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June 11, 2014

Secondary Transition Summer Institute 2014

by Diane Twait Nelsen

The Prairie Lakes Transition Department is in Ames at the 2014 Secondary Transition Summer Institute and I just wanted to take a few moments to share some of the highlights from today!  The themes for this year’s institute are:

  • Early planning and experiences to focus student career preferences
  • Early and ongoing collaboration between students, family, school, VR, and other work supports
  • Paid work experiences for students
  • Support and follow-up needed to stabilize employment

Our keynote speaker this afternoon was Stephan Smith, Executive Director of AHEAD-an agency that advocates for the total inclusion of people with disabilities in education and the workplace.  One of the quotes that I took from Mr. Smith’s keynote was a “new” description of what a disability is.  He noted that a disability is ” The result of an interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder a person’s full and effective participation on an equal basis with others”.  This really made me think…..what barriers are we putting up that actually create further disabilities or increase the severity of the disability?  I think that there are many.  What can we do as individuals, as educators, as families, and communities to make the sure barriers are not up for anyone?  He also shared another quote that really hit home with me…..he said “If a round hole is big enough it can fit many different sizes of square pegs.”  How many times have we all heard “you can’t fit a square peg in a round hole”-many times I bet!  What Mr. Smith was encouraging us to think about is the possibility of making the round hole fit many different shapes and sizes by lifting its barriers and making it bigger and better.  Could we do that with schools and educational programs?  Could we re-think the ways we do things, change practices, and create new educational  experiences so our students could experience more success?  Can we make the round hole of education big enough  that all students fit in?  Can the circle of support be there for everyone no matter what your personal history is?    How can we support a change in education…a change where no one will be thought of as the “square peg”, and a place where all students fit into the educational circle?

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