College of Education and College of Applied Health Sciences

Illinois Center for Transition and Work

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2024 ICTW Symposium: Schedule of Events
ICTW Symposium / ICTW Symposium Schedule


Concurrent sessions are open enrollment; no advance sign-up is required.

Thursday, April 25

7:30-8:30 a.m. Registration

Coffee, tea, and water will be available.

8:30-8:45 a.m. Welcome

Dr. Stacy K. Dymond, Ph.D., University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Location: Illinois Ballroom

8:45-9:45 a.m. Keynote Address  

Making the Grade or Missing the Mark? Preparing Students with Disabilities for Competitive Integrated Employment

Dr. Tim Riesen, Director of Research and Training
Institute for Disability Research, Policy & Practice, Utah State University

Federal legislation reinforces the notion that preparing all students to be career-ready is an essential component of secondary education. Despite this legislation, students with disabilities, especially those with more significant disabilities, remain chronically under- and unemployed. Data also suggests that, even when individuals with disabilities work, they are employed primarily in three broad occupational categories including food preparation, office work, and building and grounds keeping, and students are paid wages below people without disabilities in similar positions. It has been nearly 35 years since the IDEA transition mandate was introduced and yet questions remain about employment outcomes for students with disabilities. This presentation will explore whether the education system is making the grade or missing the mark when preparing students with disabilities for competitive integrated employment.

Location: Illinois Ballroom

9:45-10:00 a.m. Break

Coffee, tea, water, and muffins will be available.

10:00-11:00 a.m. Breakout Sessions

Breakout Session 1: Examining the Collaborations of Professionals Providing Pre-ETS to Illinois Students with Disabilities

Michele Schutz, Assistant Professor
Department of Special Education, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Sangjee Ha, Doctoral Student
Department of Special Education, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Chang-kyu Kwon, Assistant Professor
Department of Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Pre-employment transition services (Pre-ETS) are provided to students with disabilities with funding from vocational rehabilitation (VR) and are often implemented through collaborations with school personnel and community agency providers. These collaborations have important implications for the delivery and effectiveness of such services. This study employed an organization learning lens for examining the perceptions of VR staff, school personnel, and CRPs regarding their collaborations around Pre-ETS and resulting successes and breakdowns. Our presentation will share findings and implications from the case studies of two Illinois communities that characterize these collaborations, highlight facilitators and barriers to such partnerships, and inform the development of learning infrastructure for effective collaboration that can lead to the improved provision of Pre-ETS services within Illinois and beyond.

Location: Alma Matar

Breakout Session 2: New Illinois School-to-Work Transition Guide - An Interagency Collaboration

Jim Mayer, Training Specialist
Illinois Center for Transition and Work

Participants will have an opportunity to learn about the new Illinois School-to-Work Transition Guide. This Guide, completed in November of 2023, is a joint effort of the Illinois Center for Transition and Work (ICTW), the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), and the Illinois Division of Rehabilitation Services (IDHS/DRS). An overview of the guide creation process and content will be provided, and potential uses by all members of the IEP/Transition Planning team will be discussed (students, parents/guardians, teachers, school administrators, DRS Counselors, Guidance Counselors, related service and adult service providers, etc.) Methods for distributing and utilizing the Guide will be highlighted.

Location: Illinois Ballroom A

Breakout Session 3: Transition and Rehabilitation Counseling for Youth with Physical Disabilities

Robert Trierweiler, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor
Illinois Spina Bifida Association

The need for rehabilitation counseling for youths with physical disabilities in order to empower their future choices in the transition for independent adulthood. Focus on the areas of healthcare/wellness, vocational/educational goals, and community/Independent living.

Location: Humanities

Breakout Session 4: Essential Skills for the Real World: Evaluating Transition Students in Work-Based Learning

Michelle Bank, Transition Specialist 
Michael Lowe, Psychologist 
Mundelein High School

Preparing transition age students with disabilities for post-school employment is crucial. Work-based learning provides an opportunity for students to develop vital career readiness skills. However, appropriate evaluation of students' skills in the workplace is key to ensuring students are gaining competencies needed for future jobs. This presentation will discuss soft - skills based, effective work-based learning evaluations for transition students.

Location: Illinois Ballroom B/C

11:00-11:10 a.m. Break

Coffee, tea, and water will be available.

