Tuesday, July 21, 2009
What Comes Next?
It’s frightening to have your child approaching the age when they must leave school and know that they are not quite ready for the adult world. Our school systems do not, in my opinion, prepare our children with disabilities to enter the work force. In fact, many studies of children with disabilities say exactly that. One of the studies that was so frightening to me was done by Dr. Jerry Petroff, an expert in the field of deafblindness who wrote “Lessons from a Post-School Study of Youth with Deafblindness.”
So what can we as parents do to change the future for our adult children with disabilities? There are not many good answers, unfortunately, but one which has caught my attention is programs currently being offered by some colleges.
In my city, our local community college has a program called PAVE. According to the PAVE website, “the Program for Adults in Vocational Education (P.A.V.E.) is a vocational training program for adults with mental disabilities. P.A.V.E serves students with mild mental retardation, emotional disabilities and learning disabilities. The overall purpose of P.A.V.E is to provide a post-secondary vocational training program that incorporates functional academic instruction, job skills training and community-based internships.”
Getting into PAVE is not a sure thing. Students still must pass a readiness test, and must meet certain qualifications. But if a student with disabilities is admitted, the whole focus of the program is preparing that student for adult life in the workforce.
Another program which sounds even better is offered at UCLA. Begun two years ago, UCLA’s pioneering Pathway Program has produced its first graduating class. The two-year postsecondary program gives students with intellectual disabilities an opportunity to gain independent living skills. At the same time, they experience college life and explore vocations through UCLA Extension. Here is a link to Patricia Bauer’s Disability News website that contains two very special videos of this year’s Pathway’s graduating class.
I’m very glad that our post-secondary schools are stepping up to the plate for our students with disabilities. If our K-12 schools won’t help prepare our children, it is indeed comforting to know that our colleges and universities are beginning to address this challenge.