Center for Disability Inclusion Holds PDCM Symposium  

The Center for Disability Inclusion recently held a day-long seminar for their Professional Development and Case Management (PDCM) Project for Seamless Transition at Kent State’s Center for Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement.

Titled, “Sustaining Atomic Transition Habits,” the symposium brought together 31 multi-agency transition teams that consist of transition coordinators and special educators, rehabilitation counselors, and service and support administrators from 10 regional county boards of developmental disabilities.

These multi-agency teams are helping youth with cognitive disabilities (i.e., autism, intellectual disability, traumatic brain injury, or multiple disabilities) achieve competitive integrated employment (CIE) across the region. The transition service and support needs of youth with cognitive disabilities (CD) are likely to require multi-agency involvement and on-going support of varying intensities contingent on the demands of postschool education, employment, and community environments. Teams also work to enhance collaboration across agencies during their 3 years of involvement with the Project.

Special Education majors left to right: Mukadas Tashieva, Marietta Mack-Hood, Alia O'Brien
Special Education majors, Left to right: Mukadas Tashieva, Marietta Mack-Hood, and Alia O'Brien

Presenters shared the processes and preliminary outcomes from the PDCM project, a federally funded venture designed to address the lack of cross-disciplinary preparation and training for professionals involved in the transition process. The PDCM model has two primary components: 1) evidence-based professional development provided annually to multi-agency teams to improve transition planning; and 2) case management and coaching related to evidence-based transition practices and predictors.

“We still have young adults participating in segregated work environments, earning less than minimum wage, despite demonstrating they can work in their communities,” said Darlene Unger, Ph.D., a professor in the School of Lifespan, Development and Educational Sciences. “These are complicated decisions for youth and their families. Yet, the more we can do to incorporate effective practices into transition programs, the greater the likelihood that youth will transition into competitive integrated employment.”

Unger, who also serves as the director for the Center for Disability Inclusion, said research related to individuals in sheltered workshop programs reveals that most individuals do not move out of these programs. Consequently, those youth spend a lifetime working for sub-minimum wage. One way to circumvent that dilemma is to steer individuals away from segregated employment altogether.

Mira Hanft and Emily Burns
Center for Disability Inclusion employees, left, student Mira Hanft, and Emily Burns, Ph.D.,

The seminar shared research-based strategies for improving multi-agency transition collaboration at the local level through shared case management and service coordination, data-informed decision making, and problem solving. Discussions also centered on processes for teams to sustain strategies implemented by multi-agency transition teams, such as preparing elementary and middle school teachers to teach self-determination skills and increasing parental engagement.

“If we ever want to move the needle around competitive integrated employment, we’ve got to improve how these disparate service systems work differently to youth, because what we’ve been doing for the past 30 years hasn’t really made significant gains,” said Unger.

Johnny Collett, Deputy Director at University of Kentucky Human Development Institute and a former Assistant United States Education Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services suggested that those who are closed to the work know the most about it, and often have great ideas related to improvement. However, “It really doesn't matter how good your idea is, if you can't move it forward,” said Collett. Through their involvement in the project, team members learn strategies to advance ideas for improvement or innovation.

Over the next year, Teams will continue to receive quarterly coaching and customized technical assistance as they work with youth with CD pursuing competitive integrated employment. The KSU-PDCM Project staff are engaged in evaluating the PDCM Model and disseminating project findings and resources.

POSTED: Monday, May 13, 2024 10:23 AM
Updated: Tuesday, May 14, 2024 08:46 AM