IEP’s And Career Planning

I was going to go right into how our school transitioned 8th grade IEP’s into a high school IEP, but thought it might be a good idea to talk about career planning. I have mentioned that I have more than 25 years in corporate america and most of it in Human Resources. In that time I interviewed thousands of applicants and counseled employees about their career plans. The applicants that were hired, and the employees that were promoted in their careers, demonstrated a clearly communicated career plan and backed this up with related skills and appropriate experience. Those that didn’t weren’t hired.

Parents can help this process by honestly making an assessment of their child’s strengths and weaknesses and by taking the time to research requirements for individual careers. I wanted to build houses, had knowledge, skill and experience (thanks to my father, grandfather and uncles), but my father pushed me into college. It wasn’t that he thought that building houses was a bad choice, but my father thought that a college education would provide me with more opportunities. Although things worked out very well for me, it would have been great if someone would have taken the time to talk to me about why I wanted to build houses and also learn that I liked to draw plans for houses. Perhaps suggesting a career in architecture might have been a great suggestion.

In the 7th grade and 8th grade IEP meetings with the mother of one of my former students, she told us that her son was going to become a lawyer. When we discussed his strengths and weaknesses and selected appropriate classes, she was oblivious of the fact that he was reading below a third grade level. Reading and writing were on-going problems throughout elementary school and his state test scores always showed a pattern of extremely low English / Language Arts scores and very strong Math skills.

When I pointed out this information and explained that lawyers need strong skills in reading and writing, she accused me of trying to destroy his dreams. Since I met with all of my students and discussed their career plans, I knew that he wasn’t interested in becoming a lawyer. The point I am making is that parents need to be realistic about their child’s interests, knowledge and skills.

Career choices begin much earlier than just ten years ago. As a middle school counselor in Gloucester County, NJ, I watched the county vocational school evolve into a program that used an high school curriculum to assist students in improving their chances of entering a career in the medical, engineering, business and computer fields. These became the featured programs that attracted the top students from all of the eight grade programs in the county and the number of vocational training slots were decreased. The number of spots for students with IEP’s also disappeared.

The high schools in our county responded by developing STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math)  programs to retain their top students. The goal of most public high schools is to provide academic programs to prepare students for college, Most of the shops and home economic programs have been eliminated. The picture I am painting is one that does very little to assist students with IEP’s develop a viable career unless they fit into the all students should go to college mold.

Students in Gloucester County, NJ are applying for these top programs during 8th grade for programs that will start in high school. Since their attendance, grades, type and level of classes and state test scores from 7th grade (along with 1st marking period 8th grade results and possibly 6th grade results) are used as selection criteria, the need for early career planning is clearly necessary. What is the plan for students that are not competitive in this process? When should career planning start for those students? What is the role of the IEP in career planning?

The above comments and assertions require a great deal of additional information and planning. Rather than going into this with this blog, I am going back to my plan of 8th grade IEP transitions and progress from there. But please, start to think about career planning with your children and include them in the discussion as early as you believe that they can participate.


The ramp Bills are at it again. Another ramp in Alloway, NJ. Thank you Habitat and Bill Kleinegger and Bill Nelson.

Program Description

Provides free handicapped ramps for disabled seniors especially for low income and fixed income seniors.

Free wheelchair ramps are built with the help of volunteers.

Before a wheelchair ramp can be built a site visit is made by the “Habitat for Safe Seniors Free Ramp” Program to assess the senior’s home environment and detailed need for injury and fall prevention.

The “Habitat for Safe Seniors Free Ramp” Program also estimates the financial cost of material, labor, and equipment required to install the free ramp. 

After the free wheelchair ramp is installed it allows seniors to live more independently in their own home and can prevent accidents and falls thereby helping elderly to maintain a higher quality of life for a longer period of time.

Ramps are crucial for elderly home safety so that in the case of emergency elderly are able to exit the home quickly and safely.

