According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) transition planning must begin when a student on an IEP reaches the age of sixteen. In my home state of Massachusetts, this process must begin at the age of fourteen. When I reached the age of fourteen, the process began to take shape. I did not know what to expect. My IEP team began to discuss their vision for my future. I had always known that I wanted to pursue postsecondary education of some kind. I was unsure of what my future was going to look like. Most first-year students in high school don’t know what their future is going to look like.
I took all kinds of career assessments when I was in high school. The problem with these assessments was that they never catered to my individual needs. Standardized tests of any kind have always been a challenge for me. I recall once being asked if I wanted to be an engineer while taking one assessment during my sophomore year of high school. Anybody who knows me knows that I have a tough time with math due to my CP. There was absolutely no way that I was going to be an engineer. I already knew that I wasn’t going to major in a field that involved a bunch of math classes. In my eyes, that was a way I would set myself up for failure. I have always enjoyed writing, so I thought about being an author.
Upon graduation from high school in June of 2018, I felt ill-equipped for what my postsecondary life would be like. As soon as I graduated, all of my school-provided supports ended. I lost my biweekly physical therapy sessions. This led to my muscles becoming tighter which caused pain. My joints also became stiff.
In addition, I didn’t realize just how tough it would be to find a personal care assistant to drive me to and from college each day. I went through three PCAs in my first three semesters of college. My mother and a friend often took turns filling in when a PCA couldn’t work their shift. I began to feel unworthy of pursuing my dreams because people didn’t want to assist me with my needs. I began to take it personally when people said that they weren’t interested in the job. Looking back now, I believe that this was when my depression started to get worse. I always felt terrible when my mother had to adjust her work schedule to drive me to school.
When it comes to the employment rate of those with disabilities, this just frustrated me even more. In 2020, only 17.9% of Americans with disabilities were employed. My whole purpose behind going to college was to get a job. I began to have thoughts of being an unemployed college graduate because of Cerebral Palsy.
I think that students with disabilities should have access to work or volunteer opportunities while they are still in high school. If I had done that, I might have had a better idea of what I would be good at. I wish that someone had told me when I was in high school that being unemployed during high school and college is okay. People should focus equally on a student’s strengths and weaknesses. Most of all, I wish that more people understood that being neurodiverse or learning differently doesn’t make someone worthless.
Comberousse, Suzanne. “A Beginner’s Guide to Neurodiversity.” LDT, LDT, 25 Sept. 2019, www.learningdisabilitytoday.co.uk/a-beginners-guide-to-neurodiversity.
Lee, Andrew M.I. “What Is Iep Transition Planning?” Understood, Understood, 27 May 2021, www.understood.org/articles/en/iep-transition-planning-preparing-for-young-adulthood.
“Persons with a Disability: Labor Force Characteristics Summary.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 24 Feb. 2021, www.bls.gov/news.release/disabl.nr0.htm.
“Secondary Transition.” Mass.gov, Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education, http://www.mass.gov/service-details/secondary-transition.