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Gaining skills for students with disabilities

Two new grants aimed at improving outcomes for students with disabilities

Two new grants to researchers in the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois will fund programs aimed at improving post-school employment outcomes for students with significant disabilities.

The first grant, funded by the Illinois State Board of Education, is for a five-year, $5 million collaboration between the College of Education and AHS. Kinesiology and Community Health professor David Strauser, in collaboration with College of Education professor Stacy Dymond, received funding for the Center on Transition and Work. The Center will offer state-wide training and technical assistance to school personnel, rehabilitation counselors, and families to improve post-school employment outcomes for students with significant disabilities (e.g., intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, autism).

Strauser, Dymond and KCH professor John Kosciulek were also awarded a Vocational Training Grant. This project, funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services and Division of Vocational Rehabilitation for $1.5 million over five years, will provide statewide training to vocational rehabilitation counselors who prepare individuals with disabilities for employment.

Strauser said the two grants “complement each other and will work together to increase post-high school employment outcomes for youth and young adults with disabilities in Illinois.”

Strauser said the grants will be focused on providing training to Special Education teachers and Vocational Rehabilitation counselors across Illinois.

“The training will focus on providing training to front-line professionals that will enhance their skills related on preparing youth and young adults for employment after they leave high school.”

Podcasts, videos and research briefs will be among the materials created and made publicly available to help young adults with disabilities and chronic health conditions transition to work life, he said.

Strauser hopes to begin training as soon as early next year, and is searching for sites for the Center on Transition and Work, which will be somewhere on the UIUC campus.

As far as the populations the grants will help, Strauser said the project funded by the ISBE will focus on severe intellectual, psychiatric, and physical disabilities, while the vocational training project will focus on all types of disabilities and chronic health conditions.

Strauser said the grants fulfill the land grant mission of UIUC by providing research and training directed at enhancing the lives of Illinoisans with disabilities and chronic health conditions.

“We will also be able to conduct direct practice-based research that will provide valuable information to Illinois, the country and the world regarding effective practices and strategies that can improve the career development and employment of youth and young adults with disabilities.”

Strauser and Kosciulek also received a grant for their Rehabilitation Services Administration Quality Employment Outcomes project. Strauser is the principle investigator on the project—which also includes the University of Wisconsin, Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Kentucky. The objectives are to increase the number of eligible applicants to State vocational rehab programs; to increase engagement of eligible applicants in service to promote participation in services throughout the tenure of their Individualized Employment Plans; to increase the number of employers hiring and retaining persons with disabilities in their workforce; and to increase the Employment Rate indicator, as compared to each programs’ historical data and national trends. The project is funded for $2.15 million over five years.

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