Strategies for Youth and Adults to Successfully Transition from High School to College
Posted on 10/29/18 in Transition to Adulthood by Milestones
Knowing the best time to prepare your child or young adult for the world beyond high school is tough. However, it is my hope that by implementing the three strategies outlined below, you and your child will gain the confidence you need to navigate the transition process.
Knowing your legal rights is the first strategy. At Disability Rights Ohio, our motto is "we have the legal right of way,” meaning individuals with disabilities have the legal right to be active in society and enjoy every opportunity that all Americans do. While your child is in secondary school, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which requires students with a disability receive Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) tailored to their individual needs, i.e. special education, protects them. When students leave special education, they step out of the legal protections of the IDEA and into the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
There are several key differences between the IDEA and ADA you need to know. The first is how one’s disability is identified. Under IDEA, the school district is responsible to identify the needs of students who may require special education. Under the ADA, responsibility lies with the person with a disability to "self-disclose" their disability to receive “reasonable accommodations” from employers and college/training programs. To help you learn more about self-disclosing, the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability/Youth (NCWD/Y) has valuable resources on Disability Disclosure.
The second key difference is how ones disability is determined. The ADA defines disability broadly meaning to receive reasonable accommodations, the individual must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, i.e. walking, hearing, seeing, speaking, breathing, working, and/ or learning. Thus, the person must be able to document both the presence of a disability and the specific “functional limitations” that this disability presents in relation to the job or post-secondary learning.
Once one’s disability is determined, the next key difference is to address is how eligibility is determined. To receive special education under the IDEA, the individual’s disability must fall within the list of 13 special education categories and must affect their educational performance. Again, responsibility of determining eligibility lies with the school district. Under the ADA, the responsibility for documentation and any expense related to obtaining the documents lies with the individual requesting reasonable accommodations. Most colleges and training programs accept a recent IEP. If the IEP is not recent then, like most employers, documentation must be in form of diagnosis by a medical professional or a qualified professional’s recent diagnosis using the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM). Often, if updated evaluations are needed, they can be funded through your states’ Vocational Rehabilitation agency for persons who have applied and been determined eligible for VR services.
The fourth key difference is parent’s involvement. The IDEA allows you to play an integral part in IEP meetings; but when the child turns 18, they are protected by privacy laws such the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and HIPPA. As a result, you cannot access information about your adult child from employers, post-secondary institutions, healthcare providers, financial institutions, or government agencies without their clear, prior written permission Therefore, it is important that as students get older, they learn to advocate for their own needs at their IEP meetings.
The final key difference is that the IDEA requires school districts to provide special education students with a free, appropriate public education that meets their unique needs. The student’s unique needs are determined at least once a year at their IEP meetings to develop their Individualized Education Plan. The ADA does not require an individualized education or support plan because it is a civil rights law. Therefore it does not require anything beyond “reasonable accommodations” that provide “equal access” to the same opportunities as people without disabilities. If the student plans to attend a college or training program, then meet with the schools disability services office and ask about the specific types of “reasonable accommodations” that would be provided for his/her specific disability and functional limitations. This should be done at least by end of junior year. By doing so, students can gain experience using accommodations similar to those offered at the college or training program.
After knowing your legal rights, the second strategy is to obtain transition services & supports through your state's Vocational Rehabilitation Agency. In Ohio, the agency is Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD). Under the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA), a student can apply for transition services at age 14. The question of when to apply depends on the student's stage of career development; therefore, the timing for referral to OOD should be made on a case-by-case basis, considering vocational need. There are five potential entry points for referral: 1) if the student is interested in career tech or college training, 2) getting a job after graduation, 3) is an at-risk youth, 4) student needs extended education services to defer diploma, 5) and/or the student receives online/home school. Educators can refer students by submitting OOD's Request for Pre-employment Transition Services for Potential Eligible Students with Disabilities form located on its website under Transition Students. When the time is right, he or she can expect to receive job exploration counseling, work-based learning experiences, counseling for enrollment in college, work readiness training, and/or instruction in self-advocacy.
The final strategy is to use your resources! For instance, if you or someone you know is having difficulties with their school district or obtaining transition services, Disability Rights Ohio (DRO) is one agency that may be able to assist you. DRO is Ohio’s federally mandated protection and advocacy agency for individuals with disabilities. If you do not live in Ohio, you can find your protection and advocacy agency on the National Disability Rights Network website www.NDRN.org. Another valuable resource is www.LifeAfterIEPs.com; here, you will find even more helpful transition resources and supports for you and your child."
Looking for transition services now? You're in the right place! Head over to our Resource Center for vetted transition resources today.
Melissa Day is an Advocate for Disability Rights Ohio’s Client Assistance Program and has been with DRO for 5 years. Before coming to DRO, she was a Consumer Support Advocate for Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities. After suffering a spinal cord injury from a diving accident in 1994, Melissa has never let her disability get in the way of accomplishing her dreams. In 2003, she graduated from the Ohio State University with a bachelor’s degree in political science; she was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Ohio which allowed her to travel the state spreading disability awareness; and worked with former state senator Steve Stivers to implement Ohio’s Medicaid Buy-in program for workers with disabilities.
In 2006, she studied international relations and diplomacy in China with the International Laureate Scholar Program. In 2009, she obtained her law degree from Capital University Law School; and became a member of the Jo Ann Davidson Leadership Institute for Republican Women. Melissa currently resides in Columbus, Ohio in a condo, she purchased in 2014 where she enjoys reading books, listening to music, and entertaining friends and family.