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Turtle Mountain worker on breakTRANSITION FROM SCHOOL TO WORK: How to prepare youth for vocational rehabilitation

The average client in most vocational rehabilitation programs is in his or her forties. Most reservation programs, as well as most state programs, are concerned that they are not reaching youth in their communities. Based on experience, here are a few suggestions.

Willie Davis, in his position as transition counselor for Turtle Mountain Vocational Rehabilitation, has seen first-hand the difficulty young people often have in moving from high school to "the real world". He explains it like this,

"While the student is in the public school system, everything is pretty much laid out. There is Child Find when the child is younger, then the Special Education department. It is the SCHOOL'S responsibility to make sure the student's disability is diagnosed, that he receives special education services. Specific services are mandated by law. Moving on from high school to real life, there may be a lot of confusing options. Suddenly, it becomes the student's responsibility to follow-up, to go to vocational rehabilitation, to inform the college that she has a disability and request the assistance she needs. It's not so simple any more."

The vocational rehabilitation counselor should be present at the student's last IEP meeting. DON'T put this off! DON'T think you will follow-up with the student "later". This is your last chance to easily contact the student. This is your chance to update the student's transition plan to include VR services after high school (they DO have a transition plan, don't they?) Get contact information for the student. Where will they be living after school? Do they have a cell phone number? An email address? Does your program have a website?

Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc. surveyed over 300 participants in workshops on three reservations and found that over 40% had an email address, yet many programs still act as if no one uses the Internet. Yes, you may miss 60% of your clients with this method and it certainly shouldn't be your only means of communication, but you will GET 40% or more this way. How about sending a text message to your client's phone - "Joe. Remember VR meeting at 11 today."

Be sure to emphasize the importance of maintaining contact with VR. After graduation, people are left on their own to follow-up with the vocational rehabilitation program. If you don't attend your IEP meetings, you don't get dropped from special education. So, some people may be very surprised to find that, when they miss several meetings with their vocational rehabilitation counselor that they get a letter in the mail telling them that they have been dropped from the vocational rehabilitation program. After getting dropped for not doing something they didn't know they were supposed to do in the first place, how likely is that student to come back to the program? Also, most programs have a 90-day or longer period before a person can come back to VR. EMPHASIZE the importance of maintaining contact with VR. We said that again because it is important. We can't count the number of people who have said, "But we told the student during their IEP meeting ..." Anyone who has had teenagers or who remembers being a teenager can assure you, they are great at selective hearing. How many times has a student forgotten homework, forgotten to call home when late, forgotten to take out the trash? Emphasize the importance of maintaining contact with VR, give the student a brochure, your business card, your email address.




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