Amsterdam, July 27, 2022 – A primary purpose of special education is to equip students with disabilities for a successful future after graduation. Nonetheless, the employment outcomes of youth with disabilities continue to lag far behind those of their non-disabled peers. In an exhaustive review In the literature, the researchers found that in most studies, youth with disabilities were much more likely to find work after participating in a school or community-based intervention. They identify the strategies most likely to be effective and suggest areas where the quality of future studies can be improved Vocational Rehabilitation Journal.
“We were interested in finding out what interventions really work, and what strategies make up those interventions, so that educators and other young people with disabilities can successfully connect transitional ages (ages 14 to 22) with employment to drive their later outcomes to improve in adulthood. said co-authors Michele A. Schutz, PhD, and Erik W. Carter, PhD, Department of Special Education, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA. “Our findings highlight a number of promising avenues for schools and community programs that can truly transform the lives of youth.”
While numerous studies have examined the impact of different interventions on employment outcomes for youth with disabilities, the complexity of these programs—attitudes, components, and levels of individualization—complicates their assessment.
The authors conducted a comprehensive systematic review of all studies published over the past 40 years that compared an intervention group to a control group on youth employment outcomes. Studies included in the review had to assess the impact of an intervention, in contrast to studies that predicted post-school outcomes.
Each study included a treatment and a comparison group and assessed the employment status in each group. From an initial pool of almost 4,000 publications, 25 met these criteria. Each article was coded according to general study characteristics, including study design, participant characteristics, and attitudes. The overall quality of each study was also assessed, as methodological rigor is essential to establish evidence-based practices. The authors also examined the extent to which interventions led to employment.
While the effect size of the relationship between each intervention and employment status varied widely, almost every intervention had a positive impact on youth employment status. Studies using interventions that placed youth directly into jobs were particularly successful in leading youth to later employment long after the intervention was complete.
Only a few studies examined the effect of employment interventions on employment characteristics such as income, work frequency, and the availability of social benefits. The authors noted that while securing employment is a key goal of transition intervention, it is equally important to match youth with disabilities to jobs that meet their needs, lead to a future career, or can be sustained over the long term. More research is needed using measures of employment characteristics that represent ‘successful’ employment.
Some studies were particularly methodologically strong, while others had important weaknesses. “As a field, we need to know much more about how well interventions were performed and what types of services were received by students who did not participate in an intervention,” the authors explained. “Nonetheless, we were encouraged by the increasing rigor reflected in these studies over time.”
“We were excited by the range of approaches school and community programs can take to transform the employment landscape for youth with disabilities,” said Dr. Schutz and Dr. Carter. “This is not a universal endeavor, and the interventions we reviewed included a combination of practical and effective strategies. We hope to provide good guidance to schools across the country that are committed to improving their students’ after-school outcomes.”
While the review identified a number of interventions that can increase employment opportunities for transition-age youth with disabilities, the highest-quality studies with significant employment potential were those that placed youth directly into work experiences.
Almost all state and national indicators point to large gaps in employment outcomes for youth with and without disabilities. The ongoing pandemic has only exacerbated these gaps, leaving large numbers of youth with disabilities outside the local workforce.
The authors noted that this is a missed opportunity for companies that could benefit greatly from the skills, talents, passions and contributions that youth with disabilities bring to a workplace. Likewise, youth with disabilities are missing out on opportunities to earn a paycheck, improve their resumes, improve their skills, form new relationships, and serve in valued roles.
“We are very optimistic that through meaningful work, youth with disabilities can make a significant and lasting impact on their communities. The promotion of competitive, paid and inclusive employment in the community has attracted much more attention in policy and practice in recent decades. We were pleased that a growing number of studies have attempted to inform this national movement,” concluded Dr. Schutz and Dr. Carter.
Vocational Rehabilitation Journal
subject of research
Increasing Employment Outcomes of Transitional Youth with Disabilities: Four Decades of Intervention Research
Article publication date
July 15, 2022
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