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The purpose of this study was to find out what ways adolescents with severe disabilities might attain beneficial transition skills via summer employment and community participation.
The study was designed to answer these research questions: "What are the summer employment experiences of youth with severe disabilities? What barriers do these youth and their families encounter? What student and programmatic factors are associated with the summer employment status of youth with severe disabilities? To what extent are these youth involved in other community experience (apart from work) during the summer months? "
III. Approach to Answering Research Question
Arranged telephone interviews were administered to collect evidence about the work and community experiences of adolescents taking part in this study. During these interviews data were collected about employment status, community activities and evaluative questions about their work experience.
Predictor measures were also collected during the spring semester. The 1st predictor measure collected was employment skills, which were obtained by having special educators assess their student's understanding and skill performance across nine transition domains with the Transition Planning Inventory (TPI). The 2nd predictor measure collected was self-determination, which was obtained by having special educators assess their student's self-determination using the AIR Self-Determination Scale. The 3rd predictor measure collected was social skills and problem behaviors, which were obtained by having special educators measure their student's social skills and problem behaviors using the Social Skills Rating System-Secondary Teachers Version (SSRS). The next predictor measure collected was career preparation activities, which were obtained by having special educators complete a questionnaire about their student's participation in any of the nine career preparation activities. The 5th predictor measure collected was spring work experience, which was obtained by either having the student complete a questionnaire or was done during telephone interviews. The last predictor measure collected was teacher expectations for employment, which were obtained by having special educators complete a questionnaire about whether they expected each of their students to work during the approaching summer.
IV. Major Findings/Results
The results for summer work experiences of adolescence with severe disabilities showed that slightly more than 1/3 of students with severe disabilities took part in at least one kind of work practice during the summer. When it came to the job related supports, interviewees specified that school staff and parents held the highest percentages in helping find competitive, unpaid and sheltered jobs. At the end of the summer, 75% youth who held competitive jobs were still working the same job, 10% were no longer working and 5% had switched to a sheltered job. 28.6% of youth who held sheltered jobs were working the same job at the end of the summer and 71.4% were no longer working. 58.8% of youth who held unpaid jobs were working the same job at the end of the summer, 23.5% were no longer working and 5.9% had switched to a competitive job.
Reasons for not looking for work included parents' desire for their children not to work and having specific impediments that prohibited them from finding and continuing employment. Some examples of these specific barriers were transportation being limited and supports not being available.
Next, the results for factors associated with summer employment outcomes was that age was definitely associated, employment skills had a significant effect and spring work experience and teacher expectations also had a significant effect with summer employment outcomes.
Results for the extent of these students involved in other community experience during the summer months was most commonly activities like watching television or going to the movies, doing responsibilities at home, doing hobbies and using the computer. Taking and getting ready for college entrance exams, taking part in clubs or groups, taking music, art or dance lessons, participating in an internship and involvement with community youth groups were the least common activities reported.
Lastly, results for how satisfied the parents and students were with these summer activities was that 90% of parents and students were either satisfied or very satisfied.
The implications for this study are that involving students with severe disabilities in summer work experience and other community activities is a step toward evolving a set of effective approaches schools, families and communities might use to increase attainability to these valuable transitional experiences.
Knowing that summer represents a good time for students with severe disabilities to accumulate useful employment-related experiences, as a teacher I would plan on all my students to have some type of vocational experience during the summer. While thinking of the ideas presented in this journal article, some ideas I would use to get started during the spring semester, would be to first conduct interest inventories for each student. Doing this would help me be able to find more appropriate job placements for the students. Also, to get some ideas for placement, during the spring semester I would conduct interviews with general education and other special education students asking them about what jobs or community experiences they enjoy doing during the summer and what activities they enjoy most (not job related). I would also administer a school-wide questionnaire about students who would be willing to volunteer during the summer with the students with severe disabilities. To help get students eager to work, I would also bring in prospective employers during the school year to come and talk about the jobs that will be available. All of the information obtained from my research will help me plan and implement summer work experiences for students with severe disabilities with ease.
In conclusion, I found from reading this journal article, that preparing students with severe disabilities, by creating summer work opportunities, is a valuable experience. Many youth with severe disabilities will miss out on these valuable experiences if someone doesn't step out and take action. It is my commitment as a teacher to do this for my students, in hopes that these experiences will prepare them for life after high school.