Category Archives: Inter-Agency Collaboration

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.

Overcoming Barriers to Reach the Employment Dream

The Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights,  Eve Hill, has posted an article on the blog of the U.S. Department of Justice (January 31, 2014) which chronicles the story of Pedro, a young man with an Intellectual Disability, and his journey to employment.

Pedro’s Story: When Given the Chance, People with Disabilities Can Overcome Barriers to the American Dream

Every day, countless Americans with disabilities are excluded from accessing important ladders of opportunity.  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is an important tool for challenging assumptions and discrimination that trap people with disabilities in poverty and segregation.  When given the chance, people with disabilities are establishing their rightful place in the greater American workforce and the middle class, and are showing that they, too, can achieve the American Dream.  Pedro is one such person.

When Pedro graduated high school in 2010, at age 21, he found himself at home with no job prospects and no career direction.  A native Spanish speaker with intellectual disabilities, Pedro’s education had not prepared him to enter the general workforce; instead, he was headed for a life of segregated employment and below-minimum wages.

Pedro attended a Providence, R.I., high school where students with intellectual disabilities participated in an in-school “sheltered workshop,” where there were no students without disabilities.  The students spent their school days sorting, assembling and packaging items such as jewelry and pin-back buttons, earning between 50 cents and $2 per hour for their labor.  Rather than providing the education and services needed to help them transition into regular jobs, the school prepared students for segregated, below-minimum-wage work in adult sheltered workshops.  The U.S. Department of Justice’s 2013 investigation of Rhode Island found that, indeed, the school-based workshop was a direct pipeline to a nearby adult workshop.

Like many before him, Pedro began working at the adult workshop after high school.  Staff described Pedro as an excellent worker who stays on task and performs well, but he was paid just 48 cents an hour.  And because people who enter this workshop often stay there for decades, and are rarely offered help to move into community-oriented jobs, Pedro’s career outlook was dim.

That all changed in June 2013 when the department entered into an interim settlement agreement with the state of Rhode Island and the city of Providence, requiring the state and city to provide the employment services necessary to help workers at the adult workshop and students at the school-based workshop move into integrated, competitive-wage jobs.  At the same time, the Providence Public School District closed the school-based workshop so students with disabilities can focus on education and career preparation.

Read the rest of Pedro’s story here.

Podcast: College Admission and Special Ed Students

Education Talk Radio on Blog Talk Radio has an archived show from August, 2013 on how a college in New York and public school districts collaborate on transitioning special education students to college.

COLLEGE ADMISSION & SPECIAL ED STUDENTS 08/01 by educationtalkradiotoo | Education Podcasts.

Best Kept Secret (PBS Documentary)

“Best Kept Secret” is a documentary film (PBS, fall 2013) that chronicles a teacher’s journey in transition her students with autism to adulthood.

At a public school in Newark, N.J., the staff answers the phone by saying, “You’ve reached John F. Kennedy High School, Newark’s best-kept secret.” JFK provides an exceptional environment for students with special-education needs. In Best Kept Secret, Janet Mino, who has taught a class of young men for four years, is on an urgent mission. She races against the clock as graduation approaches for her severely autistic minority students. Once they graduate and leave the security of this nurturing place, their options for living independently will be few. Mino must help them find the means to support themselves before they “age out” of the system.

Since the film’s release, filmmakers scheduled a congressional showing to further the progress of the Age In Act and teacher Janet Mino continues to develop programs to improve transition services for youth with autism.

Read more about the film here.

Download the film on iTunes here.

 

Climbing the Cinder Cone: Transition services through special education

Climbing the Cinder Cone is focused on sharing information and resources for parents of teens and young adults with mental health issues.  This blog post highlights experiences of this parent regarding transition services for her son, with links to other resources (especially in California) and advice for parents of students with disabilities.

A particular show tune plays in my head when I think about the topic of this blog post. Can you guess which one? Hint: I’m a sucker for puns.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRdfX7ut8gw

And you know, the words not only sound alike, they both relate to the idea of change. In “Fiddler on the Roof”, Tevye wants to hold on to the way things are and always have been – to honor tradition.  But he has to come to terms with the fact that life involves change, welcome or not.

