As we all know, transition planning has been one of the most challenging services to provide during the past 6 months.
In the beginning of the pandemic, all of the special needs students were pulled from their vocational rehabilitation programs. All of the counselors stopped working and the program shut down, therefore there were no training services being provided.
This has been hugely problematic. As students are ready to transfer from a high school program to a transitional program, there’s no way for them to go out and see which one is the right fit. As young adults with disabilities turn 22 and it’s time for them to go from a school program to a work program, there’s no way for them to figure out what kind of work program to go to.
This can’t continue on forever. So, how are transition services and programs going to keep running during the ongoing pandemic?
A Letter from the U.S. Department of Education
Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Education made it clear to special education and vocational rehabilitation administrators that even though the ongoing pandemic may require a change in their methods, their responsibility to work together in helping disabled students prepare for the transition to adulthood remains the same.
While many special education students are still accessing their schooling virtually, either wholly or in part, it is imperative that their administrators continue to provide transition and pre-employment services during this time.
It is for this reason that the U.S. Department of Education is encouraging schools and vocational rehabilitation agencies across the country to actively engage with both their students/youth with disabilities AND their parents in a proactive transition-planning process.
Vocational Services and Job Placement Programs
Not only is it scary to think about sending our students with disabilities back to in-person school, but the same is true for sending them out to a job site. Not to mention, many employers are already stressed as it is with managing their existing teams during the pandemic, so how can we expect them to take on students coming from these programs?
Under the IDEA and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the transition process has to be outcomes-oriented. This means that these programs need to be focused not only on writing goals within IEPs, but centered around actually preparing the students for real life.
Before students leave school, IDEA mandates that any goals in their IEP must be met. This includes goals that center around employment readiness, independent living, and transition planning. COVID-19 is not an excuse.
During a recent Facebook Live session within our “Circle of Care” Facebook group, Special Needs Companies founder Annette Hines led a discussion on how parents and advocates can continue to fight to ensure that students get the services they need during the pandemic, especially those that can’t attend the essential programs in person.
Listen to the full conversation by joining the group here.
Annette Hines has been practicing in the areas of Special Needs, Elder Law, and Estate Planning for more than 20 years. Ms. Hines brings personal experience with special needs to her practice and podcasts as the mother of two daughters, one of whom passed away from Mitochondrial disease in November 2013. This deep, personal understanding of special needs fuels her passion for quality special needs planning and drives her dedication to help others within the special needs community.