Category Archives: Student Development

Utah 2016 Transition Institute

This week Utah will host its annual Transition Institute: “Supporting Transition Planning and Building Capacity to Improve Post-School Outcomes for Students with Disabilities” at Davis Conference Center in Layton. Interspersed with content-rich learning sessions and facilitated team work sessions, LEA teams from all over the state (over 200 people!) will come together to learn how to use a national transition team planning tool, write SMART goals for transition plans and sequence transition plan actions and activities, as well as how to develop tools for evaluating plan implementation and the impact on student outcomes.
 
Participants who have Twitter or Facebook accounts are encouraged to post about the Utah Transition Insitute using the hashtag #uttransition
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“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.

Aggies Elevated Program Accepts Students Into First Cohort

A new program for students with developmental and intellectual disabilities at Utah State University,  Aggies Elevated,  has accepted its first cohort for the Fall of 2014.

The Aggies Elevated program was created with young adult learners in mind by experts in the fields of disability and special education at USU’s Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services.

Our supportive and inclusive environment is close to home, yet far enough away to give young adults with intellectual or other disabilities the opportunity to learn and grow while participating in all the activities that a traditional residential campus has to offer.

Students in the new program will develop academic and independent living skills and will engage in career exploration, work internship, vocational electives, and personal growth through coursework tailored to each individual. Part of each student’s plan will also include  community-based work internships.

Smiling With Hope Bakery: Real Life Skills with a Smile

Students in a Newark, Ohio High School are all smiles when it comes to making pizza. Smiling With Hope Bakery is operated by students with disabilities in a non-traditional way.

When it comes to pizzerias, the Smiling with Hope Bakery is not what you might call traditional.

Smiling with Hope is in a school, which means locked doors and specific hours.

There’s no direct phone line, no advertising, and customers have to order in advance.

There’s only one size option for pizzas, 18 inches, and two topping choices: cheese or pepperoni.

Still, the pizza is good, and people are starting to notice. This winter, Smiling with Hope Bakery — run by special-needs students at Newark High School — will be featured on Serious Eats, a cluster of websites dedicated to celebrating food.

Walter Gloshinski, Special Education Teacher, musician, and founder of Smiling With Hope, created this video as a thank you to the community for supporting the program:

….[Walter] Gloshinski has a caseload of six students at Newark High School, and they spend most of the day working in the bakery. There are another 10 that stop by just for a class period — Gloshinski’s students go elsewhere during that time for academic training — but to Gloshinski, the important factor is his students are learning while they bake. They’re not just rolling dough and shuttling pans in and out of ovens; they’re learning how to measure, shop, take inventory, follow directions for deliveries and work on a team, even with people they may not like.

Those are all necessary skills for the real world, Gloshinski said, and they are skills that will help his students land jobs later in life.

Read more about Smiling With Hope Bakery here.

See the Smiling With Hope Bakery website with menu here.

“For special education students, diplomas, jobs increasingly elusive”

This article, posted in The Hechinger Report, February 3, 2014, chronicles the struggles of a young woman with a disability in pursuing her post-secondary education because she did not have a standard diploma.

HATTIESBURG, Miss. — Four weeks into a medical assistant program at Antonelli College, Nikki Mclendon eagerly took her parents to the college’s student appreciation day. The 20-year-old looked forward to discussing her progress and pre-registering for the next term, but instead received devastating news.

School officials told the Mclendons their daughter was ineligible to continue. Without warning, the career technical college that accepted Mclendon a year after she finished high school said the “occupational diploma” she’d received from Forrest County Agricultural High School disqualified her.

“I thought, ‘What? I just went through my first semester of college…. I’m having a blast at it, and you all are ruining my career,’” Mclendon recalled.

Mclendon had no way of knowing the alternate diploma many Mississippi special education students choose if they cannot meet the academic requirements of a regular diploma would be a roadblock to higher education and a career — one the state can ill afford. In Mississippi, some 20 percent of youth ages 16-24 are not in school or the workplace, the highest rate in the U.S., according to U.S. census data.

When Mclendon was admitted to Antonelli, the school had not yet received her transcript, said Steve Bryant, president of Antonelli’s Hattiesburg campus. Mclendon was allowed to start classes and start paying tuition for the $30,000 program, which was refunded when she left. Then the transcript showed that she had not passed all her exit exams, and did not have a regular diploma.

“If we can’t verify when the transcripts arrive that they did in fact receive a normal, regular high school diploma, then the student’s conditional acceptance is revoked,” Bryant said.

What happened to Nikki Mclendon is emblematic of a larger problem in Mississippi, where students are much less likely to graduate with a regular diploma after they are classified with a disability. A review of data by the Clarion-Ledger, of Jackson, Miss., found that the majority of special education students receive an occupational diploma, meant to prepare students for a job, or a certificate of completion, meant to honor special education students’ efforts in high school — even if they fell short of graduation requirements.

As a result, thousands of capable students leave high school with few career and education options in a state with one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates.

Read the article here.

Using Peers to Teach Real World Skills

Students in this school have formed a social club to integrate students with disabilities with students without disabilities in an effort to develop the social skills that are crucial to surviving in the adult world. (San Jose Mercurcy News, January 28, 2014)

Every Tuesday on the Oceana High School campus in Pacifica, the Social Club meets, has lunch together and plays games. With 30 kids in the club, it is one of the largest clubs on campus. While the club’s activities sound typical, groundbreaking is the better word, for the Social Club integrates the school’s special education students — higher functioning teens with autism as well as teens with intellectual developmental disabilities — with mainstream students. It is a dream come true for Lisa Sanchez, the school’s speech and language pathologist. Though the dream is bigger yet.

“My dream is to have an integrated campus,” Sanchez said, “where special ed kids are in classes with the general ed students. This is one step closer.”

