ERIC Identifier: ED439577
Publication Date: 2000-03-00
Author: Warger, Cynthia - Burnette, Jane
Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education Reston VA.
Planning Student-Directed Transitions to Adult Life. ERIC/OSEP
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:
* Is designed within an outcome-oriented process, which promotes movement
from school to post-school activities, including post-secondary education,
vocational training, integrated employment (including supported employment),
continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community
* Is based upon the individual student's needs, taking into account the
student's preferences and interests.
* Includes instruction, related services, community experiences, the
development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives, and,
when appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational
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
and its 1999 Regulations reflect