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Abstract

Collaboration by professionals across agencies has been identified as a research-based practice associated with successful post-school outcomes for students with disabilities. Succesful post-school outcomes include community employment, postsecondary education (such as involvement in two- or four-year college programs), and independent living for young adults with disabilities. Vocational rehabilitation counselors, special educators, and community rehabilitation providers (CRPs) must collaborate to increase the probability of successful outcomes, particularly given the advent of Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS). Five core areas of Pre-ETS include: (a) job exploration counseling, (b) work-based learning experiences, (c) counseling, (d) workplace readiness training to develop social skills and independent living, and (e) instruction in self-advocacy. The purpose of this study was to gather qualitative data on the current status and future directions of relationships between high school special education teachers and CRPs regarding transition service delivery. In this study, focus groups were used to gather information specific to interagency collaboration. Three primary themes were generated: (a) barriers to effective interagency collaboration, (b) collaboration needs, and (c) recommendations to improve collaboration. Barrier included (a) communication, (b) community, (c) school, and (d) student and family factors. Both special education teachers and CRP professionals offered information regarding needs and recommendations to improve collaboration. Specific recommendations were identified to improve collaboration, such as improving the intake and discovery process by interviewing the special education teacher prior to the Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting and creating a roles and responsibility chart including methods for communication and follow up, among others.

Plain Language Summary

Students with disabilities have more success when educators work together. Working together is called collaboration. When educators collaborate, students with disabilities are more likely to get jobs. Students are also more likely to continue with education after high school and live on their own in communities. Legislation states that teachers and other professionals should collaborate. There is a recent law called for “pre-employment transition services,” or PRE-ETS. This law is a part of the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act. This law requires that students with disabilities explore possible jobs with a counselor. The law also states that students should learn job skills at community employment sites. PRE-ETS requires educators collaborate as they work with students with disabilities. The purpose of this study was to gather information about collaboration from educators. The educators were special education teachers and other professionals who help students with disabilities get jobs (called Community Rehabilitation Professionals, or CRPs). We held “focus groups,” which means teachers and CRPs met online with an interviewer. We asked questions about how much teachers and CRPs collaborated. The teachers and CRPs told us there were problems that limited collaboration. Teachers and CRPs made several recommendations to improve collaboration. We describe problems preventing collaboration in this article. Also, we describe the recommendations made by teachers and CRPs.

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