School Days to Pay Days An Employment Planning Guide for Families of Young Adults with Intellectual Disabilities

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Post-Secondary Education

This is a website for transition-age students with intellectual disabilities, their parents and the professionals who work with them. The site has a database of colleges across the country that support the inclusion of students with intellectual disabilities, as well as resource materials on person-centered planning, funding options, and the differences between high school and college. Discussion boards, a listserv and publications are also available.

This site contains information about living college life with a disability. It is designed for high school students and provides video clips, activities and additional resources that can help students get a head start in planning for college.

Transition Planning

The following two publications are handbooks of information and resources for students with disabilities transitioning from school to the community:

A Student’s Guide to Planning for Life
after High School

Dare to Dream: A Guide to Planning Your Future

The primary purpose of the Youthhood website is to help young adults plan for life after high school. By providing a concrete, familiar “place” for youth to begin the process of self-identity and future planning, this site offers a variety of tools for youth and the adults who work with them.

Access to Postsecondary Education

A handbook written for students, school counselors, teachers, and parents to help in planning for education after school.


Job Accommodation Network (JAN)

This federally-funded program provides information and consultation on job accommodations. JAN consultants are available by phone to assist in identifying potential accommodations; they have instant access to the most comprehensive and up-to-date information about different approaches, devices, and strategies. JAN’s website has a searchable online database (SOAR) which can also be used to research accommodation options. JAN also offers a variety of fact sheets and publications about the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

West Virginia University

Morgantown, WV 26506-6080

Accommodation Information (Voice/TTY):

ADA Information (Voice/TTY):


Fax: 304-293-5407


ABLEDATA Assistive Technology Information

ABLEDATA provides objective information on assistive technology and rehabilitation equipment available from domestic and international sources to consumers, organizations, professionals, and caregivers within the United States. This site presents a comprehensive range of devices that are available, and also includes general information and news about topics related to assistive technology.

8630 Fenton Street, Suite 930

Silver Spring, MD 20910

Phone: 800-227-0216 or 301-608-8998

Fax: 301-608-8958 • TTY: 301-608-8912
Self-Advocacy and Self-Determination

It is essential for youth and young adults with disabilities to develop advocacy and leadership skills in order to understand the rights, responsibilities and choices in their lives. Opportunities exist both in school and upon entering the adult service world for individuals to determine and direct their career development – from assessing interests and goals to researching employment opportunities to starting a new job. Increasing a sense of empowerment often contributes to employment success. The following are resources for more information:

National Alliance on Secondary Education and Transition (NASET)

National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET)

Self-Determination Resource Website

The Riot e-Newsletter for Self-Advocates

This e-newsletter makes readers laugh and feel good about life. It includes timely themes and covers topics such as dating, health and everyday fun.

Publication: “Self-Determination: A Fundamental Ingredient of Employment Support”
If you are interested in learning more about self-advocacy or want to become involved, contact:

Massachusetts Advocates Standing Strong (MASS)

500 Harrison Avenue #230

Boston, MA 02118

1-866-426-2253 (toll-free in Massachusetts)

(617) 624-7791

Disability and Social Security Benefits/Work Incentives

People with disabilities often perceive employment-related regulations for Social Security benefits as insurmountable barriers to working. However, many people misunderstand the impact of employment on individual benefits. By learning accurate information on Social Security Administration (SSA) requirements, along with learning about work incentive programs that make it easier to go to work, people with disabilities can feel more confident in their employment search.

Social Security National Website

The Social Security Administration has a comprehensive and user-friendly website, with extensive information, publications and forms available. Specific sections are dedicated to disability issues. Each of the regional agencies has its own website, which can be accessed through

Employment Support Programs:

The Office of Disability Home Page:

Social Security National Toll-Free Number

Voice: (800) 772-1213 • TTY: (800) 325-0778

Call between 7AM and 7PM any business day.

Note: Be prepared with specific questions and/or ask to speak with someone who specializes in disability benefits.

Social Security National Office Mailing Address

Social Security Administration

Office of Public Inquiries

6401 Security Blvd.

Room 4-C 5 Annex

Baltimore, MD 21235

Going to Work: A Guide to Social Security Benefits and Employment for Young People with Disabilities

is a resource to learn about how benefits are affected by working. It is available online and is downloadable at It can also be obtained from the Institute for Community Inclusion’s Publication Office at


SSA has funded a national network of Work Incentives Planning and Assistance programs. WIPA programs provide counseling to help individuals understand the impact of work on their benefits. Individuals who receive SSI, SSDI, and/or CDB benefits can get these services free of charge from the Massachusetts programs listed below.

