Eric Finishes High School

Eric has cerebral palsy (CP), uses a wheelchair, and has a busy life. His family and school strongly supported mainstreaming children with disabilities, so when he entered school, he was not put into a separate special education classroom. However, he did get some additional support. An Individualized Education Program (IEP) team was formed, which included his parents, teachers, and counselors, to help him meet his educational goals. For example, the IEP team made sure he had accessible ways of participating in all school activities, including field trips, and that he could be successful in his classes.

When Eric started high school, “transition planning” was added to his IEP. This meant that his IEP team started looking at what classes Eric needed to take to be able to fulfill his job-related goals as an adult. They got input from his parents, teachers, and most importantly, from Eric himself. Eric really wanted to go to college after high school, so the IEP team focused on improving Eric’s test scores and making sure he was getting the help he needed to learn good study habits and organizational skills.

The IEP team discussed Eric’s work goals to make sure he was enrolled in the right classes to support them. Eric loved technology and solving problems. He often took things apart and put them back together. They all knew that whatever career path Eric chose, they should look for something where he could use those skills. So the IEP team put together a well-rounded class schedule, including computer science, biology, industrial arts, and algebra. Eric did well in them with the help of his parents, tutors, and his transition team.

At the start of his junior year of high school, Eric had Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS) help him with his IEP transition plan. A Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) counselor named Alice who worked at his high school joined his IEP team and gave more information on how Eric could develop his career as an adult.

At one of their regular meetings Alice asked, “Eric, I’ve noticed that you’ve been especially successful in your math and science classes. Have you thought about going in that direction as an adult? Those are great areas to develop expertise because there are more and more jobs that require you to be knowledgeable in them.”

Eric replied, “Well yes, I do like them, but I’m not sure what exactly I want to do with them. Mainly, I just have always dreamed of going to college.”

Alice thought this was a great way of developing his future job skills. “You’re on exactly the right path. On average, people who graduate college make a lot more than people who don’t. Since you are going to be applying for college, we can work together this year to figure out what colleges might be good matches for you. Next fall, when you’re a high school senior, you’ll apply for college admission.”

During the rest of his junior year, Eric kept up his good grades and worked with Alice, his parents, and the rest of his IEP team to figure out which college might be best for him. Over time, he realized that he wanted to do something related to computers, since they were his favorite hobby anyway, so he wanted to make sure whatever college he went to had a good computer science program. He also wanted to stay local, so that he could keep living with his parents and save money on rent. Over the summer, he visited some local colleges and universities, making sure to talk to students attending them and to check out the disabled student services offices to make sure they could provide any reasonable accommodations he’d need as a college student.

During his senior year of high school, Eric applied to five different schools in the Twin Cities Metro Area, including the University of Minnesota, his first choice. In February, he got an acceptance letter from the University of Minnesota and he immediately submitted his enrollment for his freshman year of college, starting in the fall. He was absolutely thrilled and started looking over the course catalog to see what classes he would take. He also got in touch with Connie, an employee at the university’s disabled student services office, who gave him an idea of what sorts of things might help him as he prepared for college. She also helped him make connections, including friendships with some other incoming students.

That June, Eric graduated from high school and his IEP ended. He applied for full services from Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS), but had to get on a waiting list, which meant he couldn’t get VR services immediately. That was difficult, because he couldn’t get all the counseling he would have liked. Still, he kept in touch with some of the former members of his IEP team and still had copies of his IEP transition plan they had worked on for years, so with support from his parents he was able to keep on track to meet his long-term goals.