Making a successful transition from secondary school on to tertiary studies and to employment often isn’t easy for young people. The setting is different, students are expected to take charge of their own learning style and in so many different ways, it’s a whole different world from being in school.
Now take a moment to consider how many extra obstacles young people with disabilities have to face. Will they be able to get around easily? What support services are available and if they don’t ask about them, will anyone make an effort to tell them or will they just be left to figure it out as best they can? And how well do secondary schools prepare them for taking their next steps? These developmentally disabled D.C. students graduating last week after a year in Project SEARCH can tell you their stories.
Here are some of the things that can help. First of all, secondary schools can make a point of preparing students with disabilities to succeed at the next level, by encouraging students to plan for their future, by helping them build skills and develop greater autonomy to cope with new environments, and by building transitions into individual education plans.
Tertiary institutions can also play their part by redefining their admission strategies to be more inclusive and making sure that their admissions and student support services work hand-in-hand. And a key challenge for tertiary education is to focus on preparing students with disabilities to enter the labour market – building in work experience along the way – as the SEARCH project does.
And everyone wins if the secondary schools, tertiary institutions, local employers and disability services are all working together to promote educational and employment success for these students.