11:10 a.m.-12:10 p.m. Breakout Sessions

Breakout Session 1: Career Development Strategies for Transition-Age-Youth with Serious Mental Health Conditions

Yemi Akinola, Clinical Assistant Professor
University of Illinois Chicago

This paper presents a narrative review of strategies for promoting career development in transition-age youth (TAY) with severe mental health conditions. TAYs with SMHCs experience significant functional impairment in daily activities and encounter challenges entering the labor market, sustaining competitive employment, and advancing their careers. Career development interventions have tremendous potential to improve the outcomes of these youths. Strategies highlighted in the review include empowerment philosophy, recovery-oriented career development, extensive career exploration, co-production of interventions or training, emphasis on vocational identity development, peer support, cognitive adaptation training, and integrated support for a career in mental health services. I conclude with recommendations for more co-production of career interventions, integrated mental-vocational support, specialized professional training, and research.

Location: Humanities

Breakout Session 2: Restructuring the Delivery of Transition Services: Focusing on the Course of Study

Deanna Gill, Assistant Superintendent for Special Services
Huntley Community School District 158

This presentation will walk participants through the process that one school district administrator is using to restructure the delivery of transition services with a focus on the course of study. Participants will learn how she evaluated and revised the course of study that was offered in a large suburban high school so it could be expanded to improve school to work outcomes for students with extensive support needs.

Location: Illinois Ballroom A

Breakout Session 3: Entrepreneurship for Youth with Disabilities (EYD)

Joanna M. Keel, Adjunct Assistant Professor
Department of Special Education, University of Illinois Chicago

Fabricio Balcazar, Professor
Department of Disability and Human Development, University of Illinois Chicago

Individuals with disabilities face barriers to employment and overall poorer employment outcomes. The unique needs of transition age youth with disabilities may make self-employment a more accessible employment option. The Entrepreneurship for Youth with Disabilities (EYD) curriculum is a 13-Unit teaching tool for service providers to teach individuals with disabilities to build the necessary skills to pursue self-employment. We will discuss the features and scope of the EYD curriculum, student outcomes of youth with disabilities who have started small businesses, and experiences from students and teachers who have participated in the EYD Program. We will also discuss our partnership with Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) and policy change in the state of IL for self-employment opportunities supported by VR.

Location: Alma Matar

Breakout Session 4: Establishing Community Partnerships and Meeting Workforce Needs

Lyndsay Palach Shelton, Transition Specialist
FUTURE Social Learning & Transition Planning

Amanda Boyd, Vocational Counselor
Stefanie Schroeder, Vocational Counselor

New Connections Academy

This presentation will focus on the collaborative efforts of leveraging your professional connections in order to implement meaningful vocational training opportunities in the community for transition-aged youth. Together, New Connections Academy and FUTURE SLTP LLC established an Extended School Year (ESY) job training site at Inverness Golf Club in Inverness, Illinois that has now expanded to include the school year for students enrolled in vocational programming as part of their IEP. This presentation will outline the timeline, services offered, ongoing evaluation of the program, and potential employment opportunities available to students in the community.

Location: Illinois Ballroom B/C

      12:10-12:20 p.m. Break

      12:20-1:40 p.m. Lunch and ICTW Updates

      Location: Illinois Ballroom A/B/C

      1:40-1:55 p.m. Break

      1:55-2:55 p.m. Breakout Sessions

      Breakout Session 1: Subminimum Wage to Competitive Integrated Employment (SWTCIE)

      Robyn L. Lewis, Policy Advisor
      Division of Rehabilitation Services, Illinois Department of Human Services

      James Knauf, SWTCIE Illinois Project Manager
      Illinois Institute for Rehabilitation and Employment Research

      The Illinois Department of Human Services/Division of Rehabilitation Services and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have collaborated to administer the SWTCIE Illinois Model Demonstration Project. The project addresses the need to expand opportunities for Illinoisans with disabilities to obtain high-quality competitive integrated employment that leads to economic security and assist and encourage employers in Illinois to fully include individuals with disabilities in their workforce. SWTCIE Illinois will increase opportunities for Illinoisans with disabilities to transition from subminimum wage employment to competitive integrated employment and redirect to competitive integrated employment those individuals contemplating subminimum wage employment for the first time.