Some of the reported benefits of free ramps installed for the elderly include: 

-Seniors taking more trips to get medical care such as doctor’s visits and dialysis treatments
-Seniors having increased mobility and more choice in daily activities
-Seniors reconnecting with their friends and communities
-Seniors accessing social service programs
-Seniors being supported to age in place and stay in their own communities rather than having to make a decision of moving into costly assisted living facilities
-Ramps are crucial in the case of emergencies so that elderly and emergency  personnel are able to enter and exit the home quickly and safely

The “Habitat for Safe Seniors Free Ramp” Program falls under the “Home Safety and Repair” Program which provides:

Free home repair assistance for seniors such as adding a step, fixing a handrail, stabilizing loose banisters, and replacing rotted landings, plumbing repairs and more.

In addition to proving free ramps and home modifications the “Habitat for Safe Seniors” organization also hosts the following elderly nutrition programs:

Elderly Nutrition and Food Delivery Program which delivers perishable and non-perishable food to seniors through volunteer deliveries.
-Emergency Food Pantry which provides food for seniors in need.


Habitat for Humanity Critical Home Repair Program – Across the USA. Habitat for Humanity provides subsidized critical home repairs and modifications for seniors to allow them to age in place and for those with disability or low income circumstances. A “Brush with Kindness” Program for exterior home beautification and the “Repair Corps for Veterans” Program is also featured.

Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) – Across the USA. Federal program providing weatherization assistance to homeowners with the result of lower energy bills and energy use. US Department of Energy.

How to Build Wheelchair Ramps for Homes Program – Available online.
A manual, DVD video and specifications on how to design and build wheelchair ramps for senior and the handicapped.

Rebuilding Together Safe at Home Modification and Repair Program – Across the USA.Provides critical free home repairs, home modifications and home improvements for low-income seniors, adults and family homeowners.

Certified Aging in Place Specialist Program
 – Across the USA. Seniors who plan to stay in their homes as they age can call on a team of trusted aging in place specialists in construction, architecture, and interior design who are available to provide seniors with needed aging-in-place home modifications such as ramps to ensure ease of mobility and elderly home safety.

National Directory of Home Modification Repair Resources Program – Across the USA. A directory put together by the National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modification of hundreds of home modification contractors and assistance with repair resources. Gift Card Program – Available online. Gift card for seniors to make home repairs and modifications that they may need, but may be hesitant to pay for by themselves. Home modification and repair safety improvements may be made such as: bathroom bars, safety rails, wheelchair ramps, threshold ramps, walkers, motion sensors, security locks, powered chairs, lift Seats, motion sensor stair lights and much more.

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IEP’s & Back to School

Last night I attended my youngest grandson’s open house at his elementary school. That, combined with my recent retirement, and the fact that I will not be going back to start a new school year, has me thinking about what I would be doing. I was very fortunate to be able to retire and still enjoy my position as a guidance counselor. A wonderful way to end a career.

If I was going back to school as a guidance counselor, I would be reviewing the IEP’s and 504 plans of our new students. As a counselor in a 7th & 8th grade middle school, we had to transition the elementary students into a middle school environment and prepare our 8th grade students for their transition to high school. If you are a parent of either group, I hope you will take the time to review your child’s IEP and plan to meet with their teachers after they have had enough time to determine how accurate their IEP or 504 plan is  in the new setting.

In general, elementary students transitioning to a middle school environment will be expected to become more independent and the plans created in an elementary school setting may provide more support than is usually necessary at the next level. Middle school usually has more scheduling options and may allow placement options, based on the skill level in specific subjects, that range from advanced to those that are modified to accommodate specific learning or behavioral disabilities. Schools vary so it is important to ask specific questions about the classes and curriculum available.

Our school was able to create a master schedule that allowed the guidance counselor and the child study team to meet, when necessary during the year, and adjust schedules by moving specific subjects to the appropriate level without changing the entire schedule. This gave our team the ability to focus on a specific skill and the individual needs of a specific student and make minimal changes in their overall schedule. Our school was fortunate to make scheduling a priority and the master schedule was reviewed on an on-going basis to make improvements.

I also think it is important for parents to realize the specific requirements of each class; i.e., the specific accommodations made to the regular education curriculum; the pace of the individual class; and the amount of support provided by the teacher and or aide. For example, students with IEP’s that are not successful in the initial placement may be moved to a class that has made accommodations to the curriculum, pace and the amount of support provided. All of these accommodations may result in grades that rise significantly. I encourage parents to discuss the amount of accommodations made, how much the pace has changed in the new class, and how much additional support was required to obtain this higher level of success.

