With the recent enactment of the Workforce Innovation Opportunities Act (WIOA), the role of the federal vocational rehabilitation (VR) system in helping youth with disabilities transition to employment is receiving heightened attention. New ways of dedicating resources to transitioning youth will be mandated by WIOA. How can the VR system most effectively meet the needs of youth with disabilities who are preparing for transition to employment? What can VR counselors do to make the most effective use of VR resources in this endeavor? The RRTC for VR Practices for Youth is conducting a series of studies to examine these questions. In this issue of the RRTC newsletter we introduce one of these studies.
Featured Study: 
The Role and Impact of Vocational Rehabilitation in Inclusive Higher Education for Youth with Intellectual Disability and Autism


Meg Grigal, Debra Hart and Frank Smith - Institute for Community Inclusion, University of Massachusetts Boston

Study Purpose: 
  1. To determine the frequency of interaction and role played by Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies in supporting students with intellectual disability/autism (ID/A) in accessing inclusive higher education as a path to employment, and if these differ by Institutes of Higher Education (IHE) characteristics.
  2. To determine the relationship between the frequency and type of VR involvement and student outcomes (credential attainment, course access, career development activity engagement, employment rate during program and at exit).
  3. To provide in depth program descriptions as well as highlight effective VR strategies and promising practices evident across the IHE programs that have established effective partnerships with VR, documenting the types of agreements, services, and practices that are being used to support the employment outcomes of individuals with ID and autism in the context of a higher education program.

Study Overview: 

This mixed-methods study includes (1) an analysis of secondary data on inclusive higher education model demonstration programs from the Think College National Coordinating Center (NCC) Data Network, and (2) intensive case studies of three to five IHEs that have established effective partnerships with VR.

Phase 1 of this study will use a convenience sample of 2000+ students with intellectual disability and autism served in one of the 27 projects in 23 states participating in the Office of Postsecondary Education funded TPSID model demonstration projects from 2010 through 2015. This analysis will provide researchers with a better understanding of the type of VR involvement and its impact on student outcomes relative, and in addition, to other program inputs.

Phase 2. From the analyses of Phase 1 data, researchers will identify three to five IHEs that have strong track records of collaboration with VR, to get in-depth information through observations and interviews to generate a theory of what works in collaboration between VR and higher education.

Study Research Questions: 

RQ1: What is the frequency of interaction and role of VR agencies partnering with IHEs serving students with ID/A? Do these differ based on the characteristics of the IHE or program (type of college, length of program, level of course access, and types of supports provided)?

RQ2: What partnership attributes (role of VR, frequency of interaction, type of college) between Transition Postsecondary for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID) programs and VR agencies are related to positive outcomes for students (for example, attainment of a postsecondary credential; employment; independent living)?

RQ3: How are TPSID programs partnering with VR agencies to support the employment outcomes of individuals with ID/A?

RQ4: How is the TPSID-VR relationship established and maintained?

RQ5: What financial, logistical, and case management supports can VR provide to TPSID programs and students to advance employment outcomes?

RQ6: How do TPSID/VR partnerships enhance supports and outcomes for individuals with ID/A?

Study Impact: 

Results of this study will inform the development of effective VR intervention and practices to support postsecondary education and employment outcomes for youth with ID/A.

Upcoming Issue: 

Updates and implications of initial findings from our research.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living,
Grant Number: 90RT5034-02-01

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