      Location: Humanities

      Breakout Session 2: Cognitive Support Technology for Postsecondary Students with ASD

      Phillip Rumrill, Director of Research and Training
      Human Development Institute, University of Kentucky

      Timothy Riesen, Director of Research and Training
      Institute for Disability Research, Policy, and Practice, Utah State University

      D. George Strauser, Doctoral Student
      Department of Kinesiology and Community Health, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

      With more than 5.4 million adults in the U.S. are on the autism spectrum (ASD), the number of students with ASD enrolling in colleges and universities has increased by 800% since 1980. Students with ASD report problems with academic demands and dissatisfaction with campus life at higher rates than other students. Project Next, a two-group randomized clinical trial, provides those postsecondary education students with ASD in the full treatment group received a customized vocational case management intervention that provided them with cognitive support technology and other means of assistance as they worked toward their degree. This presentation will describe the intervention in detail and comparison between the full treatment group and the control group.

      Location: Illinois Ballroom A

      Breakout Session 3: Postschool Employment Experiences of Young Adults with Down Syndrome and Their Caregivers

      Marie Moore Channell, Associate Professor
      Department of Speech and Hearing Science, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

      Adults with (versus without) Down syndrome often have worse postschool employment outcomes. To better understand employment among individuals with Down syndrome, this mixed-methods study reports immediate post-high school employment outcomes for 101 young adults with Down syndrome. Caregivers reported on the nature of their young adult’s employment; caregivers also reported their satisfaction and their young adult’s satisfaction with their vocational activities. Of the 53% of young adults who were employed, 69% were in a community-based setting. The majority reported jobs that involved cleaning tasks in restaurants or stores. Multiple themes emerged related to caregiver and young adult satisfaction (e.g., presence of natural supports) and dissatisfaction (e.g., poor job fit; few opportunities for work; long waiting lists).

      Location: Alma Matar

      Breakout Session 4: Leveraging Community Partnerships: Creating a Seamless Transition at a Postsecondary Setting (Community College)

      Ray Baker, Transition Specialist
      Justin Ladas, Transition Specialist
      Hinsdale High School District 86

      An emerging area in transition-focused programming for local education agencies is supporting young adults with their post-secondary education outcomes in accessing college, specifically at their local community colleges. It takes a village to help students in their next big educational step. Learn about how one Illinois district has effectively created a program that not only supports students in accessing credited college courses, but has partnered with the college and community agencies to provide supports during and after district programming to increase student educational outcomes.

      Location: Illinois Ballroom B/C

      2:55-3:05 p.m. Break

      3:05-4:05 p.m. Breakout Sessions

      Breakout Session 1: The Black Box of Interagency Collaboration: Reconceptualizing Interagency Collaboration Research

      D. George Strauser, Doctoral Student
      John Kosciulek, Professor
      Department of Kinesiology and Community Health at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

      Strong federal funding and legislative incentives exist to implement collaborative employment-focused transition services. However, there are challenges to collaboration between schools and the state-federal vocational rehabilitation system in providing employment-focused transition services to young adults with disabilities. Research on interagency collaboration guided by collaboration theory will provide data useful for designing and implementing high-quality school and state-federal vocational rehabilitation system collaboration in the provision of transition services for high school students with disabilities.

      Location: Alma Matar

      Breakout Session 2: Transition Practices to Develop Soft Skills for Youth with Disabilities

      Rasha Elhage, Associate Professor
      Department of Advanced Studies, Chicago State University

      This presentation aims to empower professionals by providing practical strategies to develop necessary soft skills for youths' success in postsecondary education and/or employment. Strategies shared in this presentation will not only benefit the students but also contribute positively to the workforce, the community, and the overall youth productivity.

      Location: Illinois Ballroom A

      Breakout Session 3: Huskies BELONG: Results and Lessons Learned from a Yearlong Transition Program

      Bryan Dallas, Associate Professor
      College of Health and Human Sciences, Northern Illinois University

      Becky Griffith, STEAM Educator
      NIU STEAM, Northern Illinois University

      Mary Miller, Huskies BELONG Graduate Assistant
      Northern Illinois University

      The Huskies Building Effective Learning Opportunities and Network Guidance (Huskies BELONG) program is a one-year college immersion experience at Northern Illinois University that began in 2023. Huskies BELONG (HB) serves Illinois high school students with disabilities (SWDs), entering their senior year. The program is designed to help SWDs’ transition to 4-year degrees, with an emphasis on STEAM majors (i.e., science, technology, engineering, arts, math). Program participants entered the program with a spring orientation, followed by a 5-day summer residential immersion program. In the fall, participants were offered an opportunity to complete an Essential Employability Skills (EES) online course, participate in NIU STEM Fest, and work with the HB team to apply to the postsecondary institution of their choice.

