Supporting opportunities for adult readiness (SOAR): an occupationl therapy program for transition age youth with disabilities
Katrikh, Rena Dinin
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Federal law mandates that transition plans and services be in effect for students with disabilities by the time they turn 16, in order to optimize students’ successful movement from high school into postsecondary areas including postsecondary education, competitive employment, independent living, and community participation. Despite currently available services, however, students with disabilities continue to exhibit worse outcomes than their peers in the aforementioned areas. Occupational therapists (OTs) have professional expertise and knowledge that may contribute to improved postsecondary outcomes for these students, yet the majority of school-based OTs do not work with transition age-youth or address goals related to transition planning. This may be due to OTs’ perceptions that other professionals handle transition services, lack of understanding of the role of OT by other team members, lack of funding within schools, and inadequate time on OTs' caseloads to address services not mandated in a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is currently the second largest school district in the country and operates several Career and Transition Centers (CTCs) for students with disabilities aged 18–22. Following a literature review of OTs’ previous and potential role in transition, this paper proposes a model for an OT-led transition program for use within LAUSD. Supporting Opportunities for Adult Readiness (SOAR) is a multi-faceted and multipronged approach to team capacity building. It targets CTC staff and families, as well as district OTs, to maximize their skills and capabilities in supporting youth with disabilities as they transition into adulthood. The program is based on the Knowledge to Action framework (KTA), which posits that a deliberate and thoughtfully planned effort to disseminate knowledge with stakeholders will result in the more effective utilization of that knowledge. Using KTA as a road map, SOAR outlines a range of strategies, including trainings, consultations, publication of written materials, and models of ongoing support to best serve the target populations. SOAR presents a dynamic and evolving set of program activities that collectively can impact the perceptions and role of OTs within LAUSD. Methods for program evaluation and dissemination, as well as potential funding sources are discussed.