Planning Student-Directed Transitions to Adult Life
The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education (ERIC EC)
ERIC/OSEP Digest #E593
Authors: Cynthia Warger and Jane Burnette
Today, transition is seen as more than providing service routes in the individual's movement from high school to employment-it is seen as a comprehensive approach to educational program development consisting of an alignment of student goals with educational experiences and services.
Since the early 1980s, federal law has underscored the need for comprehensive transition planning and broadened its focus. The 1997 Reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines transition services as a coordinated set of activities for a student with a disability that:
IDEA also states that transition planning must be part of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) and begin at age 14. By age 16, the IEP should contain a statement of needed transition services for the child, including, when appropriate, a statement of interagency responsibilities or any needed linkages. Further, students must be invited to attend their IEP meetings if the purpose of the meeting will be to consider the student's transition service needs.
How can educators facilitate these new requirements- especially those that promote and strengthen the involvement of students with disabilities in decisions regarding their own futures? This digest describes how research is helping to inform practice around that programmatic issue.
Facilitating Student-Centered Transition Planning
IDEA '97 and its 1999 Regulations reflect a body of research of it supported by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP describes aspects of quality transition programs for students with disabilities. One of those key aspects is facilitating student-centered transition planning.
With OSEP support, Kohler (1998) organized the research literature, model projects, and exemplary programs on transition into a taxonomy of relevant practices. She found that student-focused planning was a necessary component in facilitating transition. Because the Individualized Education Program (IEP) is the planning vehicle for implementing the transition requirements specified in the IDEA, student participation in this process is essential. Specifically, students should be included in decisions related to post-school goals to ensure they are valued and attainable. As such, self-determination skills are considered to be fundamental to student participation in their own IEPs.
Practitioners should begin early to assist and guide students in developing appropriate education programs based on individual transition goals. With OSEP support, Martin et al. (in press) has studied skills students need to participate actively in their IEPs. These include:
Curricula are available to assist practitioners in helping students direct their IEPs (e.g., Martin et al., 1996).
Helping Students Participate in their IEP
With sufficient preparation and support, students can participate in their IEP process in various ways. The extent of participation will depend on their abilities and interests-for example, some students direct their own meeting, while others take a specific part to direct. Teachers experienced in involving their students in the IEP process have made the following suggestions (ERIC/OSEP Special Project, 2000):
These teachers believe that with sufficient preparation and support, students at all levels can actively participate in the IEP process. Teachers also have found that without preparation, students may not understand the language or the IEP process, and may feel as if other IEP team members have not listened to them. Teachers who have included students successfully note that they feel good about their participation, and they have a sense of accomplishment and empowerment as a result of their participation in the process.
ERIC/OSEP Special Project (Spring 2000). New ideas for planning transitions to the adult world. Research Connections in Special Education, Number 6. Reston, VA: author.
Field, S., Martin, J., Miller, R., Ward, M., & Wehmeyer, M. (1998). A practical guide for teaching self-determination. Reston, VA: The Council for Exceptional Children.
Kohler, P. (1998). Implementing a transition perspective of education. In F. Rusch & J. Chadsey (Eds.), Beyond high school: Transition from school to work (pp. 179-205). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.
Kohler, P., & Martin, J. (1998). Transition from school to life: A workshop series for educators and transition service providers. And, Transition from school to life: A complete course for special educators. Reston, VA: The Council for Exceptional Children.
Martin, J., Huber, L.H., & DePry, R.L. (in press). Participatory decision-making: Innovative practices that increase self-determination. In R. Flexer, T. Simmons, P. Luft, & R. Baer (Eds.), Planning transition across the lifespan. Columbus, OH: Merrill.
Martin, J., Marshall, L.H., Maxson, L. Jerman, P., Miller, T. McGill, T. & Hughes, W. (1996). Choicemaker curriculum. Longmont, CO: Sopris West Publishers.
West, L., Corbey, S., Boyer-Stephens, A., Jones, B., Miller, R., & Sarkees-Wircenski, M. (1999). Integrating transition planning into the IEP process (second edition). Reston, VA: The Council for Exceptional Children.
Web Sites Related to Transition
National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET)
National Transition Network
Transition Research Institute
Center for Self-Determination
ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education