Transition to Adult Life For Students in Special Education (page 3)
The symptoms of learning disabilities persist into adulthood. Of course, this category is populated by a broad range of students, with varying needs for support as they transition to adult life. The supports that any particular student with a learning disability will need depends on the severity of the deficits that the individual has relative to academic and social/behavioral skills. Some of the students with the mildest of disabilities learn to compensate for these deficits and are very successful in life with no support. Others with severe reading or language problems that persist into adulthood may have great difficulty succeeding in postsecondary education or getting and keeping a job.
Research has documented relatively high levels of employment for persons with learning disabilities immediately after high school. For example, Goldstein, Murray, and Edgar (1998) found that persons with learning disabilities worked more hours per week and earned more than peers without learning disabilities during the first 4 years after high school. This finding reflects the fact that the relatively mild disabilities that characterize learning disabilities did not serve as a major barrier to obtaining entry-level (and relatively low-paying) jobs.
While this finding is cause for some optimism regarding the employment prospects for persons with learning disabilities, which are better than those for people in other disability categories (Mellard & Lancaster, 2003), the long-term employment prospects are not so positive. More specifically, Goldstein and colleagues (1998) found that, after 4 years, persons without learning disabilities earn much more than persons with learning disabilities, with no significant difference in hours worked. Mellard and Lancaster (2003) speculate that this trend in earnings occurs because "adults without learning disabilities are finishing college or specialized training and receiving promotions during and following the 5th year of employment, while adults with learning disabilities are experiencing career stagnation" (p. 360). This career stagnation occurs primarily because a large proportion of persons with learning disabilities do not participate in postsecondary education.
Thus, the vocational success of students with learning disabilities, as with students without learning disabilities, is strongly related to participation in postsecondary education. Engaging these students in a discussion of the value of postsecondary education and the range of postsecondary options that exist is critically important to ensuring that students with learning disabilities are well prepared to make decisions about their life after school (Mellard & Lancaster, 2003). Furthermore, careful selection of postsecondary options that provide the necessary supports for persons with learning disabilities to be successful is an important consideration.
Support in Higher Education
Many students with learning disabilities will attend some form of postsecondary education, often a 2- or 4-year college. Many colleges and universities make special accommodations and provide supports for students with learning disabilities through student services offices on campus. Information regarding colleges and universities that offer comprehensive programs for students with learning disabilities are described in Colleges with Programs for Students with Learning Disabilities or Attention Deficit Disorders (Peterson's Guide, 2003).
It is noteworthy that some states have made significant efforts to develop support systems for students with learning disabilities in postsecondary settings. For example, the California community college system has developed supports for students with learning disabilities, including extensive in-class assistance as well as support in other areas (e.g., counseling, assistive technology, support in transitioning to a 4-year institution of higher education) (Mellard & Lancaster, 2003).
Many students with learning disabilities will need specific accommodations in college courses to be successful. Allsopp, Minskoff, and Bolt (2005) have developed and validated a course-specific strategy-instruction model for students with learning disabilities and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder who are attending college. More information regarding this model is provided in the "Site Visit."
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