-second birthday)....
- Develop individual transition plans with appropriate adult services agencies (i.e., vocational rehabilitation, community college, state employment service, or mental health) for students who need continued services following graduation. (BrodyyHasazi, Salembier, & Finck, 1983, pp. 207-208)
Most vocational specialists promote the idea that non-college-bound students with disabilities have a great deal to gain from on-the-job experiences with employers in the community. It is often difficult to arrange consistent work experiences for students, however. That is one of the reasons some have advocated formal school-business partnerships that facilitate the placement of students in real jobs while they are still in school (Tilson, Luecking, & Donovan, 1994). In addition to providing useful job training for students, such arrangements can help businesses prepare well-trained personnel for their workforce (Goldberger & Kazis, 1996).
Apprenticeship experiences for secondary-school students in general education are commonplace in some European countries, such as Germany. They have not been widely adopted in the United States because of the reluctance to identify students too early for non-college-bound "tracks." In the case of students with disabilities, the issue of tracking students too early into a vocational orientation is no less real. But many see this potential problem outweighed by the advantages of building relationships with businesses so that students can have ready access to training in meaningful job settings.
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