Vocational Rehabilitation and Supported Employment
Thursday, February 28th, 2013
In last week’s blog we discussed a number of things that can be done shortly after your child has been diagnosed with special needs to ensure his or her future health, security and happiness. This week, we are going to return to the transitioning phase of the life of your child with special needs. For a more thorough discussion of transitioning, please visit our blog titled Transitioning: A Summary. For the purposes of this blog, however, we are going to focus on one particular aspect of life after high school: Vocational Rehabilitation and Supported Employment.
Vocational Rehabilitation – What is it?
Vocational Rehabilitation is federally funded, state administered program which provides any necessary support and training to ensure that individuals with disabilities are able to obtain meaningful employment. Vocational Rehabilitation may offer any number of different services; for example, for students who are in high school and are entering into the transitioning phase of their education, the services offered under vocational rehabilitation (VR) would be similar to that of career counseling. The VR counselor would become involved in career and education planning for the individual post high school. In some cases an IPE, or Individual Plan for Employment, would be completed by the counselor, the individual with special needs, and his or her transitioning team.
For individuals not undergoing transitioning planning, vocational rehabilitation may take other forms. To begin receiving services, a person with special needs will first meet with a vocational rehabilitation counselor. During this meeting, the counselor and the person seeking a job will identify areas of employment interest as well as skills the job seeker has obtained during the course of high school, college, and /or training programs. This meeting also helps the counselor and the job seeker to determine the job seeker’s strengths, as well as the areas in which he or she might need additional support. After this meeting, the counselor will help the seeker develop a resume (if needed), complete job applications, and assist him or her in preparing for interviews and employment. In short, vocational rehabilitation attempts to offer any services necessary to remove the barriers that prevent individuals with disabilities from gaining long term, meaningful employment.
For more information on vocational rehabilitation, please visit disability.org. In order to access the Washington D.C. Department on Disability Vocation Rehabilitation Services website, please click here.
Supported Employment can be a very effective tool for persons with disabilities and persons with special needs. Quite simply, a supported employment program works with employers and persons with special needs to achieve inclusion in the workforce. It provides a person with special needs any additional training, support or assistance that might be needed as he or she integrates into the workplace.
Supported Employment occurs once the job seeker has secured employment. Generally, once a work placement has been secured, the vocational rehabilitation counselor, the employer, the employee and, in some cases the employee’s family, will work together to determine the level of support that is required. Often, a job coach will be provided for the initial training period. A job coach is a person who works on-site with a person with special needs, offering training and assistance as they become acquainted with the various duties of the position. It is important to remember that a job coach is put in place to provide assistance as the employee becomes familiar with his or her role and duties in the workplace – the job coach is not meant to assume the duties of the individual who holds the job, only to provide support. (Please note: the process of supported employment may vary depending on the agency which provides the assistance). Depending on the level of support required, the job coach may be temporary, part time, or may be called upon periodically to help with specific job duties. In some cases, the job coach provides a permanent, full time level of support. In other cases, it may be determined that the employee doesn’t require the support of a job coach. Instead, assistance will be provided by the vocational rehabilitation counselor as necessary.
If you would like to learn more about supported employment, please click here to access a handbook written and distributed by the World Association for Supported Employment. Additional resources pertaining to this topic can be found on the worksupport.com website.
Important: According to the disability.org website, “every state has a federally funded agency that administers vocational rehabilitation, supported employment, and independent living services.” Please click here for a state wide listing of agencies that provide these services.
Accessing Vocational Rehabilitation services and entering the workforce is a very exciting and stressful time for individuals with special needs, as well as their families. If you have any questions regarding this topic, or transitioning in general, we offer a workshop titled Transitioning Planning & a Discussion of Post Secondary Options during which we discuss the transitioning process, and also provide a list of post secondary options in the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC areas, as well as state-wide. If you would like for us to host this free workshop at a venue of your choice, please contact us. We are always looking for new venues, and are willing to travel.
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