November is the time of year when seniors in high school start the process of deciding what to do once they graduate or leave high school. Many will be applying to college and universities. There are many options for post high school opportunities for children with special needs.
It is ideal to plan ahead for when your child will be moving towards this special time in his or her life. When your special needs child becomes a junior in high school or is the minimum age of 16 years old, see if your school district has a vocational rehabilitation program. If your school district does not have such a program or your child has already graduated, then go directly to http://www.parac.org/svrp.html to locate your state’s vocational rehabilitation program information. These programs are designed to provide individuals with disabilities opportunities and resources to achieve success in employment or post high school education, so that they can become productive citizens and lead independent lives. You can contact these offices and set up an appointment with a vocational rehabilitation counselor. You should bring proof of your child’s disability, preferably an IEP or medical documentation. If you do not have this information, the counselor can have you sign a waiver to give a doctor, school personnel or specialist permission to obtain this information.
During your orientation meeting the vocational rehabilitation counselor will describe the services that are available. Once your child becomes approved to be a client, he or she can receive a variety of services. These services can be counseling and guidance, assessment, help in finding or maintaining a part-time or full-time job, providing vocational testing to see what type of work would be best suited for your child, independent living skills information, job seeking assistance such as resume writing, interview skills, job searching and placement skills, providing information on post high school opportunities, medical assistance, tools or devices to assist with employment needs and other employment or life skills help. The counselors can also assist with and possibly help fund or help reduce funds for vocational training programs or college or university degree program, as appropriate.
Many parents are not aware that many vocational training programs, colleges and universities offer special services to students, similar to the accommodations that they received in elementary and secondary schools. Some of these services can be note-taking assistance, permission to tape lectures, use of calculators or spell-check devices, other assistive devices, interpreting services, assistance with testing, change in books (print size, books on tape, Braille, etc.), change in classroom or test taking settings and much more.
Here are some web sites that display names of schools and more in-depth information on colleges and universities that offer services for those with special needs: http://www.disabledonline.com/link-directory/education/colleges-universities/cat_55.html http://www.collegeboard.com/ssd/student/index.html http://www.college-scholarships.com/learning_disabilities.htm http://www.studysphere.com/Site/Sphere_8617.html
You might also wish to do an online search for: “Services for Students with Disabilities,” and include the name of your state to locate colleges and universities that can accommodate your child’s needs.
In addition, your local vocational rehabilitation facility can often help provide funding for uniforms or specific clothing, tools, equipment, or assistive devices needed for employment. Every program is different. You need to contact the local office near you for more information about which services they provide and how to become an eligible client.
It is never too early to start investigating programs that will best suit your child with special needs. The Internet is full of wonderful resources at your fingertips.