The similarities between transition services as defined by IDEA of 1990 and 1997 and the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992 are clearly by design (Kohler, 1998). Authentic collaborative relationships between educators and vocational counselors in the delivery of these services can greatly benefit students. Primary among the benefits is the reduction in the number of students who "fall through the cracks" and, instead, move successfully to adult independence. Collaboration also presents significant challenges such as the need to develop a shared understanding of the unique policies and procedures to which educators and vocational rehabilitative counselors must adhere. Benz and colleagues (1995) determined that parents and students are "confused by the transition process and different transition resources in the community; intimidated by the vocational rehabilitation (VR) application process" (p. 143).
The following guidelines offer a basic framework for educators and families to follow as they pursue transition planning support from Virginia's Department of Rehabilitative Services (DRS).
The student must meet DRS eligibility criteria. The student must have a physical or mental impairment that constitutes a substantial impediment to employment; be able to benefit from DRS services in terms of an employment outcome; and require DRS services to enter, obtain, or retain employment.
Referral of a potentially eligible student should be made no later than the 1st semester of his or her final year in school. This referral can be made as early as age 15 when specific DRS services are required and in cases requiring multiple services and agency involvement. This early involvement, prior to the student's exit from school, is an essential component in ensuring a seamless transition from entitlement-based public education to eligibility-based adult services.
When DRS is involved with a student, the vocational counselor should, whenever possible, take part in IEP meetings. The vocational counselor brings his or her knowledge of rehabilitative technology, work-place demands, and available services to the student-focused planning process.
When appropriate, DRS involvement should be reflected in the student's IEP. In addition, the Employment Plan (EP) and IEP should have shared goals and objectives. Working with educators, vocational counselors can identity essential skills and accommodations relative to a student's employment or post-secondary education and training needs.
Students, parents, or guardians are required to complete a client financial statement prior to initiation of DRS cost services. Some services are provided without regard to financial need.
The key components of effective transition planning frequently suggested as "best practices" include interagency collaboration, early and individual planning, student and family involvement, and awareness of community services and resources. Students, families, and practitioners are encouraged to explore the myriad supports and services available and begin to establish the mutual understanding that is the basis for true collaboration.
Thanks to Judith M. Howlett, Transition Coordinator, Department of Rehabilitative Services, for her outline of DRS transition guidelines.
Benz, M. R., Johnson, D. K. Mikkelsen, K. S. & Lindstrom, L. E. (1995). Improving collaboration between schools and vocational rehabilitation: Stakeholder identified barriers and strategies. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 18, 133-144.
Kohler, P. D. (1998). Implementing a transition perspective of education. In F. R. Rusch & J. G. Chadsey (Eds.), Beyond high school: Transition from school to work (pp.179-205). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.