• Commuter Connect

    Posted by Nikki Rankin on 5/12/2017 7:00:00 AM

    The Johnson County Transition Council  is composed  of representatives from the local school corporations, service providers,  parent, and community stakeholders. This group meets once a month and focuses on bringing better transition services to our school-aged children and parents within our area.  One of the programs we have recently considered is Commuter Connect. With the summer months coming and employment as a goal for our students, this might be a way (in conjunction with Access) that potential jobs can be identified outside of our immediate area.  The following highlights some of Commuter Connect’s key aspects.

    This is a federally funded program intended to connect people to work within 50 miles of their home by organizing carpools, vanpools, commuting by bus, walking or even providing biking matches.  Commuter Connect is a FREE resource to help you make it happen.

    If a person lives in Boone, Hendricks, Marion, Hamilton, Johnson, Morgan, Hancock, Madison or Shelby counties,  Commuter Connect can help. For more information: 317.327.7433 or www.CommuterConnect.us. Connecting people and places in central Indiana.

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  • Building Skills for Success: WorkIN

    Posted by Nikki Rankin on 4/28/2017 7:00:00 AM

    As of March 28, 2016, nearly one third of Indiana’s workforce lacks the skills necessary to succeed in today’s workplace. That’s more than 900,000 Indiana residents. However, in an effort to raise the skill level of the adult population as well as meet workforce demands for middle skills attainment, the state embarked on a major restructuring of the adult education service delivery system.

    The restructure included refocusing the goal of adult education, adding basic occupational training opportunities (WorkINdiana), enhancing student support, and implementing new data systems to better track clients in the workforce and educational training system.

    WorkINdiana is a Department of Workforce Development initiative that involves a framework of approved certifications including such as Certified Nurse Aide, Home Health Aide, Patient Access, Electronics Technician, Bookkeeper.  To promote success, WorkINdiana requires regional partnerships among their adult education centers, career and technical education centers, WorkOnes, community colleges, and local economic development representatives.  Together, these partners determine which careers from the certification framework are most relevant to their regions, and then implement the requisite training programs.

    To date, there are more than 327 career certification programs across the state with additional programs being added throughout the year. For more information about this program, go to http://www.in.gov/dwd/adulted_workin.htm.

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  • What are Adult Service Providers

    Posted by Nikki Rankin on 4/14/2017 7:00:00 AM

    Adult service providers are organizations that contract with Vocational Rehabilitation to offer a range of employment services for young adults or adults with disabilities. Students and families may find that some providers specialize in job placement and support, while other focus on independent living or socialization. Because service providers vary in a number of ways, it is important that families and job seekers are actively involved in deciding which provider and type of program is the best fit. Persons with disabilities and their families have more say in the services they receive than they may realize.

    Here are types of services offered by employment service provider programs to assist young adults in finding jobs:

    • Development of a career plan to identify a job search direction and a job-finding process, created with input from the young adult and his/her family
    • Assessment of skills and interests
    • Arranging job try-outs and job shadowing experiences
    • Time-limited job skills training
    • Help with developing a resume
    • Job development assistance, including locating and talking to employers about jobs and the hiring process
    • Job coach assistance in the workplace, which focuses on learning job tasks, adjusting to job requirements and ensuring a stable, ongoing employment experience
    • Follow-up support to the worker and employer
    • Assistance in arranging accommodations that may be needed on the job
    • Travel-training assistance and/or help with arranging transportation
    • Information and guidance on the impact of earning an income on public benefits.
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  • Elementary Transition Planning

    Posted by Nikki Rankin on 3/17/2017 7:00:00 AM

    The earlier that focused training begins for the elementary student to be successful at the secondary level, the longer the student has to develop the independence and vocational skills needed later. Teaching and learning activities directed at promoting career awareness and development also advance self-determination and the child’s self-awareness. The ability to practice learning experiences aimed at career awareness reflects a necessary component of an effective approach to transition-focused education. Research has provided a base for guiding such practice in the areas of career awareness, career exploration, and career experiences, with awareness and exploration activities beginning in the elementary years and then opportunities for exploration and work experiences increase with age.

