Sunday night we dropped my son Andrew off for his second partial week at a Maryland Department of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) program to help Andrew think about employment options.
The literature on AD/HD emphasizes that transitions from stages in life—to elementary school, to middle school, to high school, to college, and to the work world—are particularly stressful and difficult for many individuals with AD/HD and related disorders. Some speculate that the transition to work from school may be the most difficult of these transitions.
I have previously discussed what a disaster ninth grade was for Andrew and his family. Tenth grade in a totally different school environment was a tremendous success, and our happy and growing young man looks forward to the upcoming eleventh and twelfth grades. While the public school system in our county failed to appropriately meet Andrew’s needs in ninth grade, during the transition from middle to high school the school system did encourage us to begin thinking about the after-high school experience. Because Andrew had an IEP (Individualized Education Plan under special education law), he was automatically referred to the state rehabilitation services program.
No one knows where Andrew’s skills and interests will be in another two years, but we felt it important to have us all begin thinking about options. The state rehab services program categorizes children by levels of challenge, and with severe funding restrictions, many children in need of vocational assessment and support do not get it. Andrew was accepted and enrolled; then we were told that funding cuts meant he would not participate this year; and then the state found a “slot” for him. Andrew returns to school two weeks after the regular public schools in Maryland begin, which probably helped open a “slot” for him. While next year would probably be a more ideal time for Andrew to have such an assessment experience, with governmental funding opportunities one takes them when they are offered.
Andrew stays at a vocational assessment and training center called the Workforce and Technology Center. Week one, he checked in Monday morning and departed Thursday afternoon. Week two, he checked in Sunday night and will depart Thursday afternoon. The two partial weeks are spent exposing Andrew to different job related areas to determine his ability and interest. He has yet to find something that he really enjoys. They don’t have baseball club related job areas (one of his passions in life), but they do offer a variety of computer skill areas. This summer at a school-camp program, Andrew learned PowerPoint skills. He prepared two baseball PowerPoints as well as one on the U.S.S. Ross.
While Andrew is unable to leave the Workforce Center unless there is a field trip (and none are planned during his two-week experience), he has more independence and responsibility at the facility than at school or home. He is also one of the youngest kids at the center these past two weeks. And unlike his current school, no one actively promotes social connections. He has made only one friend there, and that boy left two days after Andrew met him. So, he is lonely. He is not very interested in the skill tests and assessments. We are mildly concerned about the lack of close supervision, something he is accustomed to having. But it is also a good opportunity for Andrew to develop greater independent living skills and to begin thinking about what will follow high school. No decisions are being made, and we have two years before Andrew graduates from high school, so we have plenty of time.
If your child has an IEP, I encourage you to take advantage of job-related assessment and training opportunities that the schools or other public agencies offer.
CHADD realizes that we need to develop staffed program support of individuals facing the transition from high school and from college to the work world, as well as their families. We have submitted applications for funding support from two federal agencies—the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) and the Department of Labor . We will be submitting applications to private foundations to provide support to individuals in transition and their families. Our current planning focus is on individuals during the first ten years of transition from high school or college. We will continue to attempt to locate funding to employ staff specialists who can provide direct support to individuals facing this transition. Your support of this effort is also helpful and important.