This article covers how I became aware about the one of many Special Ed Transition programs out there for young adults with disabilities and also some of the curriculum we still use today.
Back in 2011, I graduated from a Midwestern university with a Bachelors in Elementary/Special Education.
At this point in my life, I had no idea what I wanted to do. You could say that I was in a quarter life crisis. Did I want to teach in a public or private school?
I started to pack my belongings and gave my two weeks notice to the Human Resources Director for the agency I worked part-time at. It was a hard time saying goodbye to all of the people I supported as a Direct Support Professional since 2009. That is such an important Special Ed like job based on relationships and communication with the people you support.
After those two weeks… I left for the East Coast.
I spent the summer of 2011 depressed and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. For some reason, I convinced myself to visit a recruiter for the United States Air Force. I passed the ASAB test, the recruiter told me to pursue a job field called Crypto-linguist.
Special Ed wasn’t even on my radar.
Little did I know that fate would bring me out to the Midwest a second time…
On the weekends I would participate in a strength and conditioning program offered by a coach for my niece and nephew. There was a variety of age ranges there from young children to adults. One thing I noticed that there was someone who did have a disability; this was the instructor’s son.
At the final day of class, we spoke about how his son was no longer attending classes in high school and that they, including the son, were planning on learning how to live and work through a community-based service provider.
I thought that was interesting as I used to work with one in the Midwest, but not with young adults.
Then, one evening, I received a phone call from the university I used to attend; the Chairman of the Education Administration department was on the phone.
He asked if I was interested in a graduate assistantship.
I had to make a big decision: Join the United States Air Force or pursue a graduate degree as a graduate assistant.
With no regrets, I chose the second option.
For the next two years I pursued a Masters in Special Ed called an Advanced Specialist in Disabilities. This degree focused on Autism and Intellectual Disorders; there was also an endorsement in Early Childhood Special Ed.
I reapplied and received the part time position as a Direct Support Professional again and was happy to see all of the old faces at their homes.
With the Masters program, I was required to do some sort of internship. I spoke with my advisor with helping out somehow with the agency. A few weeks later, I met with the Executive Director to discuss options.
The Executive Director spoke about a new Transition Program that the agency created that was in dire need of vocational curriculum. He told me that they started to provide services to people across regions of the state! He also spoke about the need for the creation of a custom online staff training program that they wanted to use with incoming DSPs. For example, Life Skills Activities for Secondary Students with Special Needs, 2 edition was a book that we used with the Transition aged people.
At that point, he showed me the Transition classroom which had about 10 people attending.
This used to be a room only for staff members and their training, but now it was shared.
I never felt so excepted and glad to be with people in my entire life. The students were young adults who were interested in coming to a college town to find work, live, and socialize.
Some of them started moving into the group homes where I worked. It was exciting seeing them in the classroom and at home in the evening.
However, most of the people still wish to find work, live, and socialize in the community. We have a lot of work to do to help them achieve it.
The agency is still in the process of modernizing its services. The Transition program occurs at the center, where most of the classes are still segregated from the rest of the community. The people who receive services know this and often feel that their day is being wasted. Special Ed needs to continue changing.
There will always be room for improvement.
Towards the spring of 2013, a position opened up called the Day Services Coordinator.
I applied and received the position where I’ve been working with the administration and DSPs on converting their activities to help people get jobs through competitive, supportive, or customized employment. The position also calls for the creation of volunteering opportunities and somehow I am Head of Delegation for the local Special Olympics.
Every two months I check the IEP goals of people still receiving Special Ed services too!
So what’s your story? Are you part of the Human Services or Special Ed field? Did you pursue the position out of passion?