Question 6: What school practices promote transition from school to work?

All students need to acquire the skills necessary to live in their communities. They need to know how to shop, use the post office, go to the doctor or clinic and participate in recreation and leisure activities Students need to learn to drive or use public transportation. They need to learn how to manage their personal finances. They need to learn the skills for living in their own place and for maintaining personal health and safety. Schools can provide these learning opportunities to students with mental retardation, at least in part, by providing an individualized education program that is functional and based on the student's unique characteristics and preferences.

Students with mental retardation also need to be prepared for future employment. Several school practices support the student's preparation for transition from school to work:
  • Integrated settings. Students with mental retardation greatly benefit from working and learning beside peers without disabilities. Integrated settings, including extracurricular activities, promote the acquisition of skills the student will need to succeed in a job and other aspects of community living
  • Opportunity to participate in vocational education programs. Vocational education programs in the public schools provide training in a variety of skilled occupations, helping some student graduate directly to employment. Student with mental retardation should have access to a range of vocational course choices and not be limited to a small selection of segregated courses leading to low-skill jobs.
  • Training at employment sites. Student develop skills for jobs and learn appropriate work and social behaviors through interactions with co-workers that occur naturally in a work setting Students who have work experience in several kinds of jobs will be better able to make decisions about the kinds of work they would like to seek when they lease school.
  • Job-seeking skills curriculum. Schools can offer instruction and practice in the skills necessary to obtain a job. This will help students know what to expect and be better prepared whether they seek a job on their own or receive assistance from a community employment program.
  • Skill-building for enhanced self-determination. Schools can support the student's acquisition of skills leading to enhanced self-determination. There are a number of curricular materials designed to promote self-determination for youth with disabilities. They may contain components covering choice-making; decision-making; problem-solving; goal setting and attainment; independence, risk-taking and safety skills; self-observation, self-evaluation and self-reinforcements skills; self-instruction skills; self advocacy and leadership skills. School instructional practices may also help students develop attitudes leading to enhanced self-determination, such as holding positive expectations, being ware of their own strengths, and believing they can control or influence outcomes (Wehmeyer, Agran, & Hughes, 1998).