Meet Rachel Anderson,Transition & Supported Employment Coordinator for the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation. Rachel has been working with people with disabilities for 15 years. She began in college working with children with disabilities in an after school program, then moved on to working in residential care with adults with disabilities. After earning her degree in Social Work, Rachel became a Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Transition Counselor with the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation, first working in the Salt Lake City School District and then moving into assisting all schools/districts in the state to make the VR connection.
I have loved, and been extremely passionate about, all of my roles working with people with disabilities. I have always been understanding, accepting and passionate about advocating for vulnerable populations, or those that need help in anyway. I am lucky to have the opportunity to work with transition aged youth in Utah, helping them gain the skills and providing opportunities for them to meet their goals, become independent and be successfully employed.
Millions of dollars have been earmarked through grants to focus on improving outcomes of students with disabilities, through “research, demonstrations, technical assistance, technology, personnel development and parent-training and information centers”. Transition initiatives are among the areas to be funded.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) today announced more than $121 million in grants to help improve the outcomes of individuals with disabilities—from cradle through career. The investments are aimed at promoting inclusion, equity and opportunity for all children and adults with disabilities to help ensure their economic self-sufficiency, independent living and full community participation.
“These investments are significant in assisting individuals with disabilities to reach their full potential,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “We want all individuals with disabilities to succeed and these investments symbolize our values and commitment as a nation toward achieving excellence for all.”
Some of the transition funding includes:
Funded at $2.5 million, the National TA Center on Improving Transition to Postsecondary Education and Employment for Students with Disabilities (Transition Center)
Funded at $9 million for the next three years, the Job-Driven Vocational Rehabilitation TA Center (JDVRTAC) at the University of Massachusetts-Boston
Funded at $875,000, TransCen, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving educational and employment outcomes
Read more here.
A Chicago district has developed a “Next Steps” team to aid families of students with disabilities in helping to prepare their student for adulthood.
“Next Steps” is a District 202 Vocational Education Team that assists parents and caregivers with planning, transitioning and advocating for their children with disabilities.
The Next Steps team aims to improve delivery of services to families of students with disabilities; increase family awareness of disability options and resources; and link families in need to agencies that can support them with issues related to transition.
Read more here.
A non-profit organization in Washington is filling a Transition niche for students with intellectual disabilities that also benefits the wider community.
Making the transition from school to the workplace can be hard for anyone. But for individuals living with intellectual disabilities, the shift can be especially difficult. To help ease the transition from student to employee, Morningside, a local non-profit specializing in disability services, provides three different programs designed to help special education students find the career path that’s right for them – before they even graduate.
Read about the three programs, Transition Program, Project Search and Work Experience Project here.
Janalyn Duersch knew as a teenager that she wanted to be a Special Education Teacher. She began her career as a staff assistant 22 years ago and after 4 years began her journey to pursue that dream. “I knew what I wanted to be when I was 14. My family friend was a special ed teacher at Logan High School and encouraged me to get a job as a staff assistant while I was in college so that I could garner experience. He helped me to get a job at Logan High. I did my degree at Utah State University and worked at Logan High simultaneously.”
Janalyn Duersch works n the Adult Transition Program in the Ogden School District in Ogden Utah.
Janalyn is a teacher in the Adult Transition Program in the Ogden School District in Ogden Utah where her primary job is teaching students with moderate-severe disabilities ages 18-22 in a community based post high school program. She determines student needs to create plans and instruction for independent living skills, vocational skills, post-secondary education, community skills, social skills, hygiene skills and functional academics. She also delivers instruction, advocates for and links students and their families with community agencies such as Vocational Rehabilitation, Division of Services for People with Disabilities and The Utah Independent Living Center. Janalyn supervises staff, completes requisite paperwork (“Oh so much paperwork!”), collaborates with agencies, coordinates and creates job placements with local businesses, teams with other teachers, collects and analyzes data and disseminates information to the community.
September is disability awareness month. Here is a clip about one organization that is helping people with disabilities to get employment and post secondary education opportunities
ABC4 Utah on Disability Awareness Month
If you are a member of the Council for Exceptional Children
, please read and consider signing the petition at the link provided to include professionals who work in the arts and foster growth in that area for students with disabilities.
Dear CEC Members:
The arts have played a vital role in the lives of many students with exceptionalities. Many of us have seen the successes (e.g., students who find their own area of expertise in the arts, or students who not only complete their own artwork, but help others) and the positive behavioral changes in arts classes. It is worth noting that students with exceptionalities have been taught by arts educators before our special education laws mandated their inclusion. And, like Ginger Rogers dancing backwards in high heels, they taught our students largely without special education training. We believe it is time to officially recognize and include arts education professionals at CEC.
You can help us create a new CEC Division of Visual and Performing Arts Education (DARTS) by clicking on and signing the petition below. A Division of Visual and Performing Arts Education can bring art, music, drama, and dance/movement teachers and therapists together with special educators. A Division of Visual and Performing Arts Education is needed because there is no national professional “home” for classroom teachers who use the arts and the arts professionals who work with our students. Beyond opportunities to meet and share ideas, strategies and techniques, a Division of Visual and Performing Arts Education can offer on-line professional journals that encourage arts/special education research and share exemplary arts lessons and programs with CEC members. These journals do not currently exist. CEC is the appropriate professional “home” for these arts/special education goals and can bring in new members from many arts organizations.
For these reasons, we ask for your support for a new CEC Division of Visual and Performing Arts Education (DARTS). For discussions on this new division to move forward, we must collect signatures from CEC members who support its creation. Please follow the link below and add your signature to our petition asking the CEC Board of Directors to approve and recognize DARTS.
Beverly Levett Gerber and the DARTS Organizational Committee (30 members who represent special education, art, music, and theatre education and therapies, and community art organizations)
An Alabama school is providing postsecondary transition services for students with disabilities that bridge the gap between high school and college or independent living.
Horizons School was established in 1991 as an initiative of the UAB School of Education, the school is a non-degree transition program designed for students age 18 to 26 who have learning disabilities, autism and other mild handicapping conditions.
Based in Birmingham, it is the only program of its kind in the Southeast.
“When a student finishes their grade school education with either a high school diploma or a certificate of attendance but they don’t have the living skills they need for independence, there is nothing for them. That’s really frustrating because many of our students….are on the cusp of independence when they come but not quite ready to be on their own,” said assistant director Brian Geiger.
Classes taught at Horizons School range from social skills and money management to cooking, art and fitness. Advisors work closely with new students to help them set goals that will lead to greater independence as well as solve problems they encounter.
Over time, students begin to rely on others less and themselves more.
Read more here.
Horizons School website
The Autism CARES Act, signed into law by President Obama, allocate 1.3 billion dollars over the next five years to autism research, early detection, and intervention, with an emphasis on transitioning to adulthood. It will also focus on life skills, employment, housing, and transportation.
Read more here.
A transition program in Washington state is providing opportunities for students with disabilities in their transition years after high school with great success.
When it comes to school-to-work programs, Mike Etzell and Diane Fesler have a unique perspective.
Etzell and Fesler both work with students ages 18 to 21 with developmental disabilities, helping them to transition into the workforce.
“We’re investing in all of those students going to school, and why would we stop after kids with special needs graduate?” Etzell said.
Etzell and Fesler work with community partners to give jobs or internships to their students to help get them slowly acclimated to post-high school life during those transition years. Sometimes their students can work as little as two hours a week at a job, learning how to adjust to the adult world, with job coaches who help them through the adjustment.
Their mantra is “Jobs by June,” and they plan to work with their students throughout the year to get them ready for that.
Read more here.