What Comes Next? Options after High School for Students with Disabilities
Anna Houston, described by her mother as a compassionate big sister, struggled through most of her school years. Anna is on the Autism spectrum, and high school proved to be a particularly difficult time. The combination of increased homework expectations and social difficulties kept Anna from graduating on time. Now at age 19, Anna has been given extra time to earn her diploma thanks to the Open Doors program through Vancouver Public schools. She is able to work at her own pace from home four days a week with Vancouver Learning Academy online. Wednesdays, she meets at Vancouver School District’s Lieser Campus with her teachers who supplement lessons and keep her on track.
Elizabeth Jeter, who was able to walk with her class in 2018 at Union High School, is working toward a modified diploma through Evergreen School District’s post-secondary transition program. Throughout high school, Elizabeth had a team of teachers, counselors, and a speech pathologist who supported her learning and referred her to the transition program. Now, she is on her way to gaining independent living skills such as budgeting, cooking and using public transportation.
For students with disabilities like Anna and Elizabeth, the move from public schooling to young adulthood can be daunting. A structured and predictable school schedule suddenly ends, and new unfamiliar responsibilities begin. Families can feel isolated wondering how to support their child through the abrupt change. Fortunately, the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires students’ individual education plans (IEPs) to include a transition plan.