Category Archives: Evidence-Based Practices

Dr. Mary Morningstar: What Does it Take to be College and Career Ready? Improving Outcomes for Youth with Disabilities

Dr. Mary MorningstarDr. Mary Morningstar is the keynote speaker at the Transition pre-conference of the UMTSS* Connections Conference in Layton, Utah June 23 – a three day event of sessions on Leadership, Literacy and Numeracy, Behavior and Positive Behavior Supports, Transition to Career Pathways, Educating English Learners, Special Education, Effective Instruction, Tiered Intervention, Assessment and other topics.

Today’s Transition event will include many topics on preparing students for post secondary education, employment and independent living.

“Dr. Mary E. Morningstar is an associate professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of Kansas and Director of the Transition Coalition, which offers online transition professional development and resources for secondary special educators and practitioners. Her research agenda includes evaluating secondary teacher quality and professional development, culturally diverse family involvement in transition planning, and interagency collaboration. She is also examining the impact of inclusive secondary experiences for students with significant disabilities on postschool outcomes. Currently, she is developing a multi-dimensional model of adult life engagement for transition.” (

Watch the Transition Universe Facebook and Twitter feeds for updates on the conference.

*Utah Multi-Tiered Systems of Support

“Linking Learning to Life”: Strengthening Transition Skills

A Pennsylvania School District has implemented a program that helps students develop employment and independent living skills.  Partnered with local businesses, the district High School has created an on site classroom that provides simulated experiences and career coaching.

Learning to Life (LLtL) is a two-tier secondary transition designed to aid students in making the progression from the classroom to post-school life. Activities are based on the individual’s needs, ranging from those with mild disabilities to students with more significant needs who require extensive support, and consider his or her strengths, preferences and interests.

“The majority of our services were previously contracted with outside providers,” said DiMarino-Linnen. “They tended to be ‘one size fits all’ and students were oriented to a community that was not their own.”

To address the concerns, LLtL considers the various paths students will take in the months and years after high school. For some, the focus is on independent living; for others, post-secondary competitive employment, trade school or college. Planning begins no later than the first IEP when the student turns 14, with a team which can involve the individual, parents, general and special education personnel and an agency representative. Issues such as course selection and the extended school year (ESY) program are addressed.

Read the article here.

Ohio Program Provides Bridge to Employment

An Ohio organization has created a 6 week program called “Bridges” that provides a sampling of employment experiences for young people with developmental disabilities.

The Scioto County Board of Developmental Disabilities (SCBDD) Bridges program held a graduation ceremony for 10 participants of the six-week program on July 25 at the Vocation Station.

Bridges assists under-served areas of the state in developing employment services for youth with developmental disabilities as they transition from school to employment. The students participate in job shadowing, job coaching and a variety of educational opportunities to help them achieve their employment goals.

The overall goal of the project is to enhance career exploration options and increase employment outcomes by developing a collaborative network of services that will assist students in achieving their employment goals.

Read the article here.

Interagency Collaboration: A Win-Win for Delaware Students

A Dover hospital, school district, and Vocational Rehabilitation have formed a partnership to provide employment experiences for students with cognitive disabilities.

Bayhealth, the Capital School District and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation have formed a partnership designed to help students with cognitive disabilities gain job training and work experience through internships.

This new program, Project SEARCH, will kick off at the beginning of the next school year. Students with special needs, between the ages of 18 and 21, who have completed the credits required to graduate high school will be given the opportunity to spend their final school year participating in three 10-week internships at Bayhealth-Kent General Hospital, with job coaching provided by the Department for Vocational Rehabilitation.

“The vision for the program is that students will have a strong resume and a skill set, which will make them marketable in a competitive job market,” said Joyce Denman, supervisor of special education for the Capital School District.

Read more here.

Florida After School High Tech Program Helps with Transition, Graduation Rates

Posted in The Ledger, Lakeland, Florida, (February 25, 2014)

The newest of 40 high school sites around the state of Florida has implemented the High School High Tech Program, an after school program designed to support students with disabilities work towards life after high school, focusing on science and mathematics.

High School High Tech helps students with disabilities explore career paths that fit their skills and interests, pursue post-secondary education and secure employment, with a focus on STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — fields.

The after-school program is managed by the Able Trust, a state nonprofit dedicated to providing people with disabilities the opportunity for employment, and by the Center for Independent Living.

“The goal is to have every student live independently and have awesome opportunities in life, especially in the high-tech world, where we need all the people we can get,” said Sen. Kelli Stargel.

Read the article here.

Employers-Job Seekers Partnerships: Success Stories

When employers are educated on the benefits of hiring people with disabilities, all sorts of doors open for job seekers and employers alike.

Think Beyond the Label is one organization that educates with and provides network opportunities for businesses and job seekers with disabilities.

Think Beyond the Label is a public-private partnership that delivers information, outreach and resources to businesses, job seekers and the public workforce system to ensure greater recruiting and hiring opportunities for job candidates with disabilities.

