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Feds: Transition Services In Need Of Improvement


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As students with disabilities transition out of high school, a new government report finds the path to independence is overly complicated.

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, kids with disabilities are eligible for a broad range of services through their local school district. However, once these students complete high school, they must apply and be deemed eligible for services administered by upwards of four federal agencies in order to continue receiving government assistance.

But a report released Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office finds that poor coordination often leaves young adults and their families struggling to find resources.

“The current federal approach to assisting students with disabilities in their transition to postsecondary education or the workforce necessitates that students and their parents navigate multiple programs and service systems to piece together the supports these students need to achieve maximum independence in adulthood,” finds the report from Congress’ investigative arm.

For the report, investigators interviewed families and other stakeholders in five states. In many cases, parents reported that school district officials were not aware of services that their children might be eligible for as adults or did not properly inform them of their options.

What’s more, varying requirements for government programs can be confusing and documentation needed to qualify for different offerings is frequently overwhelming, GAO found.

Students are also often at a disadvantage coming out of high school, the report indicated, because they have not received critical vocational or life skills training despite a requirement that all students with disabilities have transition plans.

Other problems identified by GAO in the transition process included misinformation disseminated to families, low expectations on the part of families and professionals as well as delays in receiving services.

“Without receiving accurate and timely information about available services, students may miss opportunities to access needed services that could mean the difference between achieving an optimal level of self-sufficiency and relying on public assistance to meet their basic needs,” the report said.

GAO is recommending enhanced coordination between the Department of Education, Social Security, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor, all of which provide transition services to youth with disabilities.

Some members of Congress are also looking to act on the issue.

“Transition services to help students succeed in college and careers are vitally important, and I hope that we can use the findings of this report to increase access and make it easier for students and their families to navigate programs that are here to help people with disabilities lead full, independent lives,” said U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.

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Comments (10 Responses)

  1. bigfatangus says:

    Wondering where I can find a concise report listing the services (and qulaifications) provided by these 4 agencies?

  2. Cathy says:

    The goal of my daughter’s high school was to get her out of school with a “real” diploma. All that did was make her ineligible for services. For example, a task as simple as shopping for food she is unable to do. She can not get to a store and shop for herself (transportation, understanding of money, negotiating the store) let alone would she be able to cook anything more than a frozen dinner in the microwave but she has a diploma. When we asked for daily living skills type of programs we were told that there wasn’t enough time in the day and get a diploma.

  3. Marian Boivin says:

    I am a single mom with a 23 yr old son with schizophrenia, cognitive delayed. I have to fight constantly to have services treat my son with respect. He has no job and no one is helping him find one. We go around and around with each service. Family Service here in Wisconsin would prefer to treat the consumer as a little kid versus listening to them as an adult. These young adults have every right to be treated and listed to with respect. They have every right to work. The young adults should be heard not tossed aside in group homes or where these services feel they should be. Parents are not given the information that they should at the schools. Schools seem to be afraid to empower the parent or the student. What a waste? It seems they are doing more for the students that don’t need the extra help, who is help these to succeed?

  4. Tricia says:

    @ Cathy.. Not sure if you are interested but I found a college in Minnesota that is specifically for those with learning differences and autism spectrum disorders. It sounds like it might be a good fit. Its call Minnesota Life College.

  5. jeanette reyes says:

    Parents beware, schools and agencies out there that are paid to help our children are very nervous about parents advocating for their children. Parents, go to workshops and learn about the rights of your child and demand the quality help your child needs to be able to get ahead in life to lead more independent and full lives.

  6. ESE professional says:

    Transitional skills are critical and a major part of development for all students. I am a special education teacher who has taught students with various abilities k-12. I teach my students functional curriculum providing necessary life skills needed to survive in the real world. I actively collaborate with parents and often bending backwards to provide appropriate resources.

    I find through my experience more so often school administrators in charge could careless about the need of student with disabilities nevertheless, they are aware. This makes it very difficult for us special Ed teachers to render services to our students effectively. I am frustrated that the services are constantly being cut and we limited to what type support to provide. For example, the high school I taught at last term the administrators cut both job coaching positions. Before we can see any changes the public school system must be overhaul because, the paradigm is broken.

  7. Jean says:

    If we want to lessen the expense of entitlement programs, effective transition planning is essential. Providing our children with the skills they need in the real world is the key to reducing lifelong dependence on social programs. It is a lesson in pay now, or pay a lot more later. Unfortunately schools are focused on a year-by-year IEP plan; rather than looking at the big picture. Transition planning needs to start at the earliest age possible.

