ERIC Identifier: ED363798
Publication Date: 1993-00-00
Author: Lankard, Bettina A.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Adult Career and Vocational Education Columbus OH.
Parents and the School-to-Work Transition of Special Needs Youth. ERIC Digest.
The school-to-work transition of the nation's youth has been a major focus of
vocational education efforts for the past decade. Educators help students
identify their interests and abilities, engage in career education and career
development activities, and develop individual education plans. Although these
activities are significant, their comprehensiveness and effectiveness are
limited by staff and time. "The ratio of students to counselors in public high
schools is almost 300 to 1; and school guidance counselors are able to spend
less than one hour of every five on career counseling" (Otto 1989, p. 161). Add
to this the unique and complicated counseling needs of students with
disabilities and it becomes apparent that other actors, primarily parents, must
be included in the school-to-work transition of youth.
Will defines transition as "an outcome-oriented process encompassing a broad
array of services and experiences that lead to employment" (Friedenberg et al.
1993, p. 235). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1990
defines transition services as "a coordinated set of activities for a student,
designed within an outcome-oriented process, which promotes movement from school
to post-school activities, including postsecondary education, vocational
training, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and
adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation"
(ibid.). This ERIC DIGEST looks at the challenges of effecting successful
transitions, particularly for students with disabilities, and parents' roles in
the transition process.
CONDITIONS THAT NECESSITATE TRANSITION SERVICES
Part of the
dilemma faced by students at the turn of this century is the changing
occupational scene: countless occupational possibilities and a wide variety of
career preparation options. Students, educators, and parents have difficulty
keeping abreast of new and emerging occupations as well as those that have
become obsolete. For students with disabilities, the challenge of career
selection and work preparation is even greater. These youth and their parents
must be knowledgeable about vocational opportunities and program requirements as
well as the community services and other benefits available to them by law.
LAWS THAT MANDATE TRANSITION ASSISTANCE
has mandated certain policies to ensure transition assistance for students with
disabilities. The IDEA promotes the development of the "Individualized
Transition Plan for students 14 years of age and older, which focuses on
community-referenced learning, to help prepare students for adult roles in their
communities" (Smith and Lauritzen 1992-93, p. 16). The Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA) applies "'a new access doctrine' to all aspects of the
lives of individuals with disabilities, not just the school years" (ibid.). This
act represents a commitment to students with disabilities to provide for them
"the fullest opportunity, and support to fulfill the typical roles in society." Although these laws provide direction, all stakeholders in the education of
students with disabilities must be knowledgeable about them, monitoring their
interpretation and implementation in the community.
PARENTS' DESIRE FOR INVOLVEMENT
delineates parental involvement at various points during transition: P.L.
94-142, which "mandates that assessment information be gathered from a variety
of sources, including parents" (ibid., p. 140) and P.L. 98-524, which "requires
provision of counseling services designed to facilitate transitions from school
to post-school employment and career opportunities" (ibid., p. 141). Research
shows, however, that parents have little involvement in transition planning,
despite the fact that they have a critical role to play and a major interest in
assuming that role (McNair and Rusch 1990). A survey of 200 families of students
with disabilities found that parents were significantly less involved in
transition programs than they desired (ibid., p. 10):
70 percent desired involvement, whereas slightly more than 30 percent
more parents desired to have an equal part in decision making than were given
12 percent indicated no involvement experience with the transition team, less
than 2 percent indicated that they desired no involvement.
wanted to be involved in finding job placements and community living
arrangements more often than they had the opportunity to do so.
"Lack of parent participation and involvement may be detrimental to the
achievement of successful transition outcomes" (Johnson and Rusch 1993, p. 6).
MULTIDISCIPLINARY TEAMS FOR TRANSITION PLANNING
that many parents are left out of the transition planning process for their
children with disabilities. Multidisciplinary transition planning teams--whose
core members include parent(s) or guardian, along with the teacher, student, and
a staff member appointed to coordinate the transition planning process--are one
way of bringing parents into the mainstream of the transition process (O'Neill
et al. 1990). The benefit of having parents serve on interdisciplinary teams is
that they can help teachers pinpoint the specific skills needed by their
children. They can also offer their perspectives on the effectiveness of the
delivery system given their experience with it. The testimony of parents and
consumers regarding benefits and pitfalls of the system provide valuable insight
to parents with less experience and to other members of the team. Izzo and
Shumate (1991) cite the following rationale for involving parents in the
know their children better than anyone else, thus they can serve as critical
resources in planning.
can be extremely effective in maintaining continuity of training and of purpose.
can act as system advocates, often facilitating changes professionals desire but
are constrained to accomplish.
can act as role models/teachers, instilling positive learning that makes job
success for their children more likely.
