The aim of this category of training is to develop the student’s occupational awareness and to get him/her situated in an appropriate occupation. From that point forward, a continual stream of growth and progress in the student’s career is encouraged. A list of occupational skills are: knowing and exploring occupational possibilities, selecting and planning occupational choices, performing appropriate work habits and behaviors, exhibiting sufficient manual skills, gaining a specific occupational skill and seeking, securing and maintaining employment (Clark, G.M. & Kolstoe,O.P., 1995).
This process of vocational assessment enables the transition program to ordain the students’ strengths and interests. There are many different types of assessment; because traditional psychometric tests can shade the disabled students’ talents and be a negative influence on their self-esteem, use of intelligence tests should be kept minimal. Tending toward more uplifting forms of assessment seems only natural.
Two types of performance-based assessments are situational assessment and work sampling. In these on-the job and simulated on-the job settings, an employer can get a more realistic view of how a person performs rather than his/her capacities are. This type of assessment presents more useable information. These would be arranged and supported by the transition specialist.
Interest inventories and personality tests serve in ascertaining the scope and strength of the students’ interests and qualifying the students’ attitudes, opinions and adjustment capacities. In being compared to the tests of ability or achievement, these tests place no importance on a high score. They are used to determine who the student is, not what the student can be. The aim is to accurately describe behavior, concerns or feelings (Clark, G.M. & Kolstoe,O.P., 1995). In this way a vocational evaluator serves in matching a student with an occupation that he or she is interested in and may perform best in.
Portfolios are an alternative assessment, which are constructed by the teacher and the student; parents can offer additional guidance. This allows the student to select samples of work, which he or she is proud of. A portfolio shows a student’s development through time and can be a builder of self-esteem. The act of making a portfolio causes a student to take note of his/her strengths and what skills are in need of development, thus serving as a career-planning tool. The portfolio can then be shown to colleges or employers in order to develop prospects for the future.
While in school, the student may chose from various work options that may be supplied by the transition specialist. He or she may chose learning occupational skills through job shadowing, work-based learning (in which the employer serves as a trainer and does not benefit from the student’s employment), or supported employment.
School and work partnership
The occupational planning procedures are enmeshed with the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and the ITP (Individualized Transition Plan). The ITP serves in facilitating goals and a smooth transition into the work world and adult services. When occupational objectives are incorporated into the IEP, school-based learning becomes directed toward occupational development. Examples of school-based learning are learning occupational vocabulary and about professional roles. In building a working vocabulary, a student can be cognizant of and able to communicate about what is happening in his/her work environment. The educational process regarding occupational roles involves teaching what roles entail and what they don’t. School-based and work-based learning in conjunction with connecting activities (i.e. projects that relate academic studies to work performance) serve in facilitating the transition from school to work. Over time, the student works in school as well as at work to develop the appropriate skills in order to progress in his/her field.
Social skills training
Interpersonal or social skills training are an important part of the transition plan for disabled students. A general list of social skills which are to be developed in the transition program are: achieving self-awareness, self-confidence, independence and socially responsible behavior, maintaining good interpersonal skills, achieving problem solving skills and communicating adequately with others (Clark, G.M. & Kolstoe,O.P., 1995).
Students’ awareness and self-knowledge regarding values, attitudes and habits is fostered. The students are encouraged to know what they believe and why, how their actions spring from their beliefs, and what may be the consequences of their actions. Two crucial issues are to teach students with disabilities are those characteristics that affect their acceptance or rejection on the job site and the simple basics of being cordial and courteous. Social skills training is offered to students with disabilities as part of their curriculum, yet for the purpose of integration, one must wonder if these topics should not be formally and educationally addressed by “normal” students!
Daily living skills
Transition students will be trained to develop skills of daily living that are pertinent for exceptional job performance. Daily living skills which are of noted importance are: managing family finances, managing and maintaining a home, caring for personal needs, raising children and living as a family, buying and preparing food, buying and caring for clothes, engaging in civic activities, utilizing recreation and leisure and getting around the community (Clark, G.M. & Kolstoe, O.P., 1995).
In a school to work transition setting, skills, vocabulary, social appropriateness and daily living skills are taught to prepare a person with a disability for the work environment. For example, learning the vocabulary that is used on the job is essential for everyday occurrences; if an individual is not aware of the meaning of an important word at work, other workers may secure a reason to criticize their disabled coworker. Occupational vocabulary is taught in school; this shows how the school and work partnership serves to develop an integrated sense of self. Additionally, a student’s becoming more adept at self-management (i.e. daily living skills) will serve in generating self-confidence. Self-confidence is a significant stepping-stone in developing occupational skills. Learning these skills makes a student more able to navigate through rough waters, when such chaos presents itself.
In concordance with the school program, parents are also participants in the student’s transition. Parents teach their children daily living and social skills, encourage their self-determination, independence and setting of goals. They motivate their children to want to work and learn, and reinforce their appropriate work behaviors at home. Parents also inspire and help their children to develop personal and social values, self-confidence and self-esteem (Clark, G.M. & Kolstoe,O.P., 1995). Sometimes family support may seem as if it calms rough waters; it at least acts as a dependable life jacket.
In a sense, a person with a disability is paddling upstream. Though life’s river charges through all of our lives, some people get so caught up in themselves, their job, or making money that they aren’t even aware of life’s great river. Those that are faced with personal challenges have usually needed to slow down and adapt themselves to their environment, thus they have learned to ride the current instead of depending on a self-propelled speed-boat. This just may be one of the unrecognized strengths of a person with a disability.
Riding a kayak can be hard to master when there are many variables to contend with and control (i.e. winds, whitewater, and kayaking abilities /occupational, social, daily living skills and one’s own self-image). Of course, quality instruction in kayaking (i.e. self care) is the most essential ingredient. One must avidly learn the necessary skills, because once s/he is out on that rough water, s/he becomes dependent on those skills in order to survive. With the right transitional services, a student can persevere with confidence. One thing is guaranteed, when that individual comes in off the river, a person with more coordinated (i.e. integrated) abilities, confidence and self-determination will step out of the boat.
Clark, G. M. & Kolstoe, O.P. (1995). Career development and transition education for adolescents with disabilities. (2nd edition). Boston : Allyn and Bacon.