2001-09-29 / Columnists

Chatting With Chapey by Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey

Chatting With Chapey by Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey

Federal and State laws are in place to assist special education students who are preparing to leave school.  In the past youngsters would have simply "aged out" of the school system and would have had the burden of finding continuing appropriate training or placements.

The purpose of these federal and state laws is to give youngsters the opportunity to live more meaningful and fulfilling lives as they continue their training or enter the world of work.

It has taken almost a decade to move the law and the regulations into real programs and services. Personnel had to be trained and links had to be established between schools and jobs and between schools and post-secondary institutions. The New York State Office of Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities (VESID) has provided technical assistance, training and information to guide school districts, participating agencies, post secondary and after school community service program. It allows families and students to implement effective transition practices. Transition services are provided for students aged 14 to 21 when they "age out" of district services.

As part of the IEP (Individual Education Plan) for each student, the specific needs, preferences, interests and aspirations are recorded and reviewed. Partnerships are then established with community and educational services and include the family and the student. Gradually special education services have been working more closely with vocational rehabilitation services. All schools must now report the post-school plans of all special education students exiting school annually. A transition web page has been established to increase access by schools and families to transition planning and service information. National Research about transition planning is now being shared with all the states.

The New State Education Department has just distributed brochures to schools, community agencies and family groups to assure that all 14 to 21 year olds and their parents receive the information to determine the effectiveness of this effort to provide transition services for students with disabilities. Surveys have been conducted and have indicated the following: 62 percent of special education students successfully transitioned to post-secondary education or to employment. Many students who previously would have had no transition services are now working productively and happily in business and community settings in almost every neighborhood. Education and pupil personnel paraprofessionals are trying to raise the expectations and provide information for students with disabilities themselves, their school and their community.

Future directions prepare students for life after school. They are meant to encourage students with disabilities to learn about and plan to participate during the years 14 to 21 in career planning, career and technical education programs, workforce investment, youth council activities and teacher to work programs and services.

Seniors beginning with the classes of 2000 and of 2001 are being asked about the transition processes as they experienced it - first at graduation and then one, three and five years beyond school exit. Success with Transition service will hopefully continue to improve. All citizens should be aware of the need for this program and assist and support community efforts to improve it.

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