Support for the Transition to Postsecondary Settings for Students With Disabilities (page 2)
The following sections describe several service coordination roles that assist youth to navigate a transition from high school to postsecondary settings successfully.
Secondary Transition Coordinator: Bridge to the Postsecondary World
Secondary transition specialists typically begin work with students when they reach the age at which they are eligible for services and planning (16 under IDEA 2004, with option to begin earlier if needed). The coordinator works with the student to identify preferences and goals. He or she collaborates with general educators to recommend a course of study through high school to prepare for careers and independent living in either college or employment settings. The coordinator arranges opportunities for the student (or a group of students) to learn about different careers through videos, job shadowing, visits to work environments, and hands-on work activities that allow the student(s) to try out jobs. Finally the coordinator makes connections with the adult service system, identifies the support services or accommodations the student may need in the postsecondary setting, and assists students in assembling portfolios of academic records, job experiences, resumes, and postsecondary recommendations. Transition coordinators may follow up with the student and continue their support services for a period of time after the student has graduated. Recent research on the role of transition coordinators shows that 94% of states also employ one or more at the state level (Jackson, 2003; Schiller et al., 2003; U.S. Department of Education, 2003b).
School Guidance Counselor
At the high school level, guidance counselors are concerned with educational and career guidance while they also focus on the personal development of the students. High school counselors help students choose school courses and activities that relate to their interests and will prepare them for life after high school. They also show students how to apply for college or for job-training programs. At the postsecondary level, academic advisors provide information about college entrance requirements, financial aid programs, and entry-level job opportunities in the areas where they might be attending school.
Disability Support Specialist
The disability support specialist in the postsecondary institution provides consultation and ongoing support to enable students to make full use of opportunities at the college or university. The DSS director often serves as liaison with college faculty, staff and administrators, vocational rehabilitation counselors, and other social service agencies. DSS serves as the central point of contact for information on physical and programmatic access, specific accommodations, resolution of complaints and problems, faculty and staff concerns, and identification of available services. In addition, the DSS office can provide training, consultation, and information regarding disability issues. The coordinator of the disability support center also fulfills the role of 504 coordinator and helps provide for reasonable accommodations.
Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor
The vocational rehabilitation counselor is often involved in a student’s transition planning while the student is still in school. Upon graduation, the VR counselor works with the student to assist with access to and support in employment or postsecondary education. The rehabilitation counselor typically works for the state’s vocational rehabilitation (VR) agency, helping people with disabilities prepare for and find employment. For students who are eligible for VR, services may include evaluation of the person’s interests, capabilities, and limitations; job training; transportation; aids and devices; job placement; support to begin postsecondary education; and job follow-up. Priority in services is given to individuals with significant disabilities.
Job Development Specialist
A job development specialist works for either a school system or an adult service agency such as the vocational rehabilitation agency or a supported employment agency. As the job title suggests, the primary role is to find jobs for people with disabilities. The job developer visits employers to inquire about available positions and may offer the employer services such as placement of individuals into jobs; training the employee on job tasks and appropriate workplace behavior; talking with supervisor(s) and coworkers about disability awareness; providing long-term support to the employee on the job; and helping to promote interaction between the employee and his or her coworkers (PACER Center, 2001; Thuli & Hong, 1998).
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