Life After High School for Young Adults with Disabilities
After high school graduation, young adults with disabilities typically choose between attending college/postsecondary program or entering the workforce. Planning for life after high school involves transition, and the key to successful transition is careful planning. It is important to start early, and student should be actively involved in the planning process.
The transition planning process should enable the student to move on successfully from high school based on his/her own preferences, interests, and abilities. The planning should not only include the student’s goals and what is needed to reach the goals, but also the agencies and organizations that will provide the required services and supports along the way.
A key instrument to ensure a student receiving special education services is prepared for life after high school is the Individualized Education Program (IEP). In Virginia, by age 14, a student must begin to focus on post high school goals, and by age 16, the student’s IEP must have a Transition Plan, which includes the goals and what the student needs to reach those goals. This includes course work, learning activities, and the experiences the student needs to develop the necessary skills and knowledge needed to succeed.
Rights and Responsibilities
It is important to remember the differences between high school and life after. One of the key differences is the change from entitlement under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (to a free and appropriate education) to eligibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination based on disability and ensures equal access. At the college level, there are no special education teachers or employment and transition representatives to provide the supports and services that are available in high school.
Another major difference is that students must be ready to advocate for themselves. There are, however, academic adjustments that are available at the college level, which are determined based on disability and individual needs and may include such services as priority registration, course substitution, note takers, sigh language interpreters, and extended test time. If the student wants the school to provide an academic adjustment, it must be requested from the college department that handles services for students with disabilities and the student must self-identify as having a disability and be responsible for complying with the school’s procedures.
Paying for College
Attending college costs money – tuition, books, fees, room and board, health insurance, and incidentals. Many students look to a combination of financial aid such as scholarships, grants, loans, and/or work-study jobs. However, seeking financial aid should be explored through multiple channels, including scholarships. The college’s financial aid office is a good resource for information on student aid available from multiple sources. However, students should start their search early as possible in high school because there are timelines and deadlines associated with the application process for scholarships, grants, and loans, etc. Students should consider completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which allows students to be considered for the greatest amount of financial aid from federal, state, and college sources.
If you are eligible for Medicaid, it may pay the premiums for college health insurance. If you are receiving Medicaid funding for community-based support, the funds may be used for education-related expenses, such as transportation or educational coaching. Also, you may be eligible for health insurance coverage under your parent’s policy, up to the age of 26.