ERIC Identifier: ED340147
Publication Date: 1991-05-00
Author: Pinkerton, Dianna
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Handicapped and Gifted Children Reston VA.
Preparing Children with Disabilities for School. ERIC Digest
"All disadvantaged and disabled children will have access to high quality and
developmentally appropriate preschool programs that help prepare children for
school" (from Goal 1, National Goals for Education, 1990).
HOW DOES THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SUPPORT READINESS FOR CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES?
Public Law 99-457, the 1986 Amendments to the
Education of the Handicapped Act (EHA), addresses the needs of young children
with disabilities through two programs: the Handicapped Infants and Toddlers
Program for children birth through age 2 and the Preschool Grants Program for 3
to 5 year olds. Together these programs represent an important effort to expand
the scope of services available to the nations's youngest children with
disabilities and their families. The Handicapped Infants and Toddlers Program,
Part H of the EHA, supports the planning, development, and implementation of an
interagency system of early intervention services for infants and toddlers who
have disabilities. The Preschool Grants Program, Section 619 of Part B of the
EHA, is designed to ensure the availability of a free, appropriate public
education for all children ages 3 to 5 with disabilities. Both programs provide
federal support for meeting Goal 1 of the National Goals: "By the year 2000, all
children in America will start school ready to learn." During the 1989-1990
school year approximately 642,000 children were served through these programs
(Thirteenth Annual Report to Congress, 1991, p. 84).
WHAT SPECIAL PROBLEMS ARE FACED BY CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES AS THEY MAKE THE TRANSITION FROM PRESCHOOL TO THE GENERAL SCHOOL
The transition from preschool to school can be difficult for a
child with disabilities. The preschool environment characterized by small groups
and individual attention is replaced by classrooms with more children, fewer
adults per child, and greater demand for adapting to general classroom
procedures and working independently (Carta, Atwater, Schwartz, & Miller,
1990). Parents and teachers from both receiving and sending programs need to be
involved in placement as well as scheduling and facilitating the move (Fowler,
Schwartz, & Atwater, 1991). P.L. 99-457 recognizes the importance of
preparing children and their families by requiring that specific steps be
addressed in each child's individualized family service plan (IFSP) for children
from birth through age 2 or individualized education program (IEP) for preschool
WHAT ROLE DO FAMILIES PLAY?
Family members play a key role
in providing information about the child's abilities, strengths and weaknesses,
and interests. Parental insights complement information obtained from preschool
sources and provide a broader picture of the child's capabilities and needs.
Identifying specific ways for parents to be involved in the process is essential
to a good transition (Bernheimer, Gallimore, & Weisner, 1990).
Parents may act as teachers, partners, decisionmakers, and/or advocates
(Shearer & Shearer, 1977). They are teachers when they reinforce the skills
acquired in preschool, partners when they communicate needs with school
personnel, and decisionmakers when they participate in the IEP process. Parents
can help prepare the child for the transition to public school by maintaining
and generalizing skills necessary for the transition. They also serve as a
bridge between the two programs, visiting the new program with their child,
helping the child to become familiar with the new setting, and discussing
concerns and fears connected with the upcoming change. They can also help bridge
the gap by arranging visits with former preschool friends and teachers as well
as with new classmates. Parents can help their child develop skills in following
directions, playing independently, attending to task, and self-care. These
skills will help prepare the child for the new setting (Hains, Fowler, &
WHAT ROLE DO TEACHERS PLAY?
Sending and receiving teachers
both play important roles in the transition process. Teacher attitudes,
instructional priorities, and communication with parents and other members of
the transition team will determine the quality of the child's transition (Hains
et al., 1988). Sending and receiving teachers may have different goals and
priorities, but they play complementary roles in preparing the child for the
move from preschool to the general school setting.