Project IMPACT

Statewide Employment Services

Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission

Voice: 617-204-3854/800-734-7475

TTY: 617-204-3834 (then click “Benefit Programs”)

Serves the counties of Barnstable, Bristol, Dukes, Nantucket, Plymouth, Suffolk, Essex, and Norfolk.


Center for Health Policy and Research

University of Massachusetts Medical School

Voice: 508-856-2659/

877-937-9675 (877-YES-WORK)

Serves the counties of Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, Middlesex, and Worcester.


American Public Transportation Association

The website for the Association contains all available public transportation resources by state and county. It includes links to bus, train, ferry and para-transit information.


A comprehensive transportation resource for people traveling in and around the state. MassRides maintains a database of thousands of commuters and connects those who share similar commutes and are interested in carpooling or vanpooling to work.

Project Action

This is a national program that fosters accessible transportation services for people with disabilities. It is administered by the National Easter Seal Society and funded by the Federal Transit Administration.

700 Thirteenth Street, N.W., Suite 200

Washington, DC 20005

Voice: (800) 659-6428
In Massachusetts, public transportation, including para-transit programs, is coordinated by 16 Regional Transit Authorities:

Regional Transit Authorities (RTA)

BRTA—Berkshire Regional Transit Authority

Pittsfield • (413) 499-2782 • TTY (413) 448-2108

BAT—Brockton Area Transit Authority

Brockton • (508) 588-1000 • TTY (508) 580-0873

CATA—Cape Ann Transit Authority

Gloucester • (978) 283-7916

CCRTA—Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority

Dennis • (800) 352-7155 • TTY (508) 385-4163

FRTA – Franklin Regional Transit Authority

Greenfield • (413) 774-2262 (voice/TTY)

GATRA—Greater Attleboro-Taunton

Regional Transit Authority

Attleboro • (800) 483-2500 • TTY (508) 824-7439

LRTA—Lowell Regional Transit Authority

Lowell • (978) 452-6161 • TTY (800) 439-2370

MART—Montachusett Regional Transit Authority

Fitchburg • (800) 922-5636 (voice/TTY)

MBTA—Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority

Boston • (617) 222-3200 • TTY (617) 222-5146

Office for Transportation Access/The Ride

(800) 533-6282 • TTY (617) 222-5415

MWRTA—MetroWest Regional Transit Authority

Framingham • (888) 996-9782 (voice/TTY)

MVRTA—Merrimack Valley
Regional Transit Authority

Haverhill • (978) 469-6878 (voice/TTY)

NRTA—Nantucket Regional Transit Authority

Nantucket • (508) 325-5971 • TTY (508) 325-7516

PVTA—Pioneer Valley Transit Authority

Springfield • (413) 781-7882 • TTY (866) 707-1656

SRTA—Southeastern Regional Transit Authority

New Bedford • (508) 997-6767 • TTY (508) 999-5810

VTA—Martha’s Vineyard Transit Authority

Edgartown • (508) 693-9440 • TTY (508) 693-4633

WRTA—Worcester Regional Transit Authority

Worcester • (508) 791-9782 • TTY (508) 797-5560 provides an overview, maps, and contact information for all the RTAs.


A structured training opportunity conducted in partnership with an employer or industry that prepares an individual for a specific trade or occupation.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

A law passed in 1990 that protects people with disabilities from discrimination in employment, and mandates accessible public accommodations, government services, transportation and telecommunications.

Assistive Technology

Any item, device, or piece of equipment used to increase, maintain, or improve an individual’s capacity on the job.

Chapter 688 Referral (also known as “Turning 22 Law”)

A legal form submitted by the school to identify the adult services a student will need after leaving special education.

Childhood Disability Benefit (CDB)

A Social Security Administration (SSA) benefit for people 18 years of age or older, determined by SSA to have become disabled before age 22, whose parents qualify for benefits and are either deceased or receiving retirement or disability benefits; typically includes Medicare.


A Massachusetts health coverage program for people with disabilities at any income level above the cutoff for MassHealth Standard (Medicaid). Members pay a monthly premium that increases as their income goes up.

DDS Transition Coordinator (sometimes called “688 Coordinator”)

The TC is the student’s primary link to DDS during the transition from special education to adult life. The TC facilitates development of an Individual Transition Plan (ITP), and helps individuals and families understand what DDS and other agencies offer.