“On the other hand” (as Tevye would say), transition services available through special education help atypical teens prepare for the changes they’ll face as they enter their 20′s. Like Tevye, the teens may not be welcoming the changes either, but transition services can lead the way to a more functional adulthood.

If you are hesitating about moving your pre-teen or teen into special education, one factor to consider is that transition services are a mandatory part of the special education package once the student is 16 years old, and can even be included in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) sooner than that. Transition services for students with disabilities are provided according to the needs of the individual. This can be a huge help, especially if you’re not already familiar with all the appropriate resources out there and how to access them. Also, the special-needs students can access the career center and guidance counselor services that are available to all high school students.

Continue reading here.

A New Leaf helps developmentally disabled get jobs

Tulsa World news post, December 15, 2013

Hannah Scott loves to sing.

When snow caused her job to close for a few days, she stayed at home in Inola, listening to music and singing along.

“She’d love to sing in a gospel group,” said the 21-year-old’s mother, Mary Jane Scott. “She loves the Gaithers.”

Specifically, she loves Mark Lowry, the Gaither Vocal Band’s baritone and an award-winning vocalist and humorist.

Perhaps more simply put, Hannah just loves. Period.

That includes the students and staff at Inola Elementary and Middle schools, between which she splits her work week, making copies for teachers at the former, doing janitorial jobs at the latter.

Hannah is one of many success stories that began with A New Leaf Inc., a Tulsa Area United Way agency that provides individuals with developmental disabilities marketable job training through horticultural therapy, community-based vocational placement, and residential services to increase their independence and individual choices.

About 24,000 people in the Tulsa metro area have a developmental disability, according to information from A New Leaf. Of those, 1,000 are employed, leaving approximately 23,000 at home, isolated from the community, from society.

As the name suggests, A New Leaf works to change those statistics.

Continue reading here.

Interagency Collaboration in Transition to Adulthood for Young Adults with Disabilities: Barriers and Facilitators

Essential Educator, December 12, 2013

This article is based on a research study conducted across four states in March, 2013 on the barriers and facilitators in interagency collaboration for students with disabilities. One of the authors, Deanna L. Taylor, is the founder of Transition Universe.

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Effective collaboration that results in successful postschool outcomes for young adults with disabilities (such as employment or enrollment in college courses) depends on many factors. One factor is interagency collaboration, meaning frequent interaction between special education (SE), vocational rehabilitation (VR), and other agencies leading to successful outcomes (e.g., Test, Fowler, Kohler, & Kortering, 2010). Model demonstration projects have shown that continuous interactions between transition SE teachers, VR counselors, and other stakeholders have improved the transition processes and outcomes (Noonan, Erickson, & Morningstar, 2012). But what happens in transition classrooms in Utah and across the U.S. may be very different from what happens in model projects.

Trach (2012) explained low levels of collaboration between SE and VR: These systems operate in different departments, require different legislation, and receive different resources. The provision of coordinated and related services are an integral part of a free and appropriate public education for students under Part B of IDEA, but the collaboration process is not clearly described. (p. 40).

Survey Procedures

We conducted a survey study to identify barriers and facilitators to collaboration between SE and VR. Only SE teachers and VR counselors with experience in assisting students/clients in transition from school to adulthood received the survey. Teacher and counselor questionnaires were nearly identical. Respondents were 220 SE transition teachers and 78 VR counselors from Utah, Florida, Maryland, or Oregon. In Utah 135 transition teachers and 10 VR counselors responded.

 

Survey Results

Across four states, 60% of SE transition teachers indicated that VR counselors were integral to transition planning. The same percentage of SE transition teachers in Utah found VR counselors to play an integral role. In contrast, 94% of VR counselors indicated that their roles were integral to transition planning. In Utah, 100% of VR counselors indicated that their roles were integral. Most transition teachers reported that they interacted with VR counselors on an annual basis. However, the VR counselors reported that they received information about students in transition and were invited to IEP meetings at least weekly. The highest percentage of SE transition teachers (37%) indicated that VR counselors never participated in activities other than the IEP meetings while only 13% of VR counselors reported never and 43% reported at least monthly. Overall, 32% of SE transition teachers indicated that VR counselors were invited to IEP meetings at least annually, but 32% of VR counselors reported invitations at least weekly. Obviously, the difference in perceptions is explainable, at least in part, because VR counselors with transition caseloads often work in multiple schools and visit with multiple transition planning teams.