The sending teacher should find out what skills the child will need in order
to function adequately in the new setting and implement a program for preparing
the child to develop those skills. Familiarity with the receiving program is
essential in order to design an appropriate transition curriculum. The sending
teacher can gain a better understanding of prerequisite skills by visiting the
receiving classroom. For children placed in an integrated setting, behavioral
requirements for successful functioning have been assessed and are referred to
as survival skills. These include being able to function independently during
group instruction, following classroom routines, completing tasks within an
allotted time period, and working in the absence of teacher direction. Teaching
survival skills as part of the preschool curriculum helps prepare the child for
the demands of the general school setting (Carta, Atwater, & Schwartz,
1991). Skill-building activities should be developmentally appropriate for each
The success of the transition preparation is ultimately determined by the
child's adaptation to the new environment. The receiving teacher's attitude
toward and experience with children with disabilities may be factors in the
success of the child's placement. Some flexibility will probably be required on
the teacher's part in order to adjust expectations and adapt to the child's
special needs. The sending and receiving teachers will have the continuing role
of acting as liaisons between programs and with parents. Good communication and
clearly defined goals will facilitate the preparation for the child's move from
preschool to the general school setting.
WHAT ARE THE ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL TRANSITION
The Capstone Transition Process (Johnson, Cook, & Yongue, 1990)
is one model that provides clear guidelines for the transition process. The
first activity initiates long-range planning by establishing a "transition
timeline." This timeline serves as a guide for accomplishing transition
activities and can be set up in chart form to track activities. The Capstone
Transition Process addresses specific activities beginning 12 months before the
move to a new program. The process includes preparation, implementation, and
evaluation activities. The initial steps of the process are designed to prepare
the participants for their role in the transition. Steps include notifying and
preparing parents and teachers from both the sending and receiving programs.
Data on the child's needs are collected or updated. A profile of communication
procedures, available services, prerequisite skills, and teacher expectations is
developed from existing information. The preparation phase of the process
culminates with the development by the transition team of an IEP for use as the
basis of educational programming in the new setting. Following the IEP meeting,
the timeline provides reminders for the transfer of information and records to
the receiving program. The final step calls for evaluation of the effectiveness
of the process.
CAPSTONE TRANSITION TIMELINE
*Develop the transition
*Notify appropriate administrators of the student's approaching transition.
*Inform parent(s)/primary caregiver(s) that the child will be making the
transition and collect information on family transition needs.
*Determine the communication policy of the potential receiving program(s) and
obtain a description of the program(s).
*Obtain information from teacher(s) in potential receiving program(s)
regarding the program/classroom overview and skills perceived as important for
transition into the classroom.
*Verify the receipt of transition information and/or followup request for the
transition information or additional information.
*Reevaluate: verify the student's assessment and eligibility.
*Prepare the parents for the transition planning meeting.
*Hold the transition planning meeting.
*Hold the IEP meeting. Obtain permission from the parents to release
*Provide information to all transition team participants.
*Link the parent/primary caregiver of the transitioning child with a
parent/primary caregiver of a child already attending the new program.
*Send the receiving program all pertinent records and verify the receipt of
*Provide the receiving program with information about the child's current
*Evaluate the effectiveness of the process after completion.
Bernheimer, L. P., Gallimore, R., & Weisner,
T. S. (1990). Ecocultural theory as a context for the individual family service
plan. Journal of Early Intervention, 14(3), 219-233.
Carta, J. J., Atwater, J. B., Schwartz, I. S., & Miller, P. A. (1990).
Applications of ecobehavioral analysis to the study of transitions across early
education settings. Education and Treatment of Children, 13(4), 298-315.
Carta, J. J., Atwater, J. B., & Schwartz, I. S. (1991, April). The
effects of classroom survival skills intervention on young children with
disabilities: Results of a two-year follow-up. Presentation at the Biennial
Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Seattle, WA.
Executive Office of the President. (1990). National goals for education.
Washington, DC: EOP. ED 319 143
Fowler, S. A., Schwartz, I. & Atwater, J. (1991). Perspectives on the
transition from preschool to kindergarten for children with disabilities and
their families. Exceptional Children, 58(2), 136-145.
Hains, A. H., Fowler, S. A., & Chandler, L. K. (1988). Planning school
transitions: Family and professional collaboration. Journal of the Division for
Early Childhood, 12(2), 108-115. EJ 368 964
Johnson, L. J., Cook, M., & Yongue, C. P. (1990). Capstone Transition
Process. Unpublished manuscript, University of Alabama.
Shearer, M. S., & Shearer, D. E. (1977). Parent involvement. In J. B.
Jordan, A. H. Hayden, M. B. Karnes, & M. M. Wood (Eds.), Early childhood
education for exceptional children: A handbook of ideas and exemplary practices.
Reston, VA: The Council for Exceptional Children. ED 132 788
Thirteenth annual report to Congress on the implementation of the Education
of the Handicapped Act 1990. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.