A new bill sponsored by Rep. Tom Sannicandro aims to make the transition from school to the working world easier for students with special needs.

The legislation, which was engrossed in the House of Representatives last week and now moves on to the Senate, would revise licensure requirements for special education teachers to allow them to seek certification in transitional services by completing graduate-level courses or similar programs. That additional training will help their students better prepare for life after grade school, said Sannicandro, an Ashland Democrat who represents several Framingham precincts.

“Right now they’re not adequately prepared for that transition,” he said. “A lot of times there’s a drop-off.”

Advances in education for students with special needs over the past few years have boosted their chances at finding employment or additional training opportunities after high school, however, which means the students who aren’t receiving proper transitional services are seeing those skills go to waste. Some of them simply go on to receive state services instead.

By better training transitional coordinators, supporters of the bill hope schools will able to more effectively plan for students’ post-high school plans. If a student likes to work with animals, for example, the coordinator would be better equipped to guide him or her to a career in the veterinary field, for instance, or pet care.

Facing tight budgets and stretched resources, public schools currently have a tough time offering such transitional services, Sannicandro said.

“They don’t know what to do either,” he said, even though many have “done a great job educating” their students with special needs.

The Framingham school system’s special education department has identified expansion of the district’s programming for 18-22-year-old students as one of its top priorities for the future, for example. Right now, most of the students in that age group are in regional collaborative programs like ACCEPT and The Education Cooperative, department director Betsey McKeon told the School Committee during a presentation earlier this month.

Officials hope to offer more in-district services to those students, “but it takes space and certainly resources,” she said, both of which are currently at a premium in the district. The department is eyeing a grant, though, that could help fund some program development as a first step, McKeon said.

“We’ll start small — we’re still in the infancy stages,” she said. “But it’s something we really want to look into.”

McKeon is also hopeful about the new bill, which will help students once they turn 22.

“To see that that is a possibility is very exciting,” she said.

Sannicandro said the measure has garnered wide support in the Legislature, and is optimistic the bill will progress through the Senate and eventually be enacted.

Sources: Special Education – Read More

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