Document Type

Thesis

Date of Degree Completion

Spring 2018

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Education

Committee Chair

Dr. Ian Loverro

Second Committee Member

Dr. Teresa Walker

Third Committee Member

Dr. Sarah Feeney

Abstract

Services designed to support the transition periods for individuals with special needs from high school to employment vary throughout the state of Washington. There is little information available regarding the opinions of parents and their experiences while navigating supports available in their area, and recommendations for system improvements. This paper derived from an in-depth study regarding these experiences and questions how the Diffusion of Innovation theory could be used to impact public policy, leading to improvements in high school to employment supports for individuals with special needs. This study presents the findings of a survey sent to parents of children with special needs throughout the state of Washington. The results of this survey will reveal parent perspectives regarding high school transition programs, and compare them to those of teachers. The study also discusses what parents value the most in a post-secondary setting, the importance of job coaching and promoting the will to work. The use of change agents as described in the Diffusion of Innovation theory is explored, which discovers that parents view other parents of children with special needs as their most trusted source of information. This implies that the strongest change agents regarding system improvements in a community should be the parents themselves. Future research should include a closer look at communication gaps between schools and families and how community engagement can enhance programs already in place. Future research should also include an in depth-study of the differences between rural and urban communities, focusing on culture, resource funding and availability.

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