Linking functional skills to educational goals for students with significant disabilities: a professional development series
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“Linking Functional Skills to Educational Goals for Students with Significant Disabilities: A Professional Development Series” is an occupational therapist-developed multi-disciplinary professional development and mentorship series that helps special educators link educational standards to functional life skills to support improved post-school outcomes. The evidence-based and theoretically-grounded professional development series addresses the need for ongoing professional development for educators working with students with significant disabilities and in so doing also attempts to improve the long-standing poor post-school outcomes of this student population. A review of the literature indicated that overall, post-school outcomes continue to be poor for students with significant disabilities as they remain dependent upon their caregivers for daily living activities and are consistently under-employed, if employed at all. Content of the program will help educational staff integrate functional life skills into academic curriculum thereby supporting functional as well as academic outcomes using Alwell and Cobb’s (2009) five domains of life skills. Structure of the program will entail collaborative sessions using matrices that guide goal and curriculum development based on assessment protocols. Monthly job-embedded coaching and mentorship opportunities will align with recommendations in the literature. Local and national grant opportunities will fund the project and dissemination of program results will occur via local, state, and national conference opportunities. Such an occupation- and performance-based curriculum serves to develop young adults whose education truly results in participating and active members of their community, with decreased caregiver burden, as well as increased student self-concept and established and continuously emerging identities and roles.