      Location: Humanities

      Breakout Session 4: Transition Planning Meetings: Student-Centered, Structured, and Data-Driven

      Amy Engstrom, Licensed Clinical Social Worker
      Erica Paulsen, Transition Specialist

      Katharine Trier, Learning Coordinator
      True North Educational Cooperative District 804

      Success looks different for everyone. In the disability community, educators, students, and families begin to plan for that success at the age of 14.5. But what does successful planning look like? How do educators implement a process to ensure that all stakeholders collaborate effectively to meet the transition outcomes as defined in an individual’s IEP? TrueNorth Educational Cooperative Transition Services Team has successfully implemented student-centered transition planning meetings that embed data-driven conversations leading to successful post-school outcomes. Presenters will share recommended guidance and considerations for implementing your own Transition Planning meetings in order to remain student-centered, structured, and data-driven.

      Location: Illinois Ballroom B/C

      4:15-5:15 p.m. ICTW Showcase and Reception

      Join us for the last hour of the day to decompress and mingle with fellow transition professionals! Browse our showcase exhibits to learn about ongoing ICTW Targeted Technical Assistance projects and Regional Board activities. Light refreshments will be provided with optional premium beverages at our cash bar. 

      Location: Illinois Ballroom


            Friday, April 26

            8:00-9:15 a.m. Pastries and Posters

            Grab a drink and a breakfast treat as you wander through this year's poster sessions as we ease into the second day of the symposium. You'll have the opportunity to interact with presenters and fellow participants while learning about innovative research and ideas on a diverse range of topics. Coffee, tea, water, and pastries will be available. 

            Location: Illinois Ballroom


            • Creating an Effective Summer Work Program for Students with Emotional/Behavioral Disabilities, Jennifer Shaw
            • Illinois Career Assessment Battery: Applications, Utilization, Outcomes, and Implications for Transition Assessment, David Strauser and Michele Schutz
            • Examining the Impact of Postsecondary Education on Employment Outcomes, Phillip Rumrill and D. George Strauser
            • Fostering Career Interest and Goal Persistence: Lessons Learned from Student Veteran Transition, Chung-Yi Chiu and Kortney Wilcher
            • The Critical Role of Work Personality in Preparing Disabled Youth for Employment, David Strauser and Michele Schutz
            • Outcomes of a Disability-Centered Approach to Employment, Lauren Hooberman, Christina McGleam, and Clarissa Stanhope
            • Importance of Volunteering Opportunities for Students with Significant Disabilities, Laura Rothamer
            • Building Capacity for Summer Employment, Melanie Phelan
            • Supporting Students with Significant Disabilities During Community-Based Work Experiences: The Role of the Paraprofessional, Hannah R. Brenner
            • Establishing Policies, Procedures, and Partnership Agreements for School to Work Programs, Jane Collins and Melanie Phelan
            • Prevalence and Experiences of Autistic Microaggressions in the Workplace, Kari Sherwood and Matthew J. Smith
            • Exemplary Practices When Employing Persons With Disabilities: A Discussion With Employers, D. George Strauser, and David R. Strauser
            •  Subminimum Wage to Competitive Integrated Employment Evaluation of Interagency Collaboration in Illinois, D. George Strauser, Bryan Austin, John Kosciulek, and Stuart Rumrill
            • SWTCIE Illinois Logic Model—From Subminimum Wage to Competitive Integrated Employment for Illinoisians with Disabilities: An Innovative & Collaborative Project Partnership (SWTCIE Illinois), Bryan S. Austin, John F. Kosciulek, Stuart Rumrill, and David G. Strauser
            • ’What Do You Do?’ Identity, Well-Being, and the Centrality of Work, Stuart Rumrill
            • Results From a Nationwide Learning Community to Enhance the Accessibility and Success of Apprenticeships, Stuart Rumrill, Bryan Austin, and Jim Knauf
            • Illinois Work and Well-Being Vocational Rehabilitation Career Counseling Competency Model, Bryan S. Austin, and John F. Kosciulek

