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The transition to life after high school leads to many possibilities including post-secondary education, employment, and independent living. Of the youth aged 16-24 who graduated high school in 2018, 69.1% enrolled in college, and 79.1% of the remaining graduates either were employed or participated in employment searches (United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019). With a considerable number of high school graduates entering the workforce and college, the education system needs to equip students with skills necessary for post-secondary success. Transition planning for adolescents incorporates College and Career Readiness (CCR) which consists of academic and non-academic factors (Lombardi, Freeman, & Rifenbark, 2018). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that eligible students receive transition planning to prepare them for their transition into adulthood. School-based occupational therapy (OT) is a service that addresses transition planning for eligible adolescent students; however, the disconnect is that less than 10% of interviewed school-based occupational therapists understand their role in transition planning (Mankey, 2011). The purpose of this program was to develop a holistic and comprehensive transition program that addresses non-academic skills and is inclusive of all adolescent students, regardless of disability, to prepare them for participation in post-secondary activities (e.g., education and employment). The expansion and identification of occupational therapy’s role in college and career readiness for adolescents occurred in addition to program development.
The program was designed for a non-public school that needed to address the transitional needs of their diverse student population (i.e., students with and without disabilities). Utilizing the Person Environment and Occupation model (PEO) and principles of OT, college and career readiness units were developed, resulting in an all-inclusive program for transitioning adolescents. Occupation-based lessons and targeted experiences enhanced the CCR curriculum and were vital in exposing students to the demands of post-secondary occupations (e.g., employment and education). Overall, students reported an increase in knowledge on career readiness topics as determined by increased ratings on Likert-scaled post-survey questions (i.e., students agreed more with the knowledge statement after the CCR lessons). All students found the targeted experiences to be beneficial and reflected on what they found meaningful (e.g., gaining experience, increasing confidence, changing expectations, etc.).
Occupational therapists provide valuable insight into preparing adolescents for post-secondary transitions and assisting them in becoming college and career ready. Through the use of activity analysis and occupation-based activities, students gain experience, create realistic expectations, and identify areas of improvement as they prepare to transition out of high school. The comprehensive, client-centered, holistic approach representative of OT is paramount in designing a CCR curriculum that encompasses the elements necessary for success in the occupations of post-secondary education and employment. The expansion of OT services to include extensive transition focused interventions is beneficial not only for eligible students who receive OT services, but also for the neurotypical adolescent student population.
Van Gorder, C., Cohill, B., & MacDermott, S. (2020, April 23). Occupational Therapy’s Role in College and Career Readiness for Adolescents. Poster presented at the Virtual OTD Capstone Symposium, University of St Augustine for Health Sciences. Retrieved from https://soar.usa.edu/otdcapstonespring2020/13