Navigating Systems

Young man with Down syndrome using phone next to bike.

(From TennesseeWorks)

What Do We Mean By Navigating Systems?

Kentucky has many resources outside the school system that help young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) in their transition from school to the workforce. However, many young people, their teachers, and families become overwhelmed when trying to navigate the complex array of organizations, agencies, and services that can provide assistance. Too often, parents and young people get a list of agencies without clear explanations of what they are, how to access their services, and helpful strategies for getting the most out of these supports. Often, educators and other disability professionals are unaware of these resources or uncertain about how best to connect student and families to the constellation of formal and informal services existing in the state.

Why Is It Important to Navigate Systems Effectively?

When young people with disabilities leave school, they need to have a clear understanding of what their adult life will look like. The agencies listed above can help provide this direction; they can take the reins from the school in order to ease the young person into their transition and help ensure their success. If young people get involved with these services and begin their employment at a young age, they are much more likely to achieve a higher level of independence and self-support for their adult life.

How Do I Navigate Systems?

In addition to understanding all available supports that can help young people with IDD as they transition to adult life, numerous resources provide tips and strategies on how to engage these systems in the most effective way possible. Read more about vocational rehabilitation below.

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KY Cabinet for Workforce Development

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Important Kentucky Systems

Here are some important organizations in the state that provide support during the transition period:

Vocational Rehabilitation

KY Vocational rehabilitation (VR) is a joint federal-state program focused on finding employment for individuals with a wide variety of disabilities. Young people can apply for and meet with a VR counselor when they are still in high school. After being assigned a counselor and if determined eligible, services offered include: assessment/job training, counseling and guidance, job coaching/supported employment, assistive technology and other accommodations.

KY Cabinet for Workforce Development

The Kentucky Career Center stands ready to assist Kentuckians with disabilities in achieving suitable employment and independence. Kentucky Career Center offers a comprehensive range of services for people with disabilities.

KY Division of Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities

DIDD supports individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The agency provides a wide variety of services, but the Medicaid Home and Community Based waivers are one of the most important. Some employment-related needs can be covered by the waiver. It is important to apply as soon as possible due to the lengthy waiting list.