DDS Service Coordinator

Once the Individual Transition Plan has been written and the young adult has left school, the SC replaces the Transition Coordinator as the primary link to DDS. The SC facilitates development of an Individual Service Plan (ISP) and provides ongoing information and assistance regarding services and supports.

Employment Service Providers

Typically, private and non-profit community-based organizations that provide direct vocational services to adults with disabilities. These services are often paid for by state agencies such as DDS but families can also pay for them on their own.

Impairment Related Work Expense (IRWE)

A Social Security work incentive allowing an SSI or SSDI recipient to deduct the cost of disability-related items and services s/he relies on for work (such as personal care assistants or transportation), from the gross income that Social Security counts when they calculate the amount of the individual’s monthly check.

Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment (ICE)

Massachusetts state-funded pilot grant program, which enables students with severe disabilities, aged 18-22, to participate in integrated college experiences while still in high school.

Individual Service Plan (ISP)

An ongoing DDS planning document for young adults no longer in school, the ISP specifies individual goals, services and supports, as well as strategies that promote achievement of the goals. The ISP is updated annually.

Individual Transition Plan (ITP)

Facilitated by the DDS Transition Coordinator, this document specifies vocational, residential, and support services requested by the student/family when the student leaves special education.

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

A written plan, mandated by law and updated annually, developed by the student, parents, and the school’s special education team. The IEP specifies the student’s services, goals and objectives, and methods to obtain these goals.

Interest Inventory

A test or tool that attempts to match one’s personality and interests with a work environment and/or career.


Paid or unpaid work experiences for students.

Job Coach

An employment staff person who assists the worker with a disability to adjust and maintain stability at their job. Roles of the job coach can include job skills training; developing accommodations; arranging natural supports; and working with the individual, supervisors and coworkers to resolve issues, promote effective communication and ensure social inclusion.

Job Shadowing

Designed to increase career awareness, students learn about a job by spending time observing an employee in an occupation of interest, where they get to witness firsthand the work environment, skills, and behavior involved in that setting.

MassHealth Standard (Medicaid)

Joint federal-state comprehensive heath benefits program, automatically giving full coverage to SSI recipients.


Federal health insurance program, typically connected with SSDI and CDB, in which beneficiaries pay deductibles and co-fees.


A career exploration experience where a student is matched with an employee and forms a relationship which supports learning about a career or job of interest. Mentors can also be coworkers at a new job who help to support the initial orientation and training needs of the novice employee.

Natural Supports

The resources that are available to all employees in a workplace, such as job orientations, trainings and mentors. Examples include an employer’s human resource department providing extra help during orientation and training, or a coworker providing a ride to or from the job.

One-Stop Career Centers

Coordinated by the US Department of Labor, these Centers are designed to provide a full range of assistance to job seekers. The Centers offer training referrals, career counseling, job listings, a career library, job search workshops, computer workstations and more.


Shared-ride, curb-to-curb transportation (often vans) for people who are elderly or have disabilities that prevent them from riding on fixed route buses and trains.

Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS)

A Social Security work incentive that allows a person with a disability to set aside income and/or resources to reach a work goal. This helps to reduce the amount that Social Security deducts from an SSI check based on an individual’s earned income.

Person-Centered Planning

A planning process that focuses on the individual and his/her interests, strengths, and needs. Emphasis is placed on the process being controlled by the individual with a disability. This individual often invites people from his/her personal network along with service providers to help develop a plan for the future.

Regional Transit Authority (RTA)

Located across Massachusetts, 16 RTAs are charged with maintaining a fixed route public transportation system and managing the para-transit programs for their region. For example, Boston’s MBTA has a large system of bus, subway and streetcar routes but also manages its RIDE program.


Individuals with disabilities speaking and/or acting for themselves to advocate for their own rights and needs. Self-advocacy groups for persons with developmental disabilities are growing across the US.


Individuals having control over those aspects of life that are important to them, such as the services they receive, their career choices and goals, where they live, and which community activities they are involved with.

Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE)

A Social Security work incentive that allows qualified young people who are in school to keep some or all of their earnings without losing money from their SSI checks.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Social Security Administration (SSA) benefit for people determined by SSA to be disabled and who have low incomes and low resources; typically includes MassHeath Standard (Medicaid).

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Social Security Administration (SSA) benefit for people determined by SSA to be disabled and who either: a) have previously worked and paid Social Security taxes (FICA) for enough years to qualify, or b) have a retired or deceased parent who has paid into the system; typically includes Medicare.