We asked SE transition teachers and VR counselors whether they were satisfied with the role of the VR counselor in the transition process. Seventy-seven percent of VR counselors reporting that they were satisfied or very satisfied with their involvement, compared to 53% of SE transition teachers.

We asked participants to rate the importance and feasibility of 14 collaboration practices in transition. The “best practices”, shown in Table 1, were collected by the researchers based on a review of the collaboration literature. First, respondents rated importance of these practices on a 4-point scale ranging from Very important (1) to Not important (4). Second, respondents rated feasibility of implementation on a 4-point scale from Highly likely (1) to Not likely (4). That is, the lower the number, the higher the importance/feasibility. We wanted to examine what collaboration practices were considered important and feasible by both groups. We split the 4-point scale in half to make decisions about importance and feasibility. That is:

• If the mean rating was between 1 and 2.5, we considered it important/feasible.

• If the mean rating was between 2.5 and 4, we considered it unimportant/not feasible.

The list of practices in Table 1 is arranged according to the overall sample’s ratings of importance. Ratings in Table 1 are not divided into SE and VR but represent overall data.

Although all items were rated important, most were considered not feasible. Overall, 11 of 14 practices were considered not feasible. In the Utah sample, 10 of 14 items were considered not feasible. The most important practice (lowest number) was Providing Training to Transition Teachers on Transition Process and it was considered feasible. We found that SE transition teachers’ and VR counselors’ ratings of importance were nearly identical. However, ratings of feasibility differed between SE transition teachers and VR counselors (Mann-Whitney U, p < .005). SE transition teachers rated feasibility much lower than VR counselors. Differences in ratings of feasibility may suggest that SE transition teachers are less optimistic than VR counselors about whether collaboration can be improved.

We asked respondents to identify the “next critical steps” for improving collaboration and grouped responses according to themes. The most common theme across both transition teachers and VR counselors was More Time for Developing Relationships (with the Other Agency Personnel) to Improve Collaboration. The second most common theme for transition teachers was Additional Funding, and for VR counselors, Increased Administrative Support.

Conclusion

Findings from this four-state survey indicate that SE transition teachers and VR counselors perceive that collaboration is important and must be viewed as a high priority to improve transition outcomes, but considerable work remains in regards to understanding roles and responsibilities, as well as implementing practices considered important. Consistently low feasibility ratings may mean that practitioners are not optimistic about the prospects of improving collaboration. Based on the suggestions offered by participants, administrative approval and funding are viewed as imperative for actual implementation of collaboration to occur, neither of which is perceived as likely. If this is the case, we must conclude that key decision-makers must lead the charge to improve collaboration.

See additional suggestions for improved collaboration paraphrased from SE transition teachers’ and VR counselors’ statements in Figure 1. Although some of these suggestions may not be feasible in the literal sense, they may compel the reader to generate new or modified plans.

Table-1 Table-1part2

 Collaboration/Training

•    Clarify roles and responsibilities. See Utah Transition Action Guide at http://www.schools.utah.gov/sars/Transition/guidelines.aspx

•    VR counselors often attend IEP meetings with no prior information about the child. Given parent consent and district release, arrange for relevant documents to be sent to the VR counselor prior to the meeting so the counselor can be more effective.

•    Hold training with diverse groups consisting of parents, family members, students, SE transition teachers, other school personnel, and VR.

•    VR counselors’ calendars fill up far in advance. Teachers should plan IEP schedules several weeks ahead and notify VR. Perhaps counselors can reserve an afternoon a month for IEPs.

•    Beyond IEP meetings, invite VR counselors to school functions with advance notice.

Funding

•    VR and SE should collaborate on a grant writing process to fund a year or two of joint training to help all those involved in the transition process.

•    Convince legislators that successful post-school outcomes make transition cost effective. It’s money well spent.

•    Provide funding for more vocational training programs for those individuals with diverse learning styles and disabilities through partnerships at vocational centers or local community colleges.

