Cultivating successful transitions: A needs assessment of youth and students with disabilities in Texas.
In response to the findings to the 2014 Comprehensive Statewide Needs Assessment, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin collaborated with DARS to conduct an in-depth needs assessment specifically looking at the needs of youth and students with disabilities during transition to employment and/or higher education. The goal of the needs assessment was to learn about: (1) what barriers youth and students with disabilities face during this transition, and (2) how these barriers could be best addressed in Texas. A mixed-methods approach was used, including stakeholder interviews, 14 focus groups across the state, and online surveys. Study participants included state agency staff, educators, professionals from community organizations, and youth and parents.
Findings suggest that a main barrier faced by youth and students with disabilities is inconsistent collaboration between DARS and schools at the local level, as Texas has over 1,200 school districts and 17 DARS regions. Families experienced inconsistency regarding realistic vocational goal setting, inaccurate information about services, and the time of first contact with DARS. Lack of public transportation, job opportunities and vocational training programs, especially in rural areas, were also seen as major barriers. Students who only receive ‘504’ services and youth outside of the traditional public school system were identified as underserved, as were those without family support systems. To address barriers, specialized service needs were identified, such as: increased career exploration; job and social skills training; long-term support; and self-advocacy training. DARS staff indicated a need for more transition counselors and policies better tailored to the unique needs of serving youth and students.
Citation: Faulkner, M., Jordanova, T., Gerlach, B. & Sheley, E. (2016). Cultivating successful transitions A needs assessment of youth and students with disabilities in Texas. Austin, TX: The University of Texas at Austin, Child and Family Research Institute.