            9:15-9:30 a.m. Break

            9:30-10:45 a.m. Panel Presentation: Employer Perspectives on School-Business Partnerships

            Brittany Hyde, Disability Inclusion Coordinator
            Anixter Center, University of Chicago Medicine

            Anthony Matteucci, Manager, Global Talent Acquisition
            G&W Electric, Bolingbrook

            Carrie Elliot, Human Resource Manager 
            Hy-Vee, Bloomington IL

            Katy Tilley, Team Lead, Workplace Operations 
            Rivian, Normal IL

            Employers from various business sectors and locations throughout Illinois will share how they have partnered with schools to offer work-based learning experiences for students with disabilities. Learn about their successes, challenges, and recommendations for maintaining successful school-business partnerships!

            Location: Illinois Ballroom

            10:45-11:00 a.m. Break

            Coffee, tea, and water will be available.

            11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Breakout Sessions

            Breakout Session 1: Initial Efficacy of WorkChat: A Virtual Workday

            Kari Sherwood, Doctoral Student
            Social Work and Developmental Psychology, University of Michigan

            Workplace conversations may be challenging for autistic transition-age youth who may use more direct communication styles or commonly experience social anxiety. Notably, the field lacks evidence-based practices to support workplace conversations. We partnered with autism community to develop “WorkChat: A Virtual Workday.” WorkChat is a safe virtual space where trainees practice talking with virtual customers, coworkers, and supervisors (depicted by actors) with varying personalities and needs. We evaluated whether autistic participants using WorkChat had stronger outcomes than autistic participants who did not use WorkChat. Our results suggest that those who engaged with WorkChat had improvements in their ability to manage their emotions and had lower levels of social anxiety compared to those who did not engage with WorkChat.

            Location: Alma Matar

            Breakout Session 2: Competencies for Job Coaches Who Provide Workplace Supports to Individuals with Disabilities

            Timothy Riesen, Director of Research and Training
            Institute for Disability Research, Policy, and Practice, Utah State University

            Providing on the job-supports to individuals with disabilities requires job coaches to have nuanced knowledge and skills. This session will review 25 knowledge and 12 skill competencies that have been identified for job coaches who provide workplace support to individuals with disabilities.  Each knowledge and skill competency is designed to help job coaches understand and develop the skills to (a) work with employers and employees in competitive integrated employment, (b) conduct job analysis, (c), implement systematic instruction, and (d) develop workplace accommodations and assistive technology in the workplace. Information about the stages of competence (novice, competent, and expert) and ways to document competency will be discussed.

            Location: Illinois Ballroom A

            Breakout Session 3: Strategies to Engage Youths with Intellectual Developmental Disabilities in Careers in Technology

            Sara Park, University of Wisconsin-Madison

            Marcus Weathers, University of Wisconsin-Madison

            Kate Xu, University of Wisconsin-Madison

            The Technology Early Career Preparation Intervention (TECH-Prep) is focused on increasing the participation of youths of color with IDD in careers in technology. The goals of the TECH-Prep program are to increase students’ technology career interests, self-efficacy, outcome expectancy, goal persistence, and positive post-school outcomes. The present study assesses the initial impact of the program via qualitative methods on a small sample of former participants (n=4). Results indicate that the TECH-Prep program had a meaningful impact on youths’ career direction and engagement. The results also support the importance of work readiness skills training, paid work experience, peer support, and community engagement in developing career interests and completing VR services.

            Location: Humanities

            Breakout Session 4: Establishing Community Work-Based Learning Experiences from the Employer Perspective

            Dawn Sheppelman, Vocational Coordinator
            Eugene Field Transition Program, McLean County Unit 5

            Jane Collins, Former Principal
            Eugene Field Transition Program, McLean County Unit 5

            Work-Based Learning Experiences (WBLEs) provides students the opportunity to learn through work. They provide opportunities for students to apply skills learned in the classroom to practical real-life work environments. This presentation will highlight the journey between the Vocational Transition Assistance Program, McLean County Unit 5 Schools, and local business partnerships in the Bloomington/Normal area.

            Location: Illinois Ballroom B/C