WPAS and People First to collaborate in "High School to Work"

Andrea Abrahamson

WPAS and People First to Build Advocacy for High School Special Education Students

"Self-Advocacy in Motion" Will Reach Out to Students Across the State
Every year, nationally, only 8% of kids who graduate from special education go on to any type of postsecondary education, employment or structured recreation activity. That means 92% of 18-21 year olds with disabilities are stuck at home when the bus stops coming.

Washington Protection & Advocacy System and People First of Washington were awarded a very competitive grant (only 11 in the country) to complete a demonstration project, renewable for up to five years, to build advocacy and employment skills for transition-age students in special education.

This project, named Self-Advocacy in Motion, recruits young adults from People First Chapters, to mentor students. Students will be supported in the creation of People First Clubs, and will explore self-advocacy, self-determination, leadership development and employment options. The project will collaborate with community, state and federal resources, and advocates who understand disability and employment, use of benefits, and self-employment for people with disabilities.

Two school districts were selected to kick off the project - Northshore School District and District 81 in Spokane were selected for project year one.

Advocacy Tools

Nationally and within our communities, there are all kinds of resources, benefits, and programs designed to get students with disabilities on the path to their vocational or educational dreams. The Self Advocacy in Motion project exists to:

  • connect students to these resources;
  • help students learn self-advocacy and self-determination skills to build their lives; and
  • connect students to young adults with disabilities who have successful employment and lives in our communities, and who can mentor the students.

Students in the People First Club will undergo an intensive curriculum, taught by young adults with disabilities. The curriculum combines the Reaching My Own Greatness Training, the People First of Tennessee’s High School Self-Determination Project, the University of Montana’s  Individualized Career Planning Model, and other advocacy curricula for students and young adults with disabilities. All materials are designed for students of all ability levels.

Each student in the People First Clubs will complete an individual transition action plan, which packages the student’s job and life skills, interests, and benefits into a marketable employment format, while instructing the student in self-advocacy, self-determination and employment options.

Thought Social Security or the Division of Vocational Rehab wouldn’t work for youth in transition? Think again!

For kids who are 16 and older, there are many Social Security work incentives options of which students can take advantage. Many parents assume that they make too much for their kids to qualify for Social Security benefits; however it’s worth checking with a benefits planner to see if a PASS plan or other work incentive may help a student qualify and utilize work incentives. If a student has an IEP or 504 plan, here are some benefits to consider.

Did you know that when you are 18 you can apply for SSI? 

Social Security benefits provide you with medical coverage and a cash benefit to help with living expenses while you are preparing for work, working part time, or learning new life and work skills.  There are also instances where a student can qualify for SSI under parents’ income through a process called deeming before the age of 18. Sometimes a work incentive, like a PASS plan, can help accomplish this.

Do you know that Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) can help you get a job?

The goal of the DVR is to assist people with disabilities to obtain and maintain employment.  DVR also has a transition liaison for every high school in the State.

Contact your local office to apply for DVR services.  Call 800-637-5627 voice/TTY to find an office near you. 

Did you know that Social Security has many programs that allow you to try working?

“SEIE” (Student Earned Income Exclusion): This work incentive allows a person age 22, not married or head–of–household, and regularly attending school, to set aside earnings so they will not count against your SSI grant. In 2004, the amounts are $1,370 monthly up to $5,520 yearly.

"PASS” (Plan for Achieving Self-Support): A PASS plan is a written plan with your job goal identified.  A PASS plan allows you to put some of your income and other resources in a separate bank account to pay for something that will help you reach your job goal.  By saving this money, you can become eligible for SSI or increase your SSI grant. 

“IRWE” (Impairment Related Work Expense): Are there things you need related to your disability that help you to get or keep a job?  These expenses could be an IRWE.  IRWE’s must be requested by you and approved by SSA.  IRWE can decrease countable income and therefore increase your SSI grant.

“Subsidy”: Subsidies and Special Conditions refer to support you receive on the job that could result in your receiving more pay than the actual value of the services you performed.  SSA deducts the value of subsidies and special conditions from your earnings when they decide whether you are working at the SGA level.

Following are examples of subsidies and special conditions:

  • You receive more supervision than other workers doing the same or a similar job for the same pay.
  • You have fewer or simpler tasks to complete than other workers who are doing the same job for the same pay.
  • You have a job coach or mentor who helps you perform some of your work.

For more information on any of these benefits, you can contact a benefits planner at one of the numbers below.

  • King County: 206-322-8181
  • Kitsap County: 360-405-0620
  • Statewide: 866-497-9443