The ultimate outcome of transition is for our students with disabilities to successfully progress to either competitive employment or post secondary education upon leaving high school. How this is achieved is different for each student in each district and can often be a difficult and frustrating process.
I recently attended the Iowa Coalition for Integrated Employment. I had heard of this organization and wanted to learn more about it. The Coalition is represented by a diverse group of stakeholders from all across the state that includes service providers, educators, AEAs and PECs, case managers, state agency staff, protection and advocacy organizations and agencies, parents and family members, etc. The overall goal of the Coalition is in alignment with the Iowa Parent/Family Coalition objectives, and is to improve Iowa's systems so that Iowans with Disabilities, regardless of where they live in the state, have integrated competitive employment.
They inform, shape, and guide the work occurring all across the state in employment, including:
1. Increasing on-going delivery of preparation, placement and support services that begin in early high school and result in uninterrupted transition to employment.
2. Stimulating the development of a wider array of service providers who align their mission, services and resources to promote integrated, competitive employment.
3. Increasing expectation and demand for fully integrated, competitive employment opportunities for all persons with disabilities.
4. Aligning policies, practices, and funding with employment expectations.
5. Developing an outcome measurement system that is shared across state agencies and grassroots stakeholders to measure employment success for consistent systems improvement
All of this sounds well and good. However, as a parent I want relevant and applicable strategic planning to meet the needs of students in transition. One model that was highlighted was Genesis Development services. Genesis has facilities in twelve Iowa locations: Jefferson, Storm Lake, Boone, Winterset, Belle Plaine, Indianola, Perry, Adel, Toledo, Panora, Grinnell, and Cedar Rapids. They offer assistance with job shadowing, work experiences as well as summer jobs. As a parent of a 21 year old with a disability, it was myself and my contacts that got my daughter her job, not the service provider. Perhaps this is one area where parents can advocate for this type of service to be duplicated in more agencies in our state. The other area of interest is the METS program; Model Employment Transition Sites). Although this is funded through a grant and is only offered for a period of 5 years in limited communities, these school districts presented how they are moving forward and providing useful and applicable opportunities to provide for these students. Some of these communities are Clear Lake, Emmetsburg and Dubuque. One comment from Dubuque stands out in my mind as something that might be generalized to all districts. How they met this need was that the school district hired a full time work coordinator position that did not follow a typical teacher’s contract. This position had a flex schedule so that they could provide job coaching during evening and weekend hours that the students would be working. This is another suggestion to advocate for in your school district. As one parent to another, I urged my district to start a transition committee to address this issue. I would encourage any parent to do the same, and explore what is being done in these communities that might be generalize to your specific community and school district.
To request information contact: Iowa Coalition for Integrated Employment
The University of Iowa Center for Disabilities and Development also has a resource on transition: http://www.uichildrens.org/childrens-content.aspx?id=228493