Evidence-Based Secondary Transition Practices for Rehabilitation Counselors

Article excerpt

Students with disabilities consistently experience poor post-school outcomes when compared with their peers without disabilities. The National Longitudinal Transition Survey 2 (NLTS2) found that students with disabilities lag behind their peers in all outcome areas including employment, independent living, and postsecondary education attendance. Additionally, students with disabilities have higher dropout rates compared to students without disabilities (Newman, Wagner, Cameto, & Knockey, 2009).

Although post-school outcomes for youth with disabilities have been improving in the areas of employment rates, wages, enrollment in postsecondary education, and independent living, there are still gaps between students with disabilities and their same-aged peers (Blackorby & Wagner, 1996; Newman, Wagner, Cameto, & Knokey, 2009; Wagner et al., 2005). Research has recommended that providing students with disabilities secondary transition services using evidence-based practices may be one way to continue closing the gaps (Test, Fowler, et al., 2009).

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA; 2004) defines transition services as:

"a coordinated set of activities for a child with a disability that (a) is designed to be a results-oriented process, that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the child with a disability to facilitate the child's movement from school to post-school activities, including postsecondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation; (b) is based on the individual child's needs, taking into account the child's strengths, preferences, and interests." (IDEA; 34 CFR 300.43 (a)] [20 U.S.C. 1401(34)]).

This definition is very similar to the definition in the Rehabilitation Act of 1992. As a result, Kohler (1998) suggested that the intent in aligning IDEA and Rehabilitation Act definitions was to remove barriers to agency/school collaboration and to facilitate coordinated transition services from school to post-school. These coordinated services should open the door for early involvement of vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselors with secondary students with disabilities. As a result, VR counselors can play an active role in a student's transition planning process including assisting secondary students with disabilities in developing post-school goals and helping provide supports necessary to achieve those goals (Lamb, 2003).

In addition to similar definitions of transition services, another area of agreement between special education and vocational rehabilitation is the recent emphasis on evidence-based practices. In education, national policies have been passed requiring educators to use practices and curricula that are research based in an effort to promote better student outcomes. For example, No Child Left Behind (2001) defined scientifically-based research as, "research that involves the application of rigorous, systematic, and objective procedures to obtain reliable and valid knowledge relevant to education activities and programs" (NCLB; 20 U.S.C 7801 [section] 9101[37]). For special education, IDEA (2004) required educational programs for students with disabilities to use scientific, research-based interventions. In VR, the Rehabilitation Act requires ongoing research to "identify effective strategies that enhance the opportunities of individuals with disabilities to engage in employment, including employment involving telecommuting and self-employment; and conduct research on consumer satisfaction with vocational rehabilitation services for the purpose of identifying effective rehabilitation programs and policies that promote the independence of individuals with disabilities and achievement of long-term vocational goals" (Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29, U.S.C. [section] 701 et seq. …