  8. Sonja Luchini says:

    I saw this on LinkedIn and made this comment in a discussion group there:
    I’ve found in LAUSD (and this was supported by their Director of Transition off-the-record) that there is a black hole where transition services should be for those higher functioning students on the academic track. They do not get the benefit of “job/living” skills training that those students receive who are in special day classes and on a modified curriculum track. Academic students cannot be “pulled out” for transition skills and I’ve asked for classes to include typical students that would incorporate this needed curriculum eg: how to fill out job/apt rental applications, how to apply for credit and what interest rates mean, how to pick a roommate…that sort of real life information that all students need. With our hands tied with over-testing to please bureaucrats, there is no room for this. To blame parents isn’t fair, either. In my son’s high school, the sped admin pushed off every single transition goal to either parents or student and took NO responsibility for any of the goals. The transition specialist didn’t even know his schedule in our senior, exit IEP meeting when we’d asked her to help him “polish” an application form for a real job that we found and had already filled out. She never had worked with him in high school except for calling him into her office to fill out an infantile “I want to be an airline pilot” type survey online that took all of 15 minutes. The school was not connected with the Dept of Rehab and in spite of my request for a representative, they denied it.

    There was nothing meaningful from this school (an independent charter) and many high schools are the same. Just this last May I helped with 3 senior exit IEPs. At the beginning of each IEP I would ask the general ed teacher who worked the most with the student; “Is this student ready to attend a regular college with a full schedule and workload using his current study skills and abilities?” I got a quick “NO” from every single one. My next question then was; “Why are you pushing him out to graduate, then?”

    I tried to get a procedural hold for two students, but one school refused and another did agree, but the main office kiboshed the TEAM decision against IDEA. A person who had NOT attended the meeting, had not been involved with team discussion overrode the full team (even the student wanted it). I then called the Fed office and they even waffled about whether it was legal or not. No one backs the child.

    Schools ask for parent involvement, but when the rubber hits the road – they’d rather we weren’t there messing with their “plans”.

    I’ve been involved with our LAUSD CAC for 15 years and have never seen things so bad. Our district is being infiltrated by charter org paid administration (at least 8 top positions in LAUSD paid by Eli Broad and his ilk). The fox is in the henhouse and they don’t want these kids or English Language Learners or Foster and Homeless Youth….they mess with the test scores and the supposed “success” of charters.

    The Charter Office has no idea whether our 180+ charters have teachers properly certified to teach moderate/severe children and if there is no Level II, Moderate/Severe Credentialed teacher on campus, you know they are not enrolling those children. They stay in the regular public schools and our personnel is overwhelmed with responsibility without proper funding or support.

  9. hdemic says:

    My daughter turned 18 may 30. I have been homeschooling for serious lack of schools that teach. I have started the maze of all mazes to different mazes. First startes ssi. Not to bad nor hard because my daughter is an open and shut case. Next comes betwok 180 which is community mental health. They are the intake people. They have you choose an agency which is for ???. The first agency MOKA just said she was to disabled and a liability and is eligble for HOPE segregated classrooms but not anything else until she is 26. Fired them. The second is HOPE network. They state she can get respite but not anything else until she is 26 or has a completion of certificate fom a school. These agencies are supposed to advacate for your child. What I have ended up doing is finding the laws myself (freedon of information act) calling the state several times and in the end you have to recite laws back to them word for word. You have to do pretty much everything yourself. You end up doing thier jobs but they get paid for it. And its still not over yet. The amnt of people for this one young adult at various agencies I have counted at 17 so far. And you have to learn your states medicad and the federal laws. I’m tired. The one good thing about this is that there are laws to fall back on. In the dentistry area —anyone know of a state or dentist that know how to work a a person with ceebral palsy. I will gladly pay them out of pocket for doing thier job. No residents allowed. experienced only.
    mom of disabled youn adult.

  10. brenda says:

    This all so true. After my son graduated at the age of 22 3 yrs ago I have had a very hard time finding appropriate programming for him in geauga co.I finally got certified thru dodd to be paid to drive him to a workshop in another co.(he refused the one here,bad memories and experiences) there is no other transportation so they say at geauga mrrd. but it has a 5000 cap off a year so I can only be paid for 4 hrs. a week for 52 weeks. I take him to other programs also that are out of this county. I have neither the gas or resources to keep this up. He needs a life and so do I. When he turned 22 he was also dropped from ssi even though nothing changed in our lives it only got more complicated. It was because they counted his child support as his income,even though nothing changed here.I still cant work anything but parttime and it is not enough. I am the sole caregiver here. If I am missing out on another resource, who is responsible for helping us? I cant afford an attorney obviously.Our income a month between the 2 of us is between 1200 and 1600 a month depending on time of year(I do landscaping for a co. in summer) I have a mortgage I can barely make, a car to drive my son to programs that doesnt belong to me but that I have to maintain and gas up(another stupid cost that is unreal that it cant be regulated like everything else) My son sits home a lot because I dont have gas or money to drive him to some of his programs a week. It isnt fair to him or me. He is 25 and should be becoming more independent rather than the opposite. I want him to live with me indefinetly till he is ready to move on or whatever the future holds. But we need better programming that is appropriate for him to keep him safe and healthy. Just cause he graduated doesnt mean he is ready for the world,he still needs help with everything he did before graduation.and it doesnt mean he should be regressing instead of going forward. I am afraid for our future if it remains like this . I am even considering moving to another co but where? Just wanted to voice my thoughts,thank you

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