Back to School: What's Next for Youth with Disabilities
With the new school year kicking off, fall brings excitement and anticipation for many students. The return of school routines, learning about favorite subjects, and seeing school friends and teachers again are all important parts of the “back to school” season. At the same time, high school youth, especially youth with disabilities, should be thinking about, and planning for, what’s next after completing high school.
At the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities’ (AIDD), we want to see more meaningful opportunities for youth to pursue their post-secondary education and employment goals. We are working with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and with agencies in several states to expand and promote integrated employment as the first option for people with significant disabilities, as well as supporting improved college options for youth with ID/DD.
Whether it is continuing education or going to work, you should know that there is support available to help you achieve those “what’s next?” goals! Here are some of the resources and opportunities available to students with disabilities:
- Think College! Are you considering attending college or university? A project of the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston, funded in part by AIDD, Think College! provides information about college options for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Visit the Think College! website.
- Ticket to Work and Work Incentives: Ticket to Work and Work Incentives provide support for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries ages 18 through 64 who are ready to work. Learn more by attending a WISE Webinar and discover popular student work incentives such as the Student Earned Income Exclusion and Plan to Achieve Self Support. Also, speak with program representatives and ask questions through social media engagement activities, such as a Facebook Question & Answer session or a Twitter Chat. Follow Ticket to Work on Facebook and Twitter to learn about upcoming events. You can also call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 (V) /866-833-2967(TTY/TDD), M - F 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM EST or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to get your questions answered and to get started with the program.
- Internships: Internships are a great way to explore and expose oneself to a career area of interest and build a professional network. Below is a list of internship opportunities. It is by no means a complete list, so feel free to check with your school or community career center or conduct some personal research for opportunities that match your interests:
- The White House Internship Program: A Public Service Leadership Program
- The Workforce Recruitment Program for College Students with Disabilities
- AAPD Internship program
- Washington Center Internship program: http://www.twc.edu/
Project Search: http://www.projectsearch.us/
- Transition tips: Read tips on transitioning from school to work and on popular issues like disability disclosure:
- Guideposts to Success: http://www.ncwd-youth.info/guideposts
- Transition: School to Work
- Building a Resume: Tips for Youth with Disabilities
- "Interview Tips for New Grads with Autism Spectrum Disorders"
- Pre-Offer, Disability-Related Questions: Dos and Don’ts (PDF)
- Strategies to Consider in Seeking Employment
- Soft Skills to Pay the Bills — Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success
- "The 411 on Disability Disclosure: A Workbook for Youth with Disabilities"
Finishing high school is just the beginning of your adventures as a young adult, and transition planning for youth with disabilities is critically important for success! After so many years of working hard to complete your elementary and secondary schooling, I encourage you to continue your education at college or find a job that you love, using your interests, talents, passions and skills. We know that work is more than earning a paycheck – it is the key to true community inclusion, meaningful days and living a self-determined life!
It’s never too early to start planning. Tell us about your personal goals for what’s next for you in education or employment in the comment area below, and please feel free to ask any questions.
I wish you the best in the school year ahead, and in your post-school journey!
Commissioner of Administration on Developmental Disabilities,
Administration for Children and Families, Department of Health and Human Services