Start Main Content

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 to get your questions answered and to get started with the program.

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!

Sharon Lewis
Commissioner of Administration on Developmental Disabilities,
Administration for Children and Families, Department of Health and Human Services

<< Return to Blog


dillipmohanty says:
September 24, 2012 at 3:16 AM

Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and really like learning more on this matter. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more details? It is extremely helpful for me.


Choose-Work-Blog-Staff says:
September 24, 2012 at 11:48 AM

Thank you for your comment. We will continue to add more helpful information on youth in transition. Sign up to receive email and blog updates at

NCWDYouth says:
September 25, 2012 at 1:08 PM

This is a very information rich post. Thanks for mentioning our Guideposts and The 411 on Disability Disclosure.