Does The Future Frighten You?

I need your opinions on something.

Once a child with disabilities reaches middle school and beyond, schools place a bigger emphasis on vocational skills – preparing the children for jobs once school is over. IDEA 2004 definitely supports that:

In “Findings” of IDEA 2004 (Section 1400(c)), Congress found that “30 years of research and experience has demonstrated that the education of children with disabilities can be made more effective by having high expectations for such children,” educating them in the regular classroom so they can “meet developmental goals and, to the maximum extent possible, the challenging expectations that have been established for all children and be prepared to lead productive and independent adult lives, to the maximum extent possible.” (Section 1400(c)(5)(A))

But how does a school district and an IEP team determine what are appropriate vocational skills for a student? I would like to know your experiences, and if your child is too young for you to have addressed this issue yet, what are you expectations for the time when your child is old enough to discuss transition and vocational skills?

Here are some examples:

Do you feel it is appropriate for students with disabilities to have jobs in the school such as wiping tables and chairs in the cafeteria – or delivering mail and newspapers to the teachers – or cleaning up a classroom at the end of the school day? How about sorting utensils or putting toothbrush holders together? Or, learning how to use simple tools like a screwdriver and hammer? Would you like to see your child take care of plants in the school building or clean up/feed pets like hamsters or fish in the school?

Has your child had a great vocational training experience while in school? If you child is older and out of school, did the skills taught in the school contribute to their success as a young adult? Or, did you feel like your child was set afloat at the end of his/her school career with no skills to support productive employment?

What are your dreams for your child as they related to adulthood, employment and independent living? Do you feel your school team shares and understands your dreams?

And finally, are you frightened what the future holds for your child with a disability? I am, and that is why I need help with all these questions…

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