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Calls to implement “Supported Transition” model for young people with intellectual disabilities

Posted on November 2, 2018

A new report by a leading DCU academic has called for a nationwide implementation of a “Supported Transition” model to assist young people with intellectual disabilities in post-primary school move into further education, training and employment (FETE) and avoid long-term dependency on institutional day care services.

Dr Geraldine Scanlon, Institute of Education, Dublin City University has urged policymakers to prioritise transition planning at an earlier stage in the post-primary school life-cycle for young people with intellectual disabilities, demonstrating how such supports enables them to  have the same access, choice and opportunity to progress to FETE as their peers who do not have disabilities; thus supporting them to play a full and active role as a citizen in their community. 

The report “Progressing Accessible Supported Transitions to Employment (PASTE): Navigating the transition from school: Voices of young people and parents” led by Dr Geraldine Scanlon and Dr Alison Doyle, Caerus Education investigated the concept of a “Supported Transition” model with school leavers with intellectual disabilities as a means of accessing mainstream opportunities in FETE.

It specifically  evaluated  how the role of “Supported Transition” broadens horizons and provides positive, concrete and long-term outcomes; challenging the traditional perceived notion of the ability of young people with disabilities to move to FETE. The research  examined the outcomes for school leavers who engaged with a model of “Supported Transition” with the WALK PEER programme during their final two years at school and included the views and experiences of 31 students; 18 parent; educational professionals from special schools and career employment  facilitators from the WALK PEER programme. 

One of the biggest challenges highlighted  for young people with intellectual disabilities and their parents was  how the move from a structured ordered environment to the next phase of life was dominated by a period of anxiety and a lack of knowledge about viable post school options available  and  concluded  that “significant gaps in knowledge were highlighted by parents in connection with rights and entitlements after leaving school and this was of particular concern for parents of students approaching the end of formal education.”

The authors strongly suggest that the findings from this report has clear implications for the implementation of the 2015 Comprehensive Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities. A core feature of the CES places an emphasis on the cross-collaboration of key departmental personnel to support young people with intellectual disabilities making the transition from compulsory education to FETE. In summary it is recommended that the findings from the PASTE report should be used to inform the development of a national framework of transition for all young people with disabilities who require support moving from compulsory education to FETE.

Commenting on the findings Dr Geraldine Scanlon, Institute of Education, DCU said: 

“The findings from this study clearly highlight the essential components required to enable young people with disabilities to make a seamless transition from compulsory education into further education and/or employment. The research proposes a new model of “Supported Transition” which is embedded in the strategic priorities of the Comprehensive Employment Strategy (2015). 

What is proposed is that the concept of the “Supported Transition” model should be separated from the already established notion of “Supported Employment” which is facilitated by the Employability Service. In keeping with the core principles of transition planning, the model places the young person in the centre by assisting them to explore their aspirations and brings them to a point in their lives where they are able to make an “informed choice” about their future.

In order for a seamless transition to occur, government agencies engaged with the young person must ensure that relevant supports are established and implemented in a timely fashion and that parents are included in this process. This model is reflective of the CES position on planning ahead by placing employment firmly on the agenda while young people are still in school and aims to “stem the flow into joblessness".”

  • Engagement with supported transition programmes increased the levels of self-awareness and self-determination among young people with intellectual disabilities and ensured that ambitions were included for life after school.
  • Significant levels of uncertainty about how to achieve those ambitions were evident, and particularly among the parents of children with intellectual disabilities.
  • Uncertain outcomes and unanswered questions were the strongest sub-themes arising from parent interviews. Parents believed that successful further education, training and employment pathways were dependent upon ongoing support. 
  • The move to Health Service Executive Adult Services was the least favourable option for many parents. 
  • Many students demonstrated more certainty about how they envisaged life after school and knowledge of the paths they did not want to pursue. 
  • From a school perspective pathways and options are perceived to be limited. 
  • Access to information about pathways and options was a recurring theme. 
  • Issues arose around the provision of information around FETE (Further Education Training Employment) and the role of Guidance Counsellors in school. Failure to provide this was perceived to be a reflection of the lack of prioritisation of transition planning for young people with special needs and disabilities. 
  • The need for more detailed information is strongly correlated to the uncertainty of adulthood. As the end of formal education approaches so to does the realisation that the routine and structures of the previous 13 years will simply disappear. 
  • Participants in the research were quick to identify examples of personal growth in work experience opportunities and how influential and positive such experiences were. However, high levels of fear and anxiety were expressed around issues of personal safety and competent social skills. 
  • Participants cited numerous barriers and facilitators to FETE.
  • Greater focus required on the personal and social skills required to navigate not just unfamiliar environments but unanticipated events and outcomes.

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