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New Ideas for Planning Transitions to the Adult World
Research Connections
Spring 2000

Views From the Field


The NMSTCC is a perfect demonstration of how shared leadership, shared resources, shared commitment, and dedication ensure the successful transition of students with disabilities into an adult world.

Carol Brito
Transition Coordinator,
New Mexico State Department
of Education

The following perspectives show how transition planning may be enhanced.


Self-determination is broadly defined as the ability of individuals to control their lives, to achieve self-defined goals and to participate fully in society. "Self-determination instruction during the elementary, middle, and secondary transition years prepares all students for a more satisfying and fulfilling adult life," explains Michael Ward at the Center on Self-Determination at Oregon Health Sciences University. "Our focus is to promote the sharing, development, and application of knowledge on the expression of self-determination by individuals, families, and communities."

One of the Center's activities is coordinating the Alliance for Self-Determination, a national partnership of organizations representing a broad range of efforts and constituencies. The Alliance grew out of an OSEP project but now is supported by Alliance members. The Alliance aims to build and support leadership among researchers, policy makers, advocates, and funders. According to Ward, the Alliance has four principles:

  • Self-determination is essential to personal freedom, citizenship, self-sufficiency, and full participation in family and society.
  • Access to information, the physical environment, employment, and other typical life opportunities are critical to the expression of self-determination.
  • Self-determination should be promoted across the life span within the culture and ethnicity of the individual, family, and community.
  • Implementation of self-determination practices requires society to support the capacities of all individuals to speak and care for themselves.
The Center for Self-Determination also carries out other projects. For example, with OSEP support, Laurie Powers, researcher and program developer at the Center, has been studying an outreach model to promote transition planning involvement of youth with disabilities from diverse backgrounds. Components of the model include 
  • Coaching youth in self-direction skills.
  • Building the capacity of families to assist their sons and daughters in self-determination and transition planning.
  • Offering individual and group mentorship activities.
  • Providing information and support to school staff.

Collaboration Enhances Transition Planning

"In the 1990s, a number of OSEP-funded transition grants demonstrated coordination with relevant agencies, organizations, and state systems transitions projects," Ginger Blalock, Director of the Division of Education Specialties at the University of New Mexico, reports. "State-level transition teams can greatly enhance individual student team efforts."

For twelve years, Blalock has been involved with the New Mexico Statewide Transition Coordinating Council (NMSTCC)— state-level transition team focused on creating an infrastructure for communities to develop and improve transition services. "These councils are designed to open doors for interagency collaboration at the state level that is intended to enhance cooperation at the local level," Blalock explains.

During the first year, Council members studied rural and urban demonstration sites, and disseminated the information to local stakeholders in regional workshops during the second year. With the help of an OSEP grant in the third year, Blalock began looking at how to help higher education develop high quality transition training. As part of a state systems change grant in the fourth year, Blalock was tapped to help local education agencies with transition programming. Part of that work resulted in a Council-planned summer institute which responds to priority needs in transition. Although the grant is over, the state continues to fund the summer institute.

Blalock's experience has taught her that transition can be enhanced when all stakeholders-higher education, adult agencies, school districts, families, and youth-are involved at all levels. "The Council has made important state-level contributions to improving transition services in New Mexico."

Next: State Perspectives

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