    Children need to observe and learn from individuals with disabilities who are working and have been successful in employment and their careers. Creating a Career Day and having some individuals with disabilities participate is one way of exposing the elementary child to what is available to them and how to cope with a disability on the job. Books with characters who have disabilities is another way to help students with and without disabilities learn about the knowledge and skills of individuals with disabilities. It is important for children to learn about the diversity of jobs that people with disabilities perform.

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  • Begin with the End in Mind - Infusing Transition Planning into Elementary Classrooms

    Posted by Nikki Rankin on 3/3/2017 7:00:00 AM

    The rest of the year we will capitalize on the Council of Exceptional Children articles which cover several areas in the transition world. The first is entitled Begin with the End in Mind: Infusing Transition Planning and INstruction Into Elementary Classrooms  by Clare Papay, Darlene Unger, Kendra WIlliams-Diehm and Vicki Mitchell. They looked at self-determination skills, development of career awareness, and family involvement as three areas  needing attention in the elementary grades. In an earlier article, self-determination was highlighted. In that article, self-determination was viewed from a secondary level perspective. This synopsis looks at the elementary foundation that is needed to reach those secondary skills.

    As most of us know, Indiana does not require transition planning until the age of 14 or entering grade 9. The foundation for secondary skills starts much younger than that in the elementary years. To increase the likelihood that students with disabilities achieve successful post-school outcomes, transition planning should begin early to ensure that students have adequate time to prepare for this transition. Even as a student finishes the 12th grade, there are some students who need more time (possibly until age 22) if they haven’t reached their goals. A longitudinal approach to meeting these goals must begin in the primary grades. Using backward planning to build educational experiences toward transition goals is a good practice for students.

    Let’s begin with developing self-determination skills. Most often, this skill includes suggestions for parents and families on possible ways to create environments that lead toward the practice of self-determined behavior. Parents are capable of promoting these skills at this age. Choice making and decision making in the home environment is one approach.

    Self-determined behavior is best practiced in controlled situations, which increase the likelihood of success in other environments. Research has identified nine strategies that help the promote self-determination at the elementary level: 1) understand of grades and grading; 2) charting responsibility and the level of effort; 3) identifying self-determination skills; 4) choice making;  5) self-talk; 6)levels of support; 7) making decisions;  8)problem solving; and, 9) student-directed IEP’s and conferences. These strategies provide the opportunity for children to learn and apply self-determined behaviors earlier in their development, and for these strategies to generalize across other settings.

    Next time we will explore in more detail some other transition planning that supports the elementary student’s skills for post-school goals.

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  • Decision Making Skills and How to Develop Good Employees for Problem Solving

    Posted by Nikki Rankin on 2/17/2017 7:00:00 AM

    Our last employer skill is decision making. Employers often will ask an employee to do a task with no clear set instructions. The employer’s directive may be vague or multiple work task need to be done during a shift. Planning for task such as these requires independent planning practice.

    So, what can we do to help with building decision making skills which research has shown is a desired skill by employers? A recording device can be used so that the youth can record directions or job tasks given by the employer. Another thing is to give a vague task, such as “make dinner”. This will require several steps in the planning. The student can write out the steps needed to accomplish the task and describe to an adult what those steps are. Once they have this finished, relate the planning process and how this is used to plan for a task to be done on the job. Asking questions is another way to improve decision making skills. When a task has vague directions, this is one way for the young adult can learn the steps and also learn to advocate for themselves by asking an employer questions.

    Students can watch a local news broadcast and be asked to summarize the problem or conflict detailed in each story.

    From their information, have them offer a possible solution to the issues on the news. Problem solving often requires flexibility. Discuss the realities of the workplace, specifically that problems can arise suddenly and employees are expected to handle them. Talk about a time when they had to solve a problem either at school or home.

    Scheduling an informational interview with a worker from a job that the student is interested in. Have them ask the worker about what types of problems they encounter and what steps they are expected to take to solve them. Role playing can also help in this area so they will have practice to be able to handle something on the job.

