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Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
One of the biggest fears and challenges a parent of a child with special needs faces is navigating the post-22 landscape. When a child hits the age of 22, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is no longer required to provide daily services and support. Whatever the abilities, or disabilities, of a child, every parent has the same concerns about how their child will productively fill their days and live as independently as possible without the safety net of the DESE. One of the transition paths most frequented is entering the workforce. Public and private schools alike work to teach their students the basic skills they need to work. In fact, the national Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states that students must have a transition plan in formulation by the age of 16. This article describes the vocational program developed by the League School of Greater Boston which specifically addresses the challenges students, their parents, and their employers face when they are on their own. The strength of the program lies in its integration into the school's everyday curriculum from the earliest ages so that students are well-prepared with the life and functional skills they need to maintain success on the job site. The program is based on the school's over-all directive of working with students in multiple contexts--classroom, community, and home--to gain the skills they need to be independent. It is also supported by a team approach, with teachers, vocational staff, parents, businesses and residential staff working together with the student to build the social as well as the practical skills to get the job done. A vocational program that incorporates life skills at an early age is critical to the success of future employees with special needs. Bringing young students into the community to gain familiarity and comfort with appropriate life and functional skills, and having a broad and unified support team to reinforce these skills, are the critical components to developing future happy, satisfied and successful employees.