by Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed. MLIS
It’s the beginning of a new school year, but I’m going to touch on a subject that pertains to the long-range future of our disabled students. End-of-school career planning is something that needs to be addressed well in advance.
In every student’s life, the expectation is a graduation ceremony of some kind. In my house, it was a given that we would go to college; thus, we’ve had several graduations in our lifetime. It was a lesson for me when I learned that some families are gratified when their child graduates from the eighth grade. There are parties and celebrations and joy from parents who never expected to see this milestone. They may have lived in poverty or just been part of a family that has never experienced the eighth grade, for whatever reason. They may have come to us from another country where education is not as readily available as it is here.
For children with disabilities, the calendar is different. The law says the school must provide services for children with disabilities through their 21st year. In most states there are transition plan requirements that help parents and students work through a more complex set of decisions as graduation comes near. Many disabled students cannot hope to pass state academic achievement tests. In the beginning of education reform, this was a serious issue as states clung to the graduation requirements for these high stakes tests. As the years have passed, states have developed safety nets and procedures for providing a path to college for many disabled students.
I have been impressed by the way community colleges have stepped up. They are ideally positioned in local areas to provide tutoring and transition classes for students who will not be able to walk across their high school graduation stage. This is working well not only for disabled students, but also for students whose first language is not English.
If you are a parent reading this, and you are wondering how you are going to support your disabled child through the graduation process, be aware there are many services available for you. Locally, your child’s guidance counselor can help with a transition plan. She will know what the law says and be aware of the tests and timetables for graduation for disabled students. If you are early in the process (your child is in the eighth grade or so), you should be working with your school’s special education committee to create IEPs that have an eye for the future.
I’ve collected some resources for transition planning services.
Wright’s Law – a great resource for understanding the law regarding special education
New York State’s transition planning infrastructure – good resource
PACER – champions for children with disabilities
Toolkit – for preparing a personal assistance plan after graduation
Vocational Rehab facilities (New York State – your state has one too)
Going to College – for students with disabilities
Heath Center – national clearinghouse for services to students with disabilities
Use Google or another search engine to find resources specific to your state, search strings might look like this;
“Services for students with disabilities in xyz (fill in your state) state”
Keep your expectations high for all your students, there are services and programs out there to help all students thrive in our society, you just have to know where to look. The Internet has been an enormous positive factor in helping families cope with the challenges of transitioning out of school. Use the services available.
Let me know how your school or state handles the transition planning process for your disabled students.
Grant Name: Educational Grants
Funded By: The Dorothea Haus Ross Foundation
Description: Giving on a national basis to advance the moral, mental, and physical well-being of children of all races and creeds; to aid and assist in providing for the basic needs of food, shelter, and education of such children by whatever means and methods necessary or advisable; to prevent by medical research or otherwise the mental and physical handicaps of children.
Program Areas: Disabilities, Early Childhood, General Education, Health/PE, Special Education
Eligibility: Private School, Faith Based, Other
Proposal Deadline: Ongoing
Annual Total Amount: $400,000.00 – $560,000.00
Average Amount: $1,000.00 – $15,000.00
Address: 1036 Monroe Avenue, Rochester, NY 14620
Website: The Dorothea Haus Ross Foundation
Availability: All States