Expanding Horizons: A Model Academic and Vocational Training Program for Out-of-School Youth with Disabilities. (Program for Out-of-School Youth with Disabilities)

By Lemaire, Gail Schoen; Mallik, Kali et al. | The Journal of Rehabilitation, April-June 2002 | Go to article overview

Expanding Horizons: A Model Academic and Vocational Training Program for Out-of-School Youth with Disabilities. (Program for Out-of-School Youth with Disabilities)


Lemaire, Gail Schoen, Mallik, Kali, Stoll, Bryan G., The Journal of Rehabilitation


Youth with learning disabilities (LD), emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD), or psychiatric disabilities face many barriers to success in school and work. Compared with peers without disabilities, youth with LD, EBD, or psychiatric disabilities are at greater risk for a variety of poor outcomes including academic failure, school drop out, limited post secondary education, living in single parent households, and poor socioeconomic status related to high unemployment rates (Blackorby & Wagner, 1996; Bullis & Cheney, 1999; Maag & Katsiyannis, 1998; Malian & Love, 1998; US Department of Education, 1995). The support and intervention needs for youth with such disabilities are substantial. Programs for helping in-school youth with special education needs to transition to work and post-secondary education, vocational training, and integrated employment have been described (Bullis & Cheney, 1999). The purpose of this paper is to describe a program designed to improve academic and vocational outcomes for youth with disabilities who have dropped out of or who have been removed from high school.

Youth with disabilities are at risk for poor school-related outcomes and those who are unable to achieve success in and graduate from school are more likely to have poor employment outcomes as well (Bullis & Cheney, 1999). Data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study (NLTS) conducted from 1987 through 1993, demonstrated that absenteeism, lower grades than non-disabled students, and course failure were problems for students with all types of disabilities including learning, emotional, speech, mental retardation, vision, hearing, physical, and mental disabilities, and strong predictors of school drop out (SRI International, 1997). Data indicated that 38% of students with all types of disabilities dropped out of school compared with 25% of students without disabilities during the study time period. Thirty percent of these youth enrolled in high school but did not complete it and 8% dropped out before entering high school. Sixtyeight percent of students with LD ultimately left school by graduating but for youth with emotional disturbance, this figure was only 48.4%. Thus, nearly one-half of all students who were identified as emotionally disturbed did not complete high school (SRI International, 1997). Other estimates also support an increased risk for school-related problems for students with all types of disabilities. According to 1995 Census Bureau estimates, youth with disabilities dropped out-of-school at a greater rate than their non-disabled peers (14.6% versus 11.8%) (National Center for Education Statistics, 1995). In 1998, only 33.1% of youth with specific LDs graduated with a diploma and even fewer (15.6%) of those with serious emotional disturbance exited the educational system with a diploma. During the same period, 4.5% of youth with specific LDs graduated with a certificate (GED) while just 2.2% of those with emotional disturbance received their GED (US Department of Education, 2000).

Employment is a significant outcome for adults in the U.S. and as such is an important marker for success (Bullis & Cheney, 1999). Youth with LD and EBD face a variety of obstacles in finding and maintaining employment. Such youth often have poor communication skills, difficulty in accepting feedback, and inadequate work and social skills. Findings also have suggested that youth with disabilities tend to avoid risk-taking in areas that would promote advancement, such as job and promotion seeking (Schelly & Koethe, 1995). Not surprisingly, youth with disabilities fare worse than youth in the general population in their rate of competitive employment. According to data from the NLTS, youth with disabilities were significantly less likely to be employed than non-disabled youth at both two years and three to five years after leaving school. …

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