Definitions

Adult Services: services related to employment, housing and other needs for persons with disabilities after they finish high school

Centers for Independent Living (CILS): a nationwide network of over 200 non-residential private non-profit programs of services for individuals with significant disabilities that promote independence, productivity, and quality of life

Experiences: things you’ve done in your life—at a job, around the house, or with friends or family members

Formal Supports: planning, information and services provided by government agencies and private service providers

Future Living Options: where you and how you want to live

Goals: what you want to do or be in the future

IDEA: the federal laws that provide for special education

Informal Supports: help, information, advice, resources and opportunities from family members, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, or co-workers; also things we use to help with daily life

Interests: things you like or like to do

Partnership: several people working together to get something done

Rehabilitation Act: the federal law that supports the planning and services that an individual with disabilities needs to become employed.

Self-Advocacy: knowing your rights, standing up for those rights, taking responsibility for your life, and asking for help because you want or need it.

Strengths: things you are good at or do well

Transition Plan: A transition plan is the part of the IEP that describes the services and activities needed to prepare for life after graduation. It includes other agencies that will help make the plan work.

Vocational Rehabilitation Services: Vocational rehabilitation includes planning, assistance, support and training for getting ready for and finding a job. Every state has a vocational rehabilitation agency with regional offices that provides these services.

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SELF-ADVOCACY

The terms "self-advocate" and "self-advocacy" are ones that we hear frequently when we are talking about young adults with disabilities. Self advocacy means the following things:

It is very important for students with disabilities to develop or improve self-advocacy skills, because you need these skills in all life settings. For instance, you can be a self-advocate:

Here are some examples of ways students have been good self-advocates in the community, school and family life:

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WHAT MAKES A GOOD PARTNERSHIP

Cooperation:  Partners work well together.

Communication:  Partners give and receive necessary information.

Goals:  Goal setting is truly a partnership activity.

Creativity:  New ideas are encouraged and rewarded.

Conflict:  Disagreements are faced up to and worked out.

Support:  Praise and recognition are given enthusiastically.

Mutual Respect:  Partners show appreciation to one another and avoid sarcasm and put downs.

Commitment:  Everyone is dedicated to furthering the partnership's goals.

Atmosphere:  The climate is such that the partners are willing to put forth their best effort.

Cohesion:  Partners see themselves as a tight-knit group.

Pride:  Partners feel good about being members of this partnership.

Decisions:  Everyone has the fullest opportunity to participate in decisions that affect the group.

Openness:  Everyone is encouraged to say what is on his/her mind without fear of angering anyone.

Trust:  Partners feel that no one in the group will take advantage of them in any way.

Assessment:  The partnership reviews its tasks regularly on a frank and open basis.

Identification:  Partners feel that they are treated as equal members of the partnership and feel very much a part of it.

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FORMAL AND INFORMAL SUPPORTS

Individuals with disabilities often need support to fill in gaps when they have a skill deficit or inability to do something because of their disability. These supports fall into two general types.

Formal Supports refer to all the planning, information services, and programs provided to individuals with disabilities and their families through government agencies and private service providers. These services may differ from community to community. Some of the most common types of formal support include:

Informal Supports, also known as Natural Supports, refer to all the help, information, advice, resources and opportunities available to individuals with disabilities and their families through the network of friends, neighbors, acquaintances, other family members, co-workers, etc. This kind of support is not dependent on the formal service system and builds on the relationships that occur when people share common tasks, recreation and purposes.

The list of informal supports is endless. All families and self-advocates have figured out informal, expensive ways of detouring around disabilities. A few examples are:

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LAWS RELATED TO TRANSITION PLANNING

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

In 1975 the first law that gave individuals with disabilities the right to attend school was passed. This law, PL 94-142, said that all students had the right to a "free and appropriate education" just like any other student. It was later amended and improved and became what we now call IDEA. Some of the changes that concern young self-advocates and their families include:

IDEA not only requires that transition planning begin early, it also talks about the need to meet and plan as a team. This team should include the parents, teachers, all of the appropriate adult service providers, and most importantly the student.

 

The Rehabilitation Act

The Rehabilitation Act is another law that supports planning and providing the services that an individual with disabilities needs to become employed. Major changes were made in the law in 1992, and it was reauthorized in 1998. This law is based on the belief that all individuals with disabilities can work if the right services and ongoing supports are provided. The law requires that the individual with disabilities, and his chosen advocates, must be active participants in making meaningful and informed choices about the rehabilitation programs. It also requires that service decisions be based on the unique strengths, resources, interests, concerns, abilities and capabilities of the individual. It says that individuals with disabilities, and their advocates, are to be full partners in the program and must be involved on a regular basis.

The main difference between the Rehabilitation Act and IDEA is that under IDEA students are "entitled" to services until they reach age 21; under the Rehabilitation Act services are based on eligibility and availability of the services and programs. A rehabilitation counselor helps the individual with disabilities, and his advocates, to plan and access the appropriate and available services. Much like the IEP planning process, the rehabilitation counselor and the individual develop an Individualized Plan for employment (IPE) that sets down employment goals, services, and review dates. Once the person with a disability is employed for 90 days, his case is then closed. It can be reopened if necessary, however.

