Publications by Topic

NCWD/Youth has an array of briefs, background papers, guides, manuals, and other materials to address issues for youth with and without disabilities, youth service professionals, workforce development professionals, policymakers, and many more. We invite you to look around our various topic areas to find specific information and to come back often as we are constantly releasing new research-based findings on ways that programs and systems can be improved to adequately support youth with and without disabilities.


To successfully make the transition from school to adult life and the world of work, adolescents and young adults need guidance and encouragement from caring, supportive adults. The best decisions and choices made by transitioning youth are based on sound information including appropriate assessments that focus on the talents, knowledge, skills, interests, values, and aptitudes of each individual.

Disability Disclosure

Disclosure is a very personal decision, a decision that takes thought and practice. Both young people with visible disabilities and those with hidden (not readily apparent to others) disabilities can benefit from accurate information on disclosure. The following information for young people, families, and youth service professionals assists in determining appropriate methods of disclosure.


Too often youth with and without disabilities do not receive the appropriate education promised to them. The following information is available to assist you in determining ways that you can have an effect on the educational system and can support young people with their educational goals.


This section provides information for organizations working with youth and policy makers on career exploration, employment options, and research-based best practices for transition youth to adulthood and the world of work.


Entrepreneurship is the process of finding and evaluating opportunities and risks, and developing and executing plans for translating those opportunities into financial self-sufficiency. Participating in entrepreneurial education and training programs can help youth prepare for transition to adulthood and explore self employment options as a means to become self sufficient.


Youth with disabilities face many challenges as they move from secondary education to community participation. Families play a vital role in supporting youth during this transition, often functioning as a youth’s first, most knowledgeable and most consistent “case managers,” who not only assist with service coordination and career exploration, but also provide transportation, housing, and other supports. The following information for family members assists in determining appropriate supports that families can provide.

Foster Care

The youth involved in the foster care system are one of the most vulnerable populations in our society. Of the more than 500,000 children in foster care, 30 to 40% are also in special education. But this number does not capture all youth with disabilities in the foster care system. One study estimated that between 20 to 60% of young children entering foster care have a developmental disability or delay. The following information provides youth service professionals and foster care program administrators with the information they need to understand best practices in the field and policy recommendations to improve the transition outcomes for youth with disabilities in the foster care system.


The Guideposts for Success are what research tells us all youth, including youth with disabilities, need to succeed. Guideposts have also been developed which focus on the needs of youth, including those with disabilities, within specific vulnerable populations.

High School/High Tech

The High School/High Tech (HS/HT) program, one of the most promising comprehensive models for preparing youth with disabilities to explore careers in math, science, and technology effectively links youth with disabilities to a broad range of academic, career development, and experiential resources and experiences that will enable them to successfully meet the workforce demands of the 21st century.

Individualized Learning Plan

An individualized learning plan is a tool that high school students use – with support from school counselors and parents – to define their personal interests and goals related to their career and postsecondary education and to plan what courses to take and what activities to participate in during high school to further their interests and achieve their goals.

Innovative Strategies

Innovative Strategies is an online database of promising programs and practices in the workforce development system that effectively address the needs of youth with disabilities.

Juvenile Justice

There is a growing recognition that youth involved in the juvenile corrections system represent on of the most vulnerable populations in our country. It is a harsh fact that youth with disabilities are overrepresented in the juvenile corrections population, as well as in all other categories of high risk youth. The following provides information on facts and statistics, areas requiring attention by policymakers and service providers, and resources to assist cross-system collaborative efforts to assist youth with disabilities in the juvenile corrections system.

Learning Disabilities

Youth and young adults with learning disabilities are overrepresented in a wide array of government-supported programs including adult education, vocational rehabilitation, welfare, corrections, and others. Many young people may not even be aware that they have a learning disability, although they may know that they have not done as well as many of their peers. This information is intended to help youth service professionals better understand issues related to learning disabilities so that they can help youth with learning disabilities develop individual strategies that will enable them to succeed in the workplace. NCWD-Youth addresses the needs of youth with learning disabilities from a “disability rights” perspective—a model that concentrates less on remediation and more on skill acquisition through accommodated approaches.


No one piece of legislation defines government services to youth with disabilities or for that matter, any youth. Instead, there are a number of laws and policies that impact the lives of youth with disabilities. The following provides you with information on various laws and policies, and how they have an affect on youth with disabilities and the workforce development system.

