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Author Bio: Daniel Peltz, program director and co-founder of Shift Transition, previously taught high school students with emotional disabilities for several years.  He completed his Master’s Degree in Special Education from Montclair State University, where Daniel began to develop transition programming based around current gaps and areas of need in the education system. After graduation, he teamed up with other successful educators, therapists, and entrepreneurs to create what was then called Momentum Transition in 2012. Daniel is also a certified life coach and employment specialist. He has always possessed a true passion for helping people get back on their feet after personal struggles.
Why do a significant number of students with special needs struggle after high school?
While working as a high school educator for students with special needs, I began to notice a disturbing trend: most of our graduates, with few exceptions, ended up out of school or work with no plan for the future within six months of graduation. They had lost all of the progress that they had made during high school, and regressed into a state of depression and dependency. As their former educator, I felt partly responsible. How had we failed to prepare them for life as an independent adult? Why was the transition process so difficult?
I began to search for answers and examine the current options available to these students. As I learned more about the transition services available, it was clear that there were still many gaps in the system: while lower functioning students were well taken care of, high functioning students with special needs had few options for support. Seeing this need, I began to develop a transition program of my own while pursuing my Master’s Degree. After graduation, I left my job to start Shift Transition.
While most transitions in life are difficult, the jump from high school to employment or college is one of the largest and most arduous. Students leave a supportive environment where they are watched over by teachers and given accommodations to a world that expects them to be mostly self-sufficient.
The evidence of difficulty is clear: for recent high school graduates that choose to pursue a college degree, only 56% of students graduate with a bachelors degree in six years, and only 30% of students that attend community college finish in three years. Combine this with the fact that employment for young adults between the ages of 17-24 has dropped by over 20%, and you get the perfect recipe for disaster. Currently, families are spending 10% of their income on young adult children. For students with special needs, these statistics are even more drastic, as they trail typical learners in almost every measure of post high school success.
So where do you turn if your son or daughter has special needs that will require support to complete college and obtain employment that will allow them to support themselves in the future? Typically, there have been two choices: your college’s special services department, or your state’s vocational rehabilitation services. This can be problematic, as colleges provide little assistance beyond simple accommodations, and vocational rehabilitation can only provide a low wage employment opportunity.
In addition, neither of these options looks out for your child’s future, or their needs as a whole. Thus, most young adults end up falling though the cracks, as they are too high functioning for special needs transition and vocational programs, but not high functioning enough to make it on their own.
Shift Transition was created to fill in existing gaps in services. We provide holistic transition services through strengths and vocational assessments, transition coaching, an employment skills class, supported education services, social circle placement, and job/internship placement. To break this down even further, we provide complete case management by helping young adults develop a clear plan for the future and learn any lacking skills, give them employment opportunities, provide intensive support during college, and find a positive peer support group; essentially anything necessary for a young adult to become successful. By providing young adults with these components, Shift Transition has been able to create tremendous turnarounds in the lives of young adults over the past year.