 

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

This law is known as a "civil rights" law because it prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in the community and in employment. The ADA was passed to ensure individuals with disabilities equal access to the community. Some examples of the changes we see every day that were made possible by ADA are:

This law also prohibits employers from not hiring a person because of their disability and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to the individual to give equal access to jobs.

These three laws are part of the reason that individuals with disabilities have the rights that they have today and why they are participating members of their community in both work and play. This is why it is so important for self-advocates to know about these rights and participate in the decisions being made about their future.

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VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION
(also called voc rehab or VR)

Vocational Rehabilitation includes planning, assistance, support and training for getting ready for and finding a job. Every state has a vocational rehabilitation agency with regional offices that provides these services.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. I’d like to know why a vocational rehabilitation counselor has not attended my daughter’s IEP meeting?
A. It would not be possible, or appropriate, for a vocational rehabilitation counselor to attend every student’s IEP meetings. If you believe it would be helpful for a voc rehab counselor to be at your daughter’s meeting you could certainly contact your counselor and invite them to be there.

Q. If a vocational rehabilitation counselor does not attend the transition planning meetings, how will they know my daughter and be able to help her after she leaves school?
A. Your state vocational rehabilitation agency provides a service for people who are eligible for their services. If you feel that your daughter is eligible and would benefit from voc rehab services during or after she leaves school, you can contact your local voc rehab office and talk to the counselor and determine if it would be beneficial for them to be at your daughters IEP meeting.

Q. Who will take control of my son’s planning after he graduates?
A. You and your son will be in control. While he is in school IDEA is required, or mandated, to provide services. Once he is 21, or out of school, your state vocational rehabilitation agency is one of many of the service providers that you may contact to help you plan for his future needs.

Q. I don’t know what I want to do when I graduate from high school. How can I figure it out?
A. That is why it is so important for you to be a part of the transition planning meeting. The people in that meeting, your parents, your teachers, your transition coordinator are all there to help you make those decisions.

Q. I am not sure that my son is ready to go to college. How can I find out?
A. That is why transition planning early on is so important. That is why transition planning meetings can be helpful. There are lots of places you can turn. You might want to meet with the school guidance counselor. There are interest inventories he could take, or he might visit a couple of colleges and talk to the people there.

Q. I want to go to college but I don’t know where or how. What should I do?
A. That is why early transition planning is so important and how transition planning meetings can be helpful. There are lots of places you can turn. You might want to meet with the school guidance counselor. There are interest inventories you could take, or you might visit a couple of colleges and talk to the people there. There are lots of people that can help you make your decision.

Q. I don’t want to go to college but I haven’t had any vocational courses either. What can I do?
A. That depends on where you are in school. The law allows students with disabilities to remain in school through the age of 21, so you might look into taking some classes while you are still in school. You could also contact your voc rehab agency and see if they could do an assessment or what might be available. The people on your transition planning team can help!

Q. I am a teacher of students with severe physical and mental disabilities and these students may not be able to go to work. Who can help us locate day care for them after they finish school?
A. The guiding principle behind the Rehabilitation Act is that regardless of the severity of the disability, an individual can achieve employment and other rehab goals. It is up to the state vocational rehabilitation agency to determine and prove that an individual cannot be employed. To find out more information about available options for students with more complex needs, you should contact your state
Parent Training and Information Center.

Q. I have a learning disability. How can my vocational rehabilitation agency help me get a job after I graduate?
A. You might want to contact your voc rehab counselor and talk to him about that. He or she can provide an evaluation to determine if you are eligible for services.

Q. I have a friend who has been told that she is not eligible for vocational rehabilitation services. Why not, and how do I find out if I am eligible?
A. The important word here is eligible. Just like in special education you have to be eligible before you can receive services. Those eligibility determination factors are different for vocational rehabilitation services provided by your state, and they are different for each person. You might want to contact your voc rehab counselor and talk to him about that. He or she can provide an evaluation to determine if you are eligible for services.

Q. Will DRS help me find an apartment when I get out of school?
A.
Vocational rehabilitation services are related specifically to employment, although if you have a voc rehab counselor they still may serve as a resource. If you are interested in getting an apartment after high school, you might want to talk about that in your transition planning meeting. The people there can help you brainstorm ideas about those kinds of concerns.

Q. How is the parent involved in the process after an individual with a disability reaches the age of majority?
A. 1. IDEA now states that one year before the age of majority the student and the parent must be informed of the rights that pass from the parent to the child at the age of majority. But most schools allow and invite the parent to continue to be involved in the education process.

2. Under the Rehabilitation Act the individual with disabilities is considered the primary client and his own advocate; however the law does allow for parental involvement in the decision making process.

QDo we still have an IEP meeting after we graduate?
A.
When you are working with your state vocational rehabilitation agency, you have an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE).

Q. How will I know if we are eligible for free services or not?
A. That will be determined by your vocational rehabilitation agency. Services are based on financial need. Your voc rehab counselor will help to determine that when you meet.

Q. What does it mean if the voc rehab agency closes my son’s case? Does that mean he can no longer receive services?
A. When the voc rehab agency closes your son's case, that means that he has successfully maintained a job for over 90 days and no longer needs the voc rehab services. However that does not mean that if he needs services again that he can no longer get help from the vocational rehabilitation agency. He just needs to contact them and have his case re-opened.

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