Baltimore--On Thursday, two OTs from Ohio State tackled an area where occupational therapy is under-utilized--transition planning. In "Job Matching for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities," Andrew Persch, MS, OTR/L and Dennis Cleary, OTD, MS, OTR/L talked about how to best prepare people with disabilities so they are prepared for when they reach age 21 and age out of the public school system.
"We haven't done a good job advocating for our place at the transition planning table," said Persch. With federal law mandating transition planning at age 16 and people with disabilities entitled to occupational therapy under IDEA, OT and transition planning should be a good match, considering occupational therapy's goal of helping people across the lifespan. He called transition planning, "A huge opportunity for is to interfere in a meaningful way with those who need our services."
Two ways that opportunity is being met are Project SEARCH and the Vocational Fit Assessment. Both operate on the premise that students' ability to self-determine is the best predictor of a successful adult life. A client's interest in a particular line of work, their willingness to learn, a natural support system, and honest expectations about their abilities are the core of transition planning.
Project SEARCH is a national internship program that matches businesses with adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities by capitalizing on their unique skills. One client with OCD and autism got a job sterilizing the bassinets in a NICU. His laser-focused attention to detail is ideal for that task.
The Vocational Fit Assessment was developed at Ohio State as a formula to better match up a job's demands with the worker's needs. Researchers create profiles for different job possibilities and profiles of people enrolled in the program. Using a green, yellow, red motif--green meaning the worker his a high ability in a certain area, yellow meaning the worker needs additional training in a certain area, and red meaning the worker has little or no ability in in a certain area--the VFA presents a colorful chart of all possible job matches.
The goal is to improve long-term outcomes for individuals with disabilities. Just like all of us, if they are engaged in their work, they will do well.