New Transition Center to Provide Transition Opportunities for High School Students with Disabilities

Three national organizations will merge together to create the National Technical Assistance Center on Improving Transition to Postsecondary Education and Employment for Students with Disabilities.  The national program will be housed at UNC Charlotte and will launch January 1, 2015.

The center will be housed in a suite of offices within the university’s College of Education.

Made possible through a $12.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs, the new center will absorb two other national organizations: the National Dropout Prevention Center for Students with Disabilities, based at Clemson University; and the National Post-School Outcomes Center at the University of Oregon.

All three universities – in addition to Western Michigan University, the University of Kansas and TransCen Inc., an organization that provides assistance for students with disabilities – will combine research efforts under one roof.

The center will work within special education and vocational rehabilitation systems at the state level to improve the transition process for high school students with disabilities entering college or the workplace.

Rethinking College: The Film

Rethinking College” is a film that promotes providing opportunities for experiencing college for students with disabilities.

Rethinking College is a 25 minute film produced by Think College that explores the growing movement to include students with intellectual disabilities in higher education.

Through the perspectives of parents, educators, advocates, policy leaders, and most importantly, students, this film illustrates how colleges and universities can provide a setting for all students to grow, learn and build toward better futures

Learn more here.

University of Rochester Provides Transition Support

The University of Rochester has implemented a support system to aid students with disabilities to access the college experience.

Transition Opportunities at UR (TOUR) looks to help integrate disabled students into a the college environment. Similar programs have been developed on campuses across the country to promote increased involvement and participation.

The philosophy of the TOUR program is to give students with disabilities additional support and resources that they need to succeed.

“I started to research into how I could help students with disabilities to have the opportunity to have the college experience as a more open and accessible option to them,” Warner School of Education graduate and Director of TOUR Catherine Branch Lewis said. “We all have the opportunity to change the world, and I think anyone and everyone should have the opportunity to benefit from everything that is offered here at the U of R.”

The Warner School is a recipient of the Transition Post-Secondary Program for students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID) grant. This is a federally-funded grant that has aided the TOUR program evolve from “an excellent and segregated program to an excellent and inclusive program,” Lewis said.

Read the article here.

Spotlight on Rachel Anderson, Vocational Rehabilitation Transition Specialist

Meet Rachel Anderson,Transition & Supported Employment Coordinator for the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation.  Rachel has been working with people with disabilities 023for 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.
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Millions Awarded to Help Improve Outcomes of Individuals with Disabilities

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.

“Next Steps”: Support for Families of Students with Disabilities

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.

Washington Non-Profit Provides Transition Services to Community

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.

Spotlight on Janalyn Duersch, Transition Teacher

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 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.

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Disability Awareness Month

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

Proposed CEC Division of Visual and Performing Arts Education (DARTS)

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.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/8JHWJ6J

Thank you,

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)