Options and Choice: One Size Does Not Fit All

NOTE: October is Learning Disabilities/ADHD/Dyslexia Awareness Month

Sheryl Goldstein, parent of children with learning disabilities

Sheryl Goldstein

Blog by: Sheryl L. Goldstein, a parent advocate

I grew up with a learning disability (LD). It isn’t a secret, but I don’t normally share such personal information with everyone. I’ve grown to understand that the learning disability is only part of a student’s challenge.

I didn’t let my disability stop me from achieving many goals, although my educational issues created insecurities that led me to believe I wasn’t able to achieve at times. This belief caused me to feel down about myself, and that, in turn, led to poor self-esteem.

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“I Deserve to be Me!” A Mother and Daughter Reflect on School Days and Plans for the Future

Delaney, a self-advocate with Down syndrome, and her mother Emily.

Blog by Delaney and Emily Dunigan

Emily’s words: 

When our daughter Delaney was born with Down syndrome in 1998, two of our first wishes for her as parents were to be happy and to have friends.  She has both so far, and so much more!

As her mother, I believe that everyone should have the chance to succeed in school, and I am grateful for the experiences and education that have gotten Delaney to where she is today.

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In Pursuit of a Dream

NOTE:  October is Learning Disabilities/ADHD/Dyslexia Awareness Month

Picture of Savannah

This blog is written by Savannah Treviño-Casias, a member of the Young Adult Leadership Council of the National Center for Learning Disabilities

My dream is to be a clinical mental health counselor!

I built my whole college experience around a plan to go to graduate school right after I completed my bachelor’s degree in psychology. Achieving that dream has been filled with challenges and many ups and downs.

You see, I have dyscalculia, a math learning disability. This disability requires me to be an advocate for myself in both school and life.

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Announcing New OSEP Director

The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services is excited to announce that Laurie VanderPloeg is joining the team as Director for the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). We have full confidence that Laurie’s depth of knowledge and experience as well as her dedication to preparing students for success will move us forward in our commitment to raise expectations and improve outcomes for infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities across the country.

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IDEA Changes Lives: Preparing for the Transition to College & Careers

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was signed into law 40 years ago to assure that youth with disabilities receive a free and appropriate public education that provides educational opportunities and services. Amendments to the law have emphasized transition planning that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of youth with disabilities to facilitate movement from school to post-school activities, including postsecondary education, career and technical education, integrated employment, continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation.

The U.S. Department of Education is committed to the goal of ensuring that every student with disabilities is on track to graduate from high school with the essential knowledge and skills for success in college and careers. In order to achieve this goal, we must provide youth with effective transition services.

Recently funded projects that focus on the commitment to improving transition service delivery and outcomes for youth with disabilities and their families include: Promoting the Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income (PROMISE) and the National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT).

PROMISE is an interagency collaboration of the U.S. Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Labor and the Social Security Administration. Under this competitive grant program, state agencies have partnered to develop and implement a model demonstration project (MDP) that provides coordinated services and supports designed to improve the education and career outcomes of children with disabilities receiving SSI, including services and supports to their families. The PROMISE program has afforded opportunities for states to be innovative in designing programs that meet the needs of families and that will improve outcomes of individuals with disabilities. More information is available at www.ed.gov/PROMISE and www.promisetacenter.org.

Six MDPs have been established serving a total of eleven states — Arkansas, California, Maryland, New York, Wisconsin, and the ASPIRE Consortium (UT, SD, ND, MT CO AZ). Here are a few highlights from the MDPs:

  • The projects are designed to improve the coordination and increase the use of existing services for which youth receiving SSI payments and their families are eligible, such as those available through IDEA, VR, Medicaid, Job Corps, Head Start, and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act programs.
  • The six MDPs will recruit a total of 13,172 participants by April 2016 (divided equally into a control or a treatment group).  Their current recruitment total is 7,365 participants.
  • In Arkansas, summer work experiences resulted in 345 youth being assigned to a wide variety of work sites around the state with approximately 84% completing or scheduled to complete 200 hours of paid employment.
  • In California during the month of July, 593 youth received case management/ transition services; 201 youth received financial planning/ benefits management services; 363 youth received career & work-based learning services; and 298 parents and guardians received training and information services.
  • Maryland recently hosted financial literacy skills trainings for youth and families which included activities such as opening checking and savings accounts, as well as using debit and credit cards.