One of the sucess stories on the website  (a couple of years old, but the program is still running) is about an Auto Dealership in Georgia that has developed Cafe Blends: Blending Autism into the Workplace. Since its inception, several of the dealerships locations have opened Cafe Blends at their locations.

Café Blends got its start as a pilot program at a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Tampa, Fla., in 2011. The Tampa café was so successful the company began a corporate initiative to expand the cafes to Atlanta. There are now three locations in Atlanta and one in Greenville, S.C.

Each café employs three baristas and one supervisor, who also serves as a job coach. The program involves not only training the participants, ages 18 to 28, as baristas, but also educating dealership employees about autism and how to help integrate the cafe workers into store operations.

“Asbury’s Café Blends initiative has become a remarkable success among both our employees and our customers. We feel very privileged to have this opportunity to raise awareness and create job opportunities for individuals on the autism spectrum,” says Craig Monaghan, president and CEO of Asbury Automotive Group.

Read more here.



“The Best Me I Can Be” – Student Led IEPs

Transition for youth with disabilities really begins when a student is identified as having a disability.  DC Education has developed a series of modules that addresses students being involved in their IEPs, from a very early age.

This module is about student-led IEPs and shows real examples of students leading their own IEPs.  Helping students develop these skills early in their education will provide a solid foundation for future transition planning.

Kansas School Creates Greeting Card Business

A satellite school for special education students in Riverton, Kansas has developed a business project where students with disabilities are gaining skills for post secondary employment, according to an article in The Joplin Globe, January 23, 2014.

When Riverton High School special-education teacher Matt DeMoss came up with an idea for a new program, he figured it would take a year for students to learn it, adjust to it and begin thriving.

“In reality, we had to catch up to the kids’ progress. They’re now teaching one another,” he said Thursday morning as they got busy.

The students are running their own business, called 323 MFG. The 323 references their classroom, and MFG stands for manufacturing.

Their product?

“Greeting cards,” said senior Bella Stemm as she carefully ironed a 5- by 7-inch piece of wet, hand-created pink paper.

“This is my favorite part to do,” she said.

….DeMoss, who is in his second year of teaching in Riverton, said he wanted to start something hands-on for his students that would engage them and could be tied to as many curriculum areas as possible.

“They’re following written and verbal instructions, reading job tickets, doing math, handling money,” he said.

It’s also improving their communication skills and teamwork abilities.

“They probably all will end up after high school with Class Ltd.,” DeMoss said. “My goal while they were in high school, just like any other teacher, was to get them ready for that post-secondary career.”

Read the article here.

Employers Provide Work Opportunities for Students with Disabilities

Posted in the Mercury News Milpitas Post (San Jose, CA), January 16, 2014

 James Sadeioa, 19, stands with his back toward the kitchen doors, as he concentrates on filling empty pepper shakers that he holds at eye-level near the hanging lights that glow in the interior of Milpitas’ Dave & Buster’s sportsbar.

He is one of three students performing the same task, under the patient gaze of their teacher, David Sorenson, 50, whose class of 10 students with severe disabilities are split into three small groups enacting different tasks at the Dave & Buster’s, Burlington Coat Factory and Sears in the Great Mall on Monday morning.

Sorenson’s students, along with fellow ACCESS post-secondary teacher Stephanie Bentzel’s nine students, make up Milpitas Unified School District’s ACCESS program. The program, created by Bentzel in 2011, aims to give students with severe disabilities access to opportunities to be independent.

When Bentzel came to the Milpitas in 2007, the district was looking to create an educational program for special education students, so she worked with them to start one, taking best practices from other districts’ programs, to serve the students until they turn 22.

Only one student, Kevin Inmany, has graduated from the program so far, and he is currently looking for a job.

“Once they graduate from our program they can either get a job by themselves or with a job coach, or transition into an adult day program,” Bentzel said. “I’m hoping that we have prepared them for their transition into adulthood. It is not the end of the road. We are kind of getting them ready for what they will have to do as an adult.”

Read the rest of the article here.

Find out more about the ACCESS program here.

Work Environment May Improve Autism Symptoms

Sheltered workshops for people with disabilities is a concept of debate.  Research is showing, though, that providing competitive employment opportunities actually promotes independence and employment skills.

This Disability Scoop post (January 15, 2014) highlights a research study on the outcomes of employment on adults with autism in an employment setting.

Placing adults with autism in more independent work environments may actually help alleviate symptoms of the developmental disorder, researchers say.

In a new study of 153 adults on the spectrum ages 19 to 53, researchers found that where people with autism work appears to influence their development and that employment may play a “therapeutic role” for this group.

“We found that if you put the person with autism in a more independent vocational placement, this led to measurable improvements in their behaviors and daily living skills overall,” said Julie Lounds Taylor of Vanderbilt University’s Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, a lead author of the study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Those wtih greater independence in their work activities exhibited more improvementin symptoms, behavior and daily living skills over the years, the study found.

Read the article in its entirety here.