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Vocational Rehabilitation Services: Can They Help You?

HEATH Resource Center

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Vocational Rehabilitation Services: Can It Help You?

This course will inform you about the vocational rehabilitation services available for you as you transition to postsecondary options. It is designed to increase your knowledge about the services and to help you plan ahead. These include services for:

  • Postsecondary education
  • Vocational education or training
  • Continuing and adult education
  • Integrated or supported employment
  • Independent living and adult services
  • Community participation

OBJECTIVE(S):

  1. Explain what you need to know about postsecondary transition
  2. Describe vocational rehabilitation and explain its importance to you
  3. Explain how you can become eligible for vocational rehabilitation services
  4. Explain the vocational rehabilitation service application process
  5. Identify the vocational rehabilitation programs and services
  6. Identify the state vocational rehabilitation services
  7. Provide an on-line dictionary of relevant terminologies

INTRODUCTION:

Now that you have completed transition to high school your next big step is to prepare for transition to your postsecondary years. Your first experience with transition may or may not have been successful. You may or may not have received the supports you needed, or gained access to all the available services. However, it is again time to start thinking about postsecondary options, transition, programs, and services. You, your parents, your counselor and the transition team will consider the programs that are available for you and help you get the right services.

Students with disabilities preparing for postsecondary options require supports as they transition to life beyond high school. The last two years in secondary school involves planning, researching, analyzing, coordinating, and deciding on which pathway to pursue. Often, students and their parents are not aware of the many services that are available to them and do not know how to access these supports. You, your parents and the transition team will work together collaboratively to assist in identifying, accessing, and obtaining those available services. Your state Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) can provide you with Vocational Rehabilitation.

KEY QUESTIONS:

Some significant questions you will have are:

  1. What do I need to know about postsecondary transition?
  2. What is vocational rehabilitation and why is it important to me?
  3. How do I become eligible for rehabilitation services?
  4. How do I apply for services?
  5. What programs and services exist to help me?
  6. How can I access these services in my state?
  7. What terminologies do I need to know?

What do I need to know about postsecondary transition?

The transition process from high school to the postsecondary life is a major step for you and your family. It involves making important decisions regarding planning activities for your adult life. These decisions may include making decisions about postsecondary education, vocational education or training, supported and integrated employment, continuing and adult education, independent living, and participation in community involvement and adult services. Although this planning seems to be a lot to think about and is challenging, support is available for you through your high school, adult agencies, and the community. The process starts early in high school with you, your family, your school counselor, and the transition team. Federal and state laws and agencies play an important role in passing, directing, providing, and supervising your programs, supports and services.

The special education law, Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA, 2004), says that as you prepare for further education, employment, or independent living you should receive transition services that work, to help you in postsecondary settings. It requires that your high school begins the process that will provide you and all students with disabilities the right to enjoy self-determination, make choices, contribute to society, and to be fully included in society. These laws focus on helping you get transition services to be successful after high school. This means, your high school transition team will start planning with you and your parents before you leave high school to help you get these supports, if you are eligible. You can get support for instruction, related services, community experiences, job development and job placement, adult living, daily living skills, and functional vocational evaluation.

As you transition from high school to your postsecondary setting you want to know there will be no gaps in your services. You need to make the right choices and connections before you leave school, have the transition team contact the appropriate agencies, and have your services written in a plan. These will help to make sure you made the right choices and that you have a successful transition. For many students, some of these services may begin during the last two years of their high school, and the process could start even earlier. Getting these services coordinated, while still in school, with support from the teacher and the transition team helps to reduce the challenges that you may face as you prepare to move on to adult life.

The IDEA (2004) law requires that as soon as you turn 16-years old, or even younger, your IEP must include goals you can reach, and services to help you reach those goals. Your goals must be based on assessments you receive at your transition age. The assessments may be for training, education, employment, or independent living. To help you make your own choices and help you participate in your self-determination, the law states that no later than one year before you reach adulthood you must be informed of your rights that you can make your own decisions, as soon as you become an adult. In some states, when you become an adult you reach the ‘age of majority’. This means at age 18 (or 19 or 21 in some states) your rights to make your own educational, employment or independent living decisions are given to you, and you may no longer be under IDEA.

From the HEATH Resource Center, affiliated with The George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development. www.heath.gwu.edu.

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