The Graduates: What Happens After Young Disabled Adults Leave School

Jeff Zaslow:

Ms. Stautz can’t walk or talk, but she misses her old school, says her mother, Janice. Every day at High Point, she socialized with classmates and got encouragement from teachers. Now, she spends mornings in bed, “watching lights and colors on TV,” says Janice. Later, her wheelchair is pushed into the living room, where she is switched into a recliner. Ms. Stautz is on a waiting list for a county day-care program, but her family doesn’t know when or if she’ll get in.
“I try to keep her stimulated, but there’s only so much I can do,” says Janice, who recently bought Holly a puppy for company.

  • Barbara Katz

    Over the past year, the Wall Street Journal has been publishing some distressing articles on the fate of individuals with disabilities after they gradutate from high school. While it’s true that there are unacceptably long waiting lists for many services for both children and adults with disabilites in Wisconsin and across the nation, there are also a good number of success stories that need to be told as well. If you still have the December 25 edition of the Wisconsin State Journal, you will read a story that offers a profile of a young man, Dan Spooner, who has successfully found employment after high school. (Unfortunately, the State Journal does not have a link to this story on its website.) It should be noted that Dane County and MMSD have one of the strongest transition programs in the state for youth with disabilities that are graduating from high school and entering the work force.

  • Donald Pay

    Of course there’s a huge range of abilities in the “disabled” population. In the past, many of these students were just dumped onto human service agencies after high school, but Dane County has been tougher on funding such intakes.
    There is now a lot of pressure on schools to develop post-high school plans for every “disabled” student. Dane County is insisting school districts have these individuals in vocational or higher education or placed in entry level jobs before leaving high school, so they don’t excessively burden the human services budget. Many probably will still require job coaching and assistance in living throughout their lives, but there is great care taken in integrating them into the community.
    One problem I see is the social isolation some disabled people experience after high school. Our goal has always been integration within the community, but maybe that isolates people too much, at least right after high school.

  • Helen Hartman

    I wanted to mention that IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) requires schools to include transition planning in the IEPs (Individual Education Plans) of students with disabilities. When students with disabilities receive exemplary job training and support, they leave school better prepared to be working, contributing citizens in their communities. It is critical to future success that students receive vocational support. We are fortunate in Dane County because unless it is chopped from the budget, human services will pick up the support for our students when they leave our high schools. In many places, students develop job skills during their high school years; however, once they are 21 years old, they fall to the bottom of years-long waiting lists, and while they languish, the job skills they acquired during high school are lost.

  • david cohen

    And don’t forget that some disabled students will, with incredible amounts of support, leave high school and attend college and pursue a career!