Social Security Work Incentives

Special programs that make it possible for recipients of SSI and/or SSDI to work and still receive monthly payments and health insurance benefits. These options provide those who want to work with a “safety net” while they are adjusting to the job; this minimizes the risk of losing financial stability.

Supported Employment

Competitive employment for individuals with disabilities in integrated work settings with ongoing training and support provided on and/or off the job site as needed and requested by the worker with a disability or the employer.

Ticket to Work

A Social Security Program created in 1999. It is designed to give recipients aged 18 to 64 who receive SSDI and/or SSI greater choice in getting the employment-related services they need. The goal is for them to earn enough money from working so they will no longer need Social Security cash benefits.

Transition Planning Form (TPF)

Maintained with the IEP beginning at age 14, schools must use this form to plan for the student’s need for transition services. The TPF includes the student’s post-secondary Vision Statement.

Vision Statement

An important component of IEP and TPF documentation, this statement addresses student preferences and interests, desired outcomes in adult living, and post-secondary and working environments over a five-year period.

Vocational Rehabilitation (VR)

A state agency that aims to help restore or develop the working ability of individuals with disabilities. VR provides counseling, training, placement, and referrals to other agencies. In Massachusetts, the VR agencies are Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) and Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB).

Work Incentives Planning & Assistance (WIPA)

Programs funded by Social Security to help individuals understand the impact of earned income on public benefits, including SSI, SSDI, Medicare, Medicaid, housing, TANF, and food stamps. In Massachusetts, the two WIPA programs are Project IMPACT, and BenePLAN.

Workplace Accommodations

Any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that enables an employee with a disability to perform job duties, and/or to participate in other work-related events or activities.

APPENDIX A: Employment Planning List

This chart summarizes the major steps and guidance provided in this publication with suggestions about when to start, and continue, the employment planning process. Of course, what you do and when will depend on your own circumstances. For each step, we have also included a reference to the page in this booklet where you can read more about what to do and why. To help keep on track, we recommend that you keep a copy of this chart in an accessible location.

IEP and future planning

When to start

Where to learn more

Student takes increasingly active role in IEP meetings

Age 14 and on

page 8

Parent(s) and student separately prepare Vision Statement for IEP, including employment goals.

Age 14 and on

page 9

Transition Planning Form completed

Age 14 and on

page 9

Make sure courses taken match career interests and goals

Age 14 and on

page 11

Explore opportunities for a person-centered planning approach

Age 16 and on

page 13

Vocational activities at school

Explore opportunities to gain work-related experience

Age 14 and on

page 9

Learn about the “world of work”: career fairs, career days, job shadowing, partnerships, job clubs

Age 14 and on

page 9

Identify career interests through formal assessments

Age 14 and on

page 9

Explore opportunities to have real work experiences

Age 16 and on

page 9

Vocational activities at home

Parents/guardians communicate expectations about a future with employment

Age 6 and on

page 5

Parents/guardians assign paid chores

Age 8 and on

page 11

Encourage increasing responsibility and independence

Age 12 and on

page 11

Promote and nurture hobbies and interests

Age 6 and on

page 11

Look for opportunities to learn about and work with money

Age 8 and up

page 12

Interact with community organizations

Age 8 and up

page 12

ppendix a

Chapter 688

When to start

Where to learn more

Discuss 688 referral at IEP meeting; sign forms

2 years before student leaves school

page 10

Be sure school submits referral

2 years before student leaves school

page 10

Role of DDS

Once determined eligible, start working with assigned DDS Transition Coordinator (TC)

Age 18 until student leaves school

page 17

With help from DDS, investigate available employment service provider choices

Age 18 and on

page 18

With help from DDS, investigate impact of work on disability benefits

Age 18 and on

page 24

After leaving school

Begin working with DDS’s assigned Service Coordinator (SC)

When student leaves school

page 18

Work with SC and others to develop Individualized Service Program (ISP)


page 18

Select employment service provider after investigating choices

As Needed

page 18

Continue person-centered career development planning process


page 13

Work with employment service provider, DDS (and MRC) for assessments and job placement


page 18

Work together with employment service provider, employer, family, SC to plan for transportation to and from work

As Needed

page 26

Work together with employment service provider, employer, family, SC to plan for needed accommodations on the job

As Needed

page 28

When job is part-time

Work with SC to decide on weekly mix of activities and programs

As Needed

page 30

appendix b

Appendix B: Finding The Right Employment Service Program
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