can act as community supporters and messengers to the community about positive
can act as service coordinators, thus ensuring more effective and positive
as nurturers/caretakers provide support and encouragement that complement
Interagency teams empower parents to stay involved by providing them with
leadership training and encouraging them to share what they have learned with
other parents. Everson et al. (1992) found that interagency teams that included
parents as decision makers and co-members were "more effective in stimulating
service delivery change at the individual, local, regional, and state levels"
Some of the activities in which parents can engage to support their
children's transitions include organizing to ensure political pressure and
compliance with the law, sharing information on the ADA, monitoring the hiring
practices of employers, ensuring access to public accommodations, and filing
formal complaints if necessary (Smith and Lauritzen 1992-93). Parents should
also be active in collaborating on school curriculum to ensure that their
children will have appropriate options available to them when they leave school.
O'Neill et al. (1990) present the following recommendations:
Parents should share information with school personnel about student and family
needs, activities, and goals.
Parents should participate in selecting goals, the kinds of learning experiences
their children will have, and the kinds of skills they will be taught.
Parents should participate with school personnel in exploring post-school
Parents may need to work with professionals and/or other parents to develop more
appropriate options when service gaps exist.
COLLABORATIVE CONSULTATION FOR PROBLEM SOLVING
transition planning is enhanced by the combined efforts of multidisciplinary and
interagency teams, collaborative consultation is effective in solving problems
parents and students encounter in making school and work transitions.
Collaborative consultation is a "model in which the teacher-consultant and the
parent-consultee cooperatively solve problems through their shared expertise"
(Elksnin and Elksnin 1990, p. 2). In the collaborative consultation arrangement,
teachers and parents are co-equals recognizing the expertise each brings to the
planning. "Opportunities for implementing collaboration include consultation
sessions designed to inform parents of vocational opportunities, plan vocational
assessment and collect vocationally-relevant information, develop the vocational
component of the individualized education plan, and develop plans for
transitions from school to employment or postsecondary training" (ibid.). The
collaborative consultation process can help teachers and parents meet the
mandates of P.L. 94-142 and P.L. 98-524.
Motivation is the key factor driving parents to become involved in the
school-to-work transitions of their children with disabilities. The intense
desire many parents share--to help their children succeed in school, work, and
community living--is a powerful force prompting them to develop the skills they
need to coordinate programs and services for their children. Through a variety
of interactions with the many individuals involved in transitions, parents have
the potential to serve as a primary force in coordinating the activities
involved in effecting successful school-to-work transition.
Elksnin, L., and Elksnin, N. "Using
Collaborative Consultation with Parents to Promote Effective Vocational
Programming." CAREER DEVELOPMENT FOR EXCEPTIONAL INDIVIDUALS 13, no. 1 (Fall
Everson, J. M.; Rachal, P.; and Michael, M. G. INTERAGENCY COLLABORATION FOR YOUNG ADULTS WITH DEAF-BLINDNESS: TOWARD A COMMON TRANSITION GOAL. Sands Point, NY: Technical Assistance Center, Helen Keller National Center, 1992. (ED 345 456)
Friedenberg, J. E.; Izzo, M. V.; and Cartledge, G. SERVING VOCATIONAL STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES: A VOCATIONAL AND SPECIAL EDUCATION CURRICULUM FOR INFUSION. Columbus: Center on Education and Training for Employment, The Ohio State University, 1993.
Izzo, M. V., and Shumate, K. NETWORK FOR EFFECTIVE TRANSITIONS TO WORK: A TRANSITION COORDINATOR'S HANDBOOK. Columbus: Center on Education and Training for Employment, The Ohio State University, 1991. (ED 332 033)
Johnson, J. R., and Rusch, F. R. "Secondary Special Education and Transition
Services." CAREER DEVELOPMENT FOR EXCEPTIONAL INDIVIDUALS 16, no. 1 (Spring
McNair, J., and Rusch, F. R. "Parent Involvement in Transition Programs." In
RESEARCH IN SECONDARY SPECIAL EDUCATION AND TRANSITIONAL EMPLOYMENT, compiled by
F. R. Rusch. Champaign: University of Illinois, 1990. (ED 331 228)
O'Neill, J.; Gothelef, C.; Choen, S.; Lehman, L.; and Woolf, S. A CURRICULUM APPROACH TO SUPPORT THE TRANSITION TO ADULTHOOD OF ADOLESCENTS WITH VISUAL OR DUAL SENSORY IMPAIRMENTS AND COGNITIVE DISABILITIES. New York: Hunter College of the City University of New York, 1990.
Otto, L. B. HOW TO HELP YOUR CHILD CHOOSE A CAREER. Tallahassee: Florida
Department of Education, 1989. (ED 336 506)
Smith, P. M., and Lauritzen, A. M. "Claiming the Promise: Parents and the
ADA." IMPACT 5, no. 4 (Winter 1992-93): 16.