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  • Developing Interpersonal Skills in the Home

    Posted by Nikki Rankin on 2/3/2017 7:00:00 AM

    Employers often rely on employees to guide customers or fellow staff through a task. Becoming confident in their ability to break down tasks and teach others will give them a vital skill employers look for. Families can have an important  role in developing interpersonal skills, which is the third of four skills for an employee. Here are a few skills to work on in the home and/or school settings.

    Speak to the young adult about the importance of being able to teach others how to do a task. They must be able to do a task before he or she can teach others how to do it, so encouraging them to let someone know that they don’t know a task well enough to train others is a skill which can be taught.

    Teaching someone to break down a job into segments helps them understand that guiding someone through a task then makes it manageable.  Often, many easy steps make up one complex task.

    Identify a tasks with multiple steps and guide the young adult through them. Make sure the task is something the young adult already knows how to do, such as downloading music onto a computer or doing laundry. Have them explain each step of the identified activity as you do the task.

    Take time to discuss positive reinforcement with family members. By explaining that people can often become frustrated while learning a new task, and that the “teacher” must be patient, giving positive feedback and reinforcement often. Possibly talk about a situation where they became frustrated when learning a new task and ask what would have made that situation easier.

    Employees are often faced with having to make a decision where there is no clear right answer. This may include giving input on how a services is delivered or deciding how many of a certain item should be stocked on a shelf. Employers want employees who can make decisions.

    Participation in school or community-based activities that promote leadership should be encouraged. Student government, Boy or Girl Scouts, or serving on a non-profit board can build decision making skills.

    Look for things in the community that need to be done and write down the reasons the work is needed.  This helps them identify needs and how to address the need. Employers respond  to employees that are looking for ways to do things better and have concrete ideas about how to deal with it.

    In developing these skills, the future employee is building creativity and innovation, emerging skills that employees in the 21st Century workforce need. An activity that can help with building this skill would be helping to plan a yard or bake sale. Create the signs and determine the best place and time to hold the activity.

    Practice with age-appropriate brain teasers or other puzzles promotes creative problem solving. Encourage the young adult to see the brain as a muscle in that it needs exercise to stay sharp and in the best condition possible.

    At the same time that these activities are going on, explain that using creativity in the workplace is good.  However, many jobs involve formal processes, and that’s the way the employer wants it done.  Additionally, doing something in a certain way may just be the safest way to do it. When in doubt, teach them to ask employers if they are allowed to find another way of doing things is acceptable.

    In the next issue we will look at decision making skills and how to develop these skills.

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  • How Families Can Build Work and Job Skills in the Home

    Posted by Nikki Rankin on 1/20/2017 7:15:00 AM

    This article continues our exploration of work skills for job success.  Our focus is for families to recognize and reinforce these skills. We know there are certain skills that have to be taught and learned by our young adults in order to be successful in getting and keeping a employment. My previous newsletter article began the discussion of communication skills, and we’ll continue with that discussion here.

    We know that as small children we begin expressing ourselves by putting sounds together to make words. Talking may still be the most common and effective form of communication, but many job tasks also require an employee to exchange information and express ideas through writing. With the expansion of technology, youth will need to learn how to use written communication tools such as email and written work reports effectively.

    Many students use texting as a way to communicate. For the family, helping to shape the student’s writing style is important. Family members should keep an eye on the writing style and make sure your young adult understands the importance of using correct punctuation, complete sentences, and accurate spelling in all forms of written communication.

    Writing “Thank you” notes for appropriate occasions helps with written communication. Sending these notes is more than good manners.  They also provide youth with a perfect opportunity to practice proper grammar and give consideration to exactly what they want to say.

    Having clear handwriting and proficient keyboarding skills helps as an employee. Writing a paragraph each day about what they did in school or would like to do on vacation (or over the weekend) helps improve writing ability. Using both a writing utensil and some sort of keyboard device allows time for the development of writing skills. If the disability is significant, and writing or using the keyboard is not a practical option, the writing should be based on an augmentative communication device. Creating presentations depicting their interests, hobbies, school experience, and work goals have useful applications when applying for jobs in the community or during IEP meetings.