NTACT is funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs and the Rehabilitation Services Administration. NTACT’s purpose is to assist State Education Agencies, Local Education Agencies, State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies, and VR service providers in implementing evidence-based and promising practices ensuring youth with disabilities, including those with significant disabilities, graduate prepared for success in postsecondary education and employment.

The national center provides information and resources on a variety of topics including:

  • Transition Planning
  • Postsecondary Education & Employment Preparation
  • Graduation and Reengagement
  • Data Analysis and Use

More information is available at www.nsttac.org/ and www.transitionta.org

Career Pathways: Breaking Down Barriers to Employment for Individuals with Disabilities

This blog was cross posted from HOMEROOM, the official ED.gov Blog.

The strength of the American economy is inextricably linked to the strength of our workforce. As the U.S. economy continues to grow, employers report difficulty in finding workers with the specific skills and knowledge that they need. In order to maintain America’s competitive edge, it is critical that employers have access to highly skilled workers to meet the challenges of today’s labor market. With nearly one in five people in the United States identified as having a disability, individuals with disabilities comprise a large group of potential employees who, with the necessary skills and credentials, could help fill this unmet need and participate fully in the labor market and our society.

We know, however, that only about 20 percent of people with disabilities are participating in the labor force, and, that rate is significantly lower for those with only a high school diploma or less. For employed people with disabilities, data reveal that they are underrepresented in management and professional/technical jobs, and overrepresented in service, production, and transportation jobs.

Too often, however, our systems for preparing low-skilled individuals with disabilities with marketable and in-demand skills can be complex and difficult to navigate for students, job seekers, and employers. Career pathways can offer an efficient and customer-centered approach to training and education by integrating the necessary educational instruction, workforce development, and human and social services and supports that are linked to labor market trends and employer needs, leading to stackable credentials.

The State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Agency often serves as the primary vehicle in the workforce development system for assisting individuals with disabilities, particularly individuals with the most significant disabilities, to prepare for, obtain, retain, or advance in competitive integrated employment. As partners in the one-stop service delivery system established under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), State VR agencies are well-positioned to coordinate and collaborate with other entities, such as secondary and postsecondary educational institutions, workforce centers and other training providers, human and social service agencies, employers, and other community stakeholders, to develop workforce approaches that are effective in assisting individuals to attain knowledge and skills that can lead to employment in high-demand occupations.

Accordingly,we are pleased to announce a notice of final priority and notice inviting applications to establish model demonstration projects to develop and use career pathways to help individuals with disabilities, including youth with disabilities, acquire necessary marketable skills and recognized postsecondary credentials. We expect to award $3.5 million to State VR agencies, in partnerships with other entities, to develop and implement a collaborative model project demonstrating promising practices and strategies in the use of career pathways to improve the skills of individuals with disabilities, including youth with disabilities, and help them attain the credentials to succeed in our 21st century economy.

We know that the use of career pathways is an effective workforce development strategy that can provide individuals, particularly those with the greatest barriers to employment, with seamless transitions into postsecondary education and employment in careers that provide a family-sustaining wage. Take, for example, the three seniors with disabilities from North Bend High School in Oregon who, with the help of the school transition specialist, a VR counselor, and the local community college, completed a program for Certified Nursing Assistance I (C.N.A). Students were required to attend a total of 75 hours of class training and complete an additional 80 hours of clinical training after school and weekends at a local assisted living center. These students are now enrolled in the C.N.A. II class.

We believe this career pathways investment by the Department of Education, and similar investments by this Administration, will serve to improve the well being of individuals with disabilities, the families they support, the communities in which they live, and our economy.

Michael Yudin is Assistant Secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and Johan Uvin is the Acting Assistant Secretary of the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education