Honor roll grades in the new classes does not mean that the student is ready to move to a regular education classes without support or accommodations. The accommodations made in curriculum, pace and support may be the specific reason for the rise in grades. Ask specific questions about what would be required for the student to be successful at the next level rather than just insist that the student should move up because their grades have improved dramatically.

My next blog will focus on the transition to the high school environment and why a focus on potential careers becomes very important. In many states, students are applying to specific programs (STEM and vocational) that require an application in 8th grade. Grades, specific classes and their levels, state test scores and attendance levels form a rubric to determine admission. I believe that it is very important to start discussing careers with students long before they reach middle school.

September 2019 News Items

Looking forward to September 2019 and beyond:

Nominations for the 2019 Crusader Awards are due on 9/6/2019 to the Salem County Office on Aging and Disabilities, 110  Fifth Street, Suite 900, Salem, New Jersey 08079. We are looking for nominations of individuals that have had a positive impact on the lives of persons with disabilities within Salem County or disabled individuals that demonstrate a positive role model for others with a disability.

Our next meeting scheduled for Tuesday, September 10, 2019 at 4:30 pm.

Reason for a celebration:

Coach Lee Ware made a presentation from the Freeholder Board honoring Debbie Behnke for her years of service to the community. Debbie Behnke was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by Resources For Independent Living at the annual Autism Dinner Sat night. 3rd District Sen Steve Sweeney, Assemblyman John Burzichelli, Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro, 24th District Sen Steve Oroho, & Congressman Jeff VanDrew also provided resolutions.


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Salem County Office on Aging and Disabilities

I want to correct information from a previous post. The correct name is listed above. Over the years there have been changes and I referred back to older information that I had. If you have questions, please call (856) 339-8622. Anyone in the office can assist you.

If you would like to contact the office by mail, you can use is 110 Fifth Street, Suite 900, Salem, New Jersey 08079.

You can also visit them on their Facebook page wttps:// and I would encourage you to visit their page. I am attaching a sample of what is on the page, but please view the page to get updated information.

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Disability Awareness Day

Disability Awareness Day is scheduled for October 10, 2019 at the Riverview Inn located in Pennsville New Jersey. At the bottom of this post is a copy of the Crusader Award that our advisory board has created to high light the contributions of citizens, agencies and companies that are doing their best to improve the lives of our disabled citizens. If you would like to attend the event, please call the number below to register and please feel free to make a nomination. You can also be added to the Teleminder Message System by calling Betty Myers at that same number. The Teleminder Message System reaches roughly 1,300 residents to inform them of upcoming events.

Salem County Department of Health and Human Services
110 Fifth Street, Suite 900 Salem, NJ 08079
856-339-8622 856-451-1207 856-358-3857
Office Fax: 856-339-9268 Transportation Scheduling: 856-339-8644
The major criteria for selecting the award recipients will be the degree and durability of their positive impact on the
lives of persons with disabilities within the County of Salem.
The selection of recipients will be made by the Salem County Office on Aging & Disability Services Advisory Board
The Crusader Award will be awarded to an individual whose leadership and dedication have greatly improved the
services available to residents in the County of Salem with special needs. The nominee must be a resident of the
County of Salem or an individual whose energies are primarily directed towards improving the quality of services for
the persons with special needs within the County of Salem.
NOMINEE DEADLINE: September 6, 2019
NOMINEE SUBMISSION: Salem County Office on Aging & Disability
110 Fifth Street, Suite 900
Salem, NJ 08079
(856) 339-8622
Crusader Award
INSTRUCTIONS: Please submit this form together with a detailed statement describing the nominee’s contribution in
serving the special needs population within the County of Salem. For agencies or organizations include building
accessibility, or employment of persons with disabilities and any special equipment or services provided. For
individuals include names of organizations for which the nominee provided leadership, dedication or service, and
length of service.
Please attach any supporting information, such as newspaper articles, other awards, testimonials or historical data.
CONTACT PERSON(if business or organization):
TELEPHONE: (business) (work)
Nominator’s Name:
Title and Organization (if applicable):
What is your connection (if any) with the nominee?
Signature of Nominator: Date:
Please mail completed nomination forms to:
Salem County Office on Aging & Disabilities
110 Fifth Street, Suite 900
Salem, New Jersey 08079
Deadline: September 6, 2019