Jessica Awsumb, Ph.D.
Research Assistmant Professor of Special Education; Research Associate, Transition Tennessee
Overview of Interests
Dr. Awsumb's work focuses on (1) the importance of preparing youth with disabilities for meaningful community participation and (2) addressing individual and systemic factors that lead to successful or unsuccessful adulthood outcomes for youth with disabilities. Her main research interests surround the successful transition of youth with disabilities from secondary school to employment, postsecondary education, and independent living. She is the principal investigator of two research projects focused on improving the adulthood outcomes of transition-age youth. The first project is the Transition Tennessee Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) initiative with the goal to increase quality employment outcomes for youth with disabilities across our State. In this project, staff provide professional development, training, and resources for agency personnel delivering Pre-ETS to students with disabilities. Additionally, they design interactive activities and resources for students and families to learn about life after high school. The second project is a Rehabilitation Research and Training Center examining the effects of paid work during high school on the post-school employment outcomes of youth with an intellectual disability, autism, and multiple disabilities. In this randomized control trial, project staff support intervention triads of a student, their parent, and their teacher in connecting the student to employment in their final year of high school, while ensuring each student has needed supports. Students are followed for one-year after high school to examine the employment outcomes of intervention students versus their peers receiving traditional school-based transition services. The transition from high school to adulthood is one that must prepare the whole person to engage in decision-making for their life and become more independent/interdependent.