What happens after high school depends on the individual, whether or not she has a disability, and the nature of that disability. Some students are ready to jump into the work world unassisted. For some, the transition to some type of supported employment is logical. Others seek ongoing training or education to pursue a particular job.
Interests and Aptitudes
The postsecondary season of a student's educational career may be the first time that she can really choose to study what interests her. High schools do offer career and technical programs (some including community work placement for a portion of the school day) for qualified students. Elective courses (music, art, home economics, business, technical, and IT) are also offered for students completing a traditional high school track.
However, postsecondary education focuses solely on a particular field of study in preparation for the work world. An individual who wants to become a hairstylist will study the needed information and skills to pursue that work when attending cosmetology school. Similarly, the individual who wants to become a teacher will learn about child development and sound practices in education as she attends a teacher preparation program in college.
In order for your student to receive appropriate accommodations for any of the College Board tests (PSAT/NMSQT, SAT Reasoning and Subject Tests, or AP — Advanced Placement Tests) she must complete a Student Eligibility Form. The form includes documentation of the disability, diagnosis, and functional limitations, and must be approved before accommodations can be made.
Information from your student's triennial re-evaluations for special education services will provide some information on his aptitudes. Aptitude testing given to all high school students will offer additional information on fields of work which may be of interest as well.
Too often, students consider only a small group of jobs as options. However, not everyone becomes a teacher, a waitress, or a store clerk. Aptitude testing can provide a previously unconsidered (and maybe unknown) list of careers or career areas for further exploration.
Some areas or jobs listed may not be of interest to the student. Certainly it is possible for someone to have natural ability in an area that does not interest her. And certainly that would not be an area to pursue for future job training.
Many students take the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) or National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT) as a requirement early in their high school career. According to the College Board website, the PSAT/NMSQT measures critical reading skills, math problem-solving skills, and writing skills. The test offers students a means “to receive feedback on … strengths and weaknesses on skills necessary for college study.”
The test is co-sponored by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation and allows students to be considered for merit-based scholarships. Students who are seriously considering college will go on to take the SAT or ACT to determine college acceptance.
According to their website, the ACT, which also provides college entrance examinations, offers three kinds of services for students with disabilities: “testing with accommodations, testing with additional time (50 percent), and testing with alternate test formats.” An alternate test format might be a Braille test for a student who is blind. The ACT requires the student to document her disability prior to being given accommodations.
Impact of the Disability
The individual's interests and aptitudes may be a good fit for her chosen profession regardless of her disability. The student who is a visual learner and is interested in mechanical things, for example, may be a good candidate for a trade school, specializing in auto mechanics, heating and cooling services, computer installation, or basic electrical engineering.
In other cases the disability can make a career goal difficult, and in some cases, impossible. The student with mechanical interests who also has low vision might not be the best candidate for the programs of study listed above.
Additional Testing Through Agencies
The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, sheltered workshop, and supported employment programs (all often under the umbrella of VR) can also evaluate a student's aptitude for job fields or even specific positions. An occupational therapist in such a program might evaluate a client's fine motor ability to perform a specific job, offering ideas for strategies and accommodations to help her succeed. In some cases, the OT might suggest a different position that would be better suited to the client's interests, aptitude, and physical ability.