How often have you as a teacher been asked, ‘How will this help me in the real world?’ The student is asking, as well she should, how she can apply what she is learning and doing to her life when she is independent. She wants to know how she can apply what she is doing to a career or job. And she deserves a good answer.
Emotionally impaired students need this type of transition guidance even more. EI is a paradox, typically. Because most emotionally impaired students don’t look handicapped and are often of average to superior intelligence, society expects them to perform normally.
EI students more frequently struggle with substance abuse, low motivation, depression, teen parenting, struggles with the law, failure in school and behavior problems. If poverty, poor conditions at home, or cultural barriers are added to the mix, we potentially have a situation where those who most need employment and a career, have the fewest skills to do so.
Dowdy and Evers show that we need to implement transition, career and specifically employment instruction in our curriculum. Because of the nature of emotional impairments many basic skills that we presume students have, need to specifically taught.
Self-care skills: safety, self-worth, trust, self-awareness and self-advocacy
Communication and interpersonal skills
Life skills: time-management, finances, self control and monitoring
Two elements of transition consistently emerge from the literature. First is the importance of teaming and collaboration. The second is the necessity of teaching word-processing, internet and digital skills to create a working portfolio.
Collaboration is necessary, as Graham and Mascia explain, within the service unit within the school and district to coordinate activities into a big picture for transition. They recommend a mapping approach, tracking basically the dream plan model of ‘what I’ve got, what I what and what I need’. The core team plan could fulfill this need very well, with it’s multi-layered approach which addresses the problem from different perspectives.
Collaboration within the community is needed also. The Community Resource Mapping schemata would be a useful format for assessing, pooling, aligning and accessing programs, funding and community resources. For EI students, we need to guide them to CMH, Substance abuse programs, 12-Step programs, support groups through hospitals, agencies, United Way, job seekers groups, churches, libraries, community centers, community action, rehabilitation and volunteer opportunities as well as the school districts.
Utilizing digital instruction to prepare students for real world experiences is the other priority. Within the framework of curriculum, word processing, creating portfolios (presentations, CDs, DVDs as well as hard copy of student performance), internet searches and research and communication digital functions are essential component of career and employment preparation.
Digital instruction is especially important for EI students. It builds success, eliminates some of the frustration of competition and minimizes some of the negative classroom interaction. Computers can provide good simulations with clear links to real world experiences. The computer is endlessly patient. You can fix mistakes. Digital instruction can be very user-friendly.
Emotionally impaired students often need more coaching and support in career and employment issues. With collaboration we bring more and varied resources to the table. When we teach digital skills, we empower students to be more proactive in career preparation and job search.
Crane, K. & Skinner, B. (2003). Community Resource Mapping: A strategy for promoting successful transition for youth with disabilities. NCSET. 2. Issue 1.
Dowdy, C.A. & Evers, R. (1996). Preparing students for transition: A primer on vocational education and rehabilitation. Intervention in School and Clinic.
Frattura, (2007). New teacher teams to support ICS. Teaching Exceptional Children
Graham, T. & Mascia, J. (2005). Adult rehabilitation and training services: A collaborative, person-centered approach. Journal of Research and Development, 42, 7-11
Kuhlemeijer, H. & Hemker, B. (2007). The impact of computer use at home on students’ internet skills. Computers & Education 49, 460-480
Walther-Thomas, C. & Brownell, M.T. (2001). Bonnie Jones: Using student portfolios effectively. Intervention in School and Clinic, 36, 225-231