I just had a conversation with a parent whose son was nearing the end of his high school career. At some point, I passed along a tip to her that I was given when my daughter was approaching her last year in high school. It came from a counselor with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) who was manning a table next to the ECAC exhibit at a school system’s “Transition Fair”, where parents of children with disabilities learned about various adult services, organizations and agencies.
VR, or “Voc Rehab” provides a wide variety of services to individuals who have disabilities, all with the ultimate goal of helping them find employment. VR services include vocational assessments, career guidance and counseling, work adjustment services, employment-seeking skills training, job coaching, on-the-job training, internships, supported employment services, job placement, financial assistance with post-secondary education and training programs, etc.
A person has to apply for VR services and meet established eligibility criteria. If eligible, an individual plan is developed to help the person meet their employment goal. The specific services that are offered to an individual will be determined by his or her work plan.
- You can start the process during the summer, before the counselors get bombarded with referrals from the schools. The counselors can take more time with each applicant and perhaps offer a higher quality service when their load is a little lighter.
- You can start the process earlier in the student’s school career. Some students are not referred until the last semester of their last year in school, which does not allow much time for VR to contribute to the transition to adulthood process.
- You can make sure that the referral happens. Every now and then, the ball gets dropped and the VR referrals don’t get made at all. This may be more likely to happen with higher-functioning students and those with a Section 504 Accommodation Plan rather than an IEP. Note: VR’s eligibility criteria is different than those associated with special education.
The summer may also be a good time to look into other adult services and post-secondary programs. Even though schools have a responsibility for transition under IDEA, parents will always play a key role in making sure that their children (even as adults) get what they need. So, take the lead and get things moving!