Personnel

•    Hire paraprofessionals to work in the community developing job placements. These could be retired individuals or family members who want to make a difference.

•    Contact high school alumni dedicated to their alma mater who will arrange internships or paid employment.

Administrative Actions

•    Beyond a “memo of understanding”, create real joint training opportunities for SE transition teachers and VR counselors. Don’t limit it to supervisors or state office personnel.

•    SE and VR should merge yearly training schedules before the school year begins.

AuthorsDeanna Taylor, Bob Morgan, & Jared Schultz, Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation, Utah State University

References available from the authors.

Essential Tips from a Special Needs Financial Advisor

Life After IEPs post on finanical planning for parents of students with disabilities, October 6, 2013

You want to build a solid foundation for your child’s financial future.

But you don’t know what you don’t know.

Too many families discover that there were steps they could have taken years ago to prepare for the financial needs of their child. If they had only known what to do.

Mike Butterworth is the parent of a young adult with special medical needs. For more than 25 years he has provided customized financial planning services to parents of children with disabilities.

In a recent interview, Mike stressed that financial planning is highly individualized. The unique needs and circumstances of each family must be taken into account.

Continue reading here.

 

Challenging Transition to Adulthood for Marylanders With Disabilities

Capital News Service, December 4, 2013

FREDERICK – Like any mother of an active 20-year-old, Frederick County resident Michele Baisey has her hands full. But in addition to helping her son, Troy, balance school, work and home life, she faces a looming deadline that is unsettling for many parents in her position.

Troy Baisey, who was born prematurely, suffers from cerebral palsy and hearing loss. He is considered a “transitioning youth,” which means he will soon lose the guarantee of state assistance.

In Maryland, young adults with disabilities are entitled to public education until age 21. After that, families must apply for support through various programs and organizations. Services and financial assistance are contingent on eligibility requirements and the availability of funds.

It can be a frightening and overwhelming time for students with disabilities and their families, who are used to the structure and support of the public school system, said Mary Scott, a transition resource teacher for Baltimore County Public Schools.

“There’s no entitlement after you leave school,” Scott said. “It’s hard for parents to wrap their minds around that.”

Michele Baisey recalled the stress and pressure to complete multiple aid applications in a short amount of time starting when her son was a junior in high school.

“It was very overwhelming because it was so much all at once, and the applications are not short or by any means easy,” she said. “It’s looking back from birth and documenting and justifying everything medically … down to every doctor, every hospital, every medicine.”

As his mother navigates the state system, Troy Baisey is figuring out what he wants his future to look like. He had to modify his goals several times, like when he found out he would not be able to graduate high school with a diploma, or when he was told he may not be able to pursue his dream job of becoming a priest.

Teens with cerebral palsy face uncertain transition into adulthood

B.C.’s pediatric system assigns teams to deal with the health, financial and other needs of children with cerebral palsy. At age 18, they are cut adrift to muddle through an unfriendly adult system that spreads programs across several ministries

A look at British Columbia’s transition services for youth with cerebral palsy  in the Vancouver Sun , October 4, 2013:

At age 18, Lauren Stinson faced the typical issues of people her age — social life, educational choices, finding a career. But Stinson, who has cerebral palsy, also faced another challenge — adapting to life without a medical support team.

As a child, Stinson had a host of medical and social services professionals working to manage her health. But B.C.’s pediatric medical system cuts people loose at age 18 and there is no adult equivalent in B.C. to that team-based pediatric system.

Stinson, now 24, was born two months prematurely after being deprived of oxygen in the womb. She was diagnosed with spastic diplegic cerebral palsy at birth, a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects her entire body.

….the province developed a strong system of medical care based in the pediatric system and facilities at BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. Pediatric support teams may include physicians, nutritionists, orthopedic surgeons, and occupational and physiotherapists.

But the health care system has not kept up with these children as they become young adults, with adult interests in such things as jobs and relationships. At age 18, they must transition to the adult health care system and find, on their own, a new team of support workers and doctors — or not. Provincial government funding for children with disabilities, the At Home Program, is simultaneously cut off.

The transition does not always go smoothly, Lauren said.

Continue reading here.