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  • Families Helping with Employment Skills

    Posted by Nikki Rankin on 1/6/2017 8:00:00 AM

    Every employer seeks employees who have the skills necessary to do a given job. Employers understand that many youth lack technical skills due to inexperience; however, they do expect youth to possess work and soft skills discussed in a previous article for job success. Unfortunately, employers report that many youth are coming to work without these skills. When families take the time to understand what these skills are and help develop these skills to give their students a real advantage in obtaining and keeping a job

    Real work experience is one of the best ways to prepare a person to enter the world of work and to maintain employment. A general lack of opportunity for work experience is hurting many youth, especially those with a disability.  Schools take some responsibility, but they can’t do it all.  So...how can families build these skills at home? We’ll explore this issue next.

    Let’s go back and explore the four categories crucial to employment. We’ll start with communication skills. Asking critical questions can help to lead to ways to help you with gaining and maintaining certain skills.

    People receive and process information from a variety of sources many times each day. Most of it is information which is then filtered out because it is not applicable to what the person is doing at the time. Young people need opportunities to practice critical observation and use relevant sources to gather information. Learning these skills allows an employee to gather needed information, and consider how that information impacts the job at hand. Let’s look at this a bit more.

    Young people need to recognise, and take advantage of, their own learning style. Information presented in a variety of ways allows the student to learn best. This may look like someone who is looking, watching and observing (visual learner); by listening to people or recordings (auditory learner); using their hands and whole body to learn (kinesthetic learner) or from reading (print-oriented learner).

    Families can plan activities that help youths develop their observation skills, such as nature walks or indoor games which encourage gathering, processing, and describing information. These could include “Clue”, “Twenty Questions”, or “Guess Who”.  Games such as these allow practice in applying information gathering in a structured and productive way.

    In the classroom, students often work on safety and community signs. During car trips, ask the student to find and write down a few road signs. Ask the young adult if he or she can identify  the purpose of each sign and if the sign was important for the driver to arrive safely at their destination. Point out that some signs are useful, while others are only distractions.

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  • Work Skills for Job Success: Tips for Parents and Families

    Posted by Nikki Rankin on 12/9/2016 7:30:00 AM

    The ability to get a job is one thing, but the ability to keep a job is something else. What are the skills needed to be successful? What is important? What can families do to build these skills needed? Over the next few issues, we will cover the topics that the Secretary of Labor’s Commision on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCAN) and the National Institute for Literacy’s (NIFL) Equipped for the Future Framework (EFF) have defined within four categories. There are 16 defined work readiness skills which fall within these entry level skills and are needed across all sectors.

    Employment requires a group effort to make students prepared for success in the work force. Families of youth with disabilities play a vital role in helping youth explore careers that match their strengths and interests. This helps youth understand the importance of building basic work skills so they are prepared for employment. The term work skills refers to basic abilities and habits employers are looking for in their employees. Work skills are a combination of hard skills composing the foundational skills that employers desire like reading, writing, and math. The soft skills are, common-sense, everyday skills, such as getting along with others.

    Learning work skills can help them live independently in the community, have positive experiences in postsecondary education, and thrive in social settings. There are several strategies available to families to help their young adult develop work skills.

    The four categories are: Communication, Interpersonal, Decision Making and Lifelong Learning Skills.

    • Communication Skills: Read with understanding; convey ideas in writing; speak so others can understand; listen actively; and observe critically
    • Interpersonal Skills: Guide others; resolve conflict and negotiate; advocate and influence; and cooperate with others
    • Decision Making Skills: Use math to solve problems and communicate; solve problems and make decisions; and, plan
    • Lifelong Learning SKills: Take responsibility for learning; reflect and evaluate; learn through research; and, use information and communications technology.

    There are two areas, work skills and soft skills, which breaks down the skills youth need to be more likely to be hired and less likely to be fired.

    Work skills include:

    • Observe Critically
    • Convey Ideas in Writing
    • Read with Understanding
    • Use Math to Solve Problems and Communicate
    • Solve Problems and Make Decisions
    • Plan
    • Advocate and Influence
    • Guide Others
    • Use Information and Communications Technology
    • Learn Through Research

    Soft skills include:

    • Listen Actively
    • Speak So Others Can Understand
    • Cooperate with Others
    • Resolve Conflict and Negotiate
    • Take Responsibility for Learning
    • Reflect and Evaluate
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