Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Postsecondary Experiences of Young Adults with Severe Physical Disabilities

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Postsecondary Experiences of Young Adults with Severe Physical Disabilities

Article excerpt

Postsecondary Experiences of Young Adults with Severe Physical Disabilities

Families, educators, service providers, and policymakers whose responsibilities include meeting the transitional needs of youth with disabilities are hampered by the lack of information about these youth after they leave high school (Donnellan, 1984). It is not known how well the educational system meets the needs of students with disabilities and what can be done to improve services. Educators need to know if the curriculum of special schools that accommodate students with severe disabilities helps to prepare these students for the demands of the postschool environment. Parents also need to be aware of possible outcomes to assist them in planning for their children's future (Edgar, 1985). The goal of this study was to describe how well youth with physical disabilities manage after they leave high school in terms of other educational endeavors, employment, and general social adjustment.

The generalizability of past follow-up studies has been limited by the populations selected for study and by the type of information gathered. Most follow-up studies of special education students have focused on individuals with mental retardation (e.g., Schalock, 1986). There is little information on the postsecondary status of students with other handicapping conditions. Few folow-up studies have included students with severe physical disabilities, and even fewer have examined factors related to outcomes for this population. Furthermore, even when these students have been included, they were not described separately (e.g., Edgar, 1987), their numbers were very small (e.g., Brieland, 1967), or the methodology resulted in possible self-selection (e.g., McCarthy, 1986; Owings & Stocking, 1985).

Moreover, few studies have collected data about students' high school programs or comprehensive outcome information on employment, postsecondary education, and community adjustment (e.g., living arrangements). Two statewide follow-up studies of special education students in Vermont and Colorado (Hasazi, Gordon, & Roe, 1985; Mithaug, Horiuchi, & Fanning, 1985) have helped to start a data base on youth with disabilities. These research efforst, however, did not discuss factors related to outcomes for different disability groups.



The population for his study included all high school graduates of Human Resources School, a special school for youth with physical disabilities located in a suburban area near New York City. The initial list included members from the first graduating class in 1967 through those graduating in 1984, for a total of 222 students. Of these, 47 had died, and contact had been lost with 57 others, leaving a total of 118 alumni. The final sample participating in the study consisted of 106 graduates, or 90% of the total population that could be contacted. Approximately 10% of the respondents graduated in the years between 1967 and 1972, 34% between 1973 and 1978, and 56% between 1979 and 1984. Of the 12 graduates who did not participate, 10 refused to respond and 2 were in institutions.


Three instruments were developed to survey the students:

1. A structured telephone interview consisting of 68 questions covered the following topics: high school experiences; postsecondary education and training; current occupation and employment history; marital and residetial status; recreation and leisure activities; need for assistance; provlems experienced; and support received. Additionally, those who were currently employed were asked one set of questions, and those unemployed were asked another. Those who attended college or a training program were asked questions related to that experience.

2. A shorter mail survey consisting of 25 of the 68 phone interview questions was developed to reach those who were not able to be surveyed by telephone. …

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