New Program to Train Professionals for ‘Transition Services’ for Young People with Disabilities

Feb 20, 2019 | Curriculum and Instruction

Jennifer Williams

Jennifer Williams

The adult outcomes of youth with disabilities continue to be a concern for them and their families as well as advocates, educators and other supporters. Improved outcomes would include greater access to employment and post-secondary education, meaningful inclusion in communities, and time spent with friends engaging in preferred activities.

Recognizing these concerns and the practices predictive of better outcomes, the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires that schools, adult service providers and other stake holders partner with youth and their families through “transition planning and services.” The University of Arkansas is building a graduate program dedicated to training professionals from across fields on effective transition planning and services.

More information on a program that schools are utilizing to support collaboration will be online later this week. A free national webinar on transition services will be at 2 p.m. Central, Thursday, Feb. 21, with online registration required. An online discussion is to open after the webinar and close March 7. Its title is “Ask the Expert: CIRCLES — Communicating Interagency Relationships and Collaborative Linkages for Exceptional Students.” The National Technical Assistance Center on Transition and the Transition Coalition are sponsoring the online seminar. The center is a project of the Office of Special Education Programs and Rehabilitation Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Education.

Among the webinar’s four presenters is Jennifer Williams, a transition consultant for Arkansas Transition Services through the Arkansas Department of Education. She has expertise using the CIRCLES interagency collaboration program, which was developed at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with funding by the Institute for Educational Sciences.

Williams in turn is a member of the first cohort of the U of A’s new graduate program Teaming for Transition.

Faculty from U of A degree programs including Special Education, Communication Disorders, Counselor Education, Educational Leadership and Social Work have been building this program to prepare professionals to implement programs known through research to be effective in shifting adult outcomes of people with disabilities for the better.

The interdisciplinary Teaming for Transition program prepares future professionals in related fields to advocate for evidence-based interventions and programs that are most likely to have positive outcomes for youth with disabilities.

Through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education, funding is available for up to 36 graduate students to complete their master’s degrees in Special Education or Communication Disorders. These selected will receive funding to cover tuition (excluding fees), a portion of textbook costs and some travel. They must take four courses that focus on the transition of youth from school to adulthood. These graduate courses are also available to students from other disciplines who wish to build expertise in transition services and processes.

The online application for the next cohort of scholars is accessible until March 1.

In its first cohort, the Teaming for Transition program has attracted educators already deeply engaged in transition, such as Williams, said Suzanne Kucharczyk, assistant professor of special education.

— Suzanne Kucharczyk, assistant professor, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, suzannek@uark.edu

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