This is Sanchez’s first year working at the high school. She arrives with 14 years of experience as a speech pathologist. Immediately prior to Oceana, Sanchez worked in Santa Clara County, providing speech therapy to infants through young adults (age 22).

The kids in the Social Club play “team building” games like Pictionary and Charades.

“Some of the games are ice breakers,” Sanchez said. “To get to know each other better, there are games where students ask interview questions. Many of these special education kids have disabilities that impair them from having appropriate peer relationships. That is part of their disability. My purpose is to gear these special education kids for real life, to help them have appropriate relationships out in the real world. I am also hoping to provide these kids with a social high school experience, a normal high school experience.”

….”My sister [born with spina bifida] is dependent on my mom,” Sanchez said. “And she, like most of the kids in our program, will be dependent on family members for the rest of her life. I don’t think people are aware that many of these children will not be able to live independently. I made a promise to myself early on to help integrate people with disabilities, into the world of people with abilities.”

Read the article here.

 

Vocational Training for Students with Moderate-Severe Disabilities is Yielding Success

The Los Angeles Unified School District has transformed their transition programs for students with moderate to severe disabilities to provide training for competitve employment (Press-Telegram, January 18, 2014)

Claudia is an obese teenager with developmental disabilities who long had a habit of acting out at her school by dropping to the floor and refusing to move for hours on end.

But since early December, when her school started a nail salon where the students perform manicures for each other as well as paying customers, she hasn’t pulled the stunt once.

“It so profoundly impacts the way she sees herself,” said the school’s principal, Christopher Eaton. “Her entire decorum has changed — she’s cheerier, she’s more positive. It’s just amazing.”

Claudia is a student at the Banneker Special Education Center, which, along with its sister school, the Doyle Career and Transition Center in Gardena, is part of a transformation sweeping through the special-needs strain of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The district is moving toward a model in which all of its 8,000 students with moderate-to-severe disabilities receive some sort of vocational training.

Eaton is the new principal charged with overseeing both Banneker and Doyle, which are located three miles apart, and newly united as a part of the policy shift. (As of next fall, the school will be called Banneker/Doyle Career and Transition Center.)

Since its inception five years ago, Doyle has been a place where adult students ages 18-22 with moderate to severe disabilities such as autism and mental retardation come to pick up skills that give them not only a fighting chance to land a job in a competitive world, but also the life skills to make them happier, better-rounded adults.

Read the article here.

The AGE-IN Act

The Assistance in Gaining Experience, Independence, and Navigation Act of 2013, or the  Age In Act , is a bill that was introduced in June, 2013 by Sen. Robert “Bob” Menéndez [D-NJ].  It is currently in the “referred to committee” status.  The bill’s aim is:

To amend the Public Health Services Act to provide research, training, and navigator services to youth and young adults on the verge of aging out of the secondary educational system, and for other purposes.

A July, 2013 post on Sen. Menedez’s website further explains the bill, which is specifically aimed at providing more services to young adults with autism who age out of the public school system:

 In an effort to expand the nation’s understanding of – and services for – young adults and their families living with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), U.S. Senator Robert Menendez today unveiled legislation that would provide federal funding to research and evaluate services currently available for young people “aging out” of existing education and support systems, develop a national strategic action plan, and provide training grants to put the plan into action in helping transitioning youth to lead productive, independent lives.

The Assistance in Gaining Experience, Independence and Navigation (AGE-IN) Act of 2013 will address the needs of  aging-out youth with ASD in two phases:  The first phase is designed to identify the most effective interventions and existing support service infrastructure in order to develop a comprehensive training plan;  The second phase puts this plan to action by providing grants to existing entities – such as University Centers of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research and Service – to train a new generation of Transition Navigators.  Transition Navigators will be trained to provide interdisciplinary and comprehensive services to address the needs of transitioning youths including providing services aimed at accessing continuing education (including vocational training) and competitive employment, but also in obtaining life’s other necessities such as health care, housing, transportation and community integration….

Menendez’s bill is designed to conduct research, develop techniques and implement training for support services that will help ensure young adults with ASD have the opportunities to make the transition to adulthood a success.

Read the entire post here.

Sen. Menedez’s speech at the unveiling of the AGE-IN Act:

Read more about and track this bill here.

Pennsylvania program helping youth with disabilities prepare for adulthood

The United Way of Allegheny County’s “21 and Able” Program is  Entering its Third Year Helping Bridge Gap from Youth to Adulthood for Those with Disabilities.

In the first two years of 21 and Able, the effort has worked on public policy and has continued to work with local, state and national partners on potential changes. In 2013, a new pilot program was launched that seeks to help people with disabilities better fit into companies. Giant Eagle, The United Way, Allegheny County and Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services have partnered on the Career Transition Liaison Project.

“The career transition liaison is embedded into the company,” said Mary Esther Van Shura with Allegheny County. “The reason for doing that is frequently when individuals are in corporations or in any business it’s not just knowing the technical aspects of the job, but also the culture.”

The career liaison will reach out to various school districts and will work with employed individuals to ensure their success in the company. Since the project’s start in August five young people with disabilities have been hired by Giant Eagle in positions such as meat wrapper, front end clerk, bakery clerk and produce clerk. Giant Eagle is in the process of screening 14 additional students from 11 area schools. The idea came about from the embedded journalist model.

Continue reading here.

Project SEARCH: New Pathways for Young Adults with Disabilities

The Project SEARCH High School Transition program is a one year business-led, collaborative program for students with significant intellectual and developmental disabilities, ages 18-22. The program provides intensive training for students in a hands-on environment to gain skills for competitive employment.

There are Project SEARCH programs around the United States.  The FAQ page contains information on how to start a program in a community.

Learn more about Project SEARCH here.