Mental Health Needs

Youth with mental health needs often face unemployment, underemployment, and discrimination when they enter the workforce. Employment data show that individuals with serious mental illness have the lowest level of employment of any group of people with disabilities. The following provides practical information and resources for youth service practitioners. In addition, it provides policymakers, from the program to the state level, with information to help them address system and policy obstacles in order to improve service delivery systems for youth with mental health needs.


Mentoring is recognized as one of the most important strategies for assisting youth in making a positive transition to adulthood. Both caring adults and peers may play a key role in mentoring. Despite all of the information available on mentoring, there is very little about mentoring youth with disabilities or about career-focused mentoring of older youth. The following information provides you with the knowledge of how to create your own mentoring programs and how you can use mentoring to facilitate positive transition outcomes for youth with disabilities.

Performance Measures

Performance measures can be used to meet a variety of youth program goals and gauge program success or failure. Performance can be measured in many different ways, with varying definitions and methodologies. The following information provides background and guidance on the use of performance measurement systems and recommendations for adjusting performance and providing incentives to encourage services to disadvantaged adults and youth and other hard-to-serve target populations.

Professional Development

To make the transition from school to adult life and the world of work, adolescents and young adults need support from caring competent adults. Youth service professionals (adults who work directly with youth) require a mix of competencies from the youth development, education, workforce development, and disability fields. Research shows the professional development of staff (attaining skills and knowledge through training or experience) leads to better practice with youth, improves program quality, and increases positive youth outcomes. The following provides you with knowledge of how to determine the types of professional development you may specifically require and how you can bring professional development to your organization.

Soft Skills

Soft skills are the skills, traits, work habits, and attitudes that all workers across all occupations need in order to obtain, maintain, and progress in employment. These include being dependable, punctual, adaptable, positive toward work, and appropriately dressed/groomed. Soft skills also refer to such attributes as the ability to get along with others, work in teams, attend to tasks, work independently, and take initiative. Soft skills help youth succeed not only in employment but also in postsecondary education/training and social situations. The following information describes soft skills in more detail and provides guidance on how to develop these important skills.

Specific Populations

While NCWD/Youth focuses on the supports and services that all youth, including youth with disabilities need in order to achieve self-sufficiency, we have also catered materials that are specific to various disabilities.


Transition from youth to adulthood is an awkward period in life; it presents challenges for almost every young person today. Youth with disabilities, indeed all vulnerable youth, may need extra supports throughout their transition period in order to make informed choices and become self-sufficient adults. This includes planning for postsecondary education and their careers. The following information is designed to assist you in understanding the various systems youth are involved in during the transition process and research-based programs and policies that have been found to be highly effective in assisting youth with disabilities through the process.

Transition Supports

While youth with and without disabilities travel through their transition years there are many road blocks and challenges that arise. The following information is available to assist you in determining the appropriate supports available to youth with disabilities and how you can assist them in traveling through the system.

Universal Design

As public and private workforce development systems strive to meet the diverse needs of their business and career seeking customers, including individuals experiencing barriers to employment, personnel working within these systems need a clear understanding of how to design programs, services, and activities that provide genuine, effective, and meaningful opportunities for all. Universal design is a proactive approach to establishing simple, flexible, and efficient programs and services. With universal design, providers can anticipate diverse career seeker and business needs from the outset of planning, rather than later incurring retrofitting costs.

Workforce Development

The term workforce development system encompasses organizations at the national, state, and local levels that have direct responsibility for planning, allocating resources (both public and private), providing administrative oversight and operating programs to assist individuals and employers in obtaining education, training, job placement, and job recruitment. Included in this broad network are several federal agencies charged with providing specific education and/or training support. At the state and local levels the network includes state and local workforce investment boards, state and local career and technical education and adult education agencies, vocational rehabilitation agencies, recognized apprenticeship programs, state employment and unemployment services agencies, state and local welfare agencies, and/or sub-units of these entities. The following information is available to provide you with the skills that are needed in order to navigate the workforce development system and understand the legislation that surrounds it.

Youth Development and Leadership

All effective youth programs have youth development at their core. Effective youth leadership programs build on solid youth development principles, with an emphasis on those areas of development and program components that support youth leadership. Research shows that youth development and leadership are important components of effective youth programming. These findings are reflected in the Workforce Investment Act’s emphasis on effective youth practices such as adult mentoring and activities related to leadership, development, decision-making, citizenship, and community service. Adult mentoring and leadership development opportunities such as community service and peer-centered activities during non-school hours are, in fact, two of the ten WIA-required program elements. The following information is available to assist you in determining ways that you can incorporate youth development and leadership further into your programs and hear from young people with and without disabilities on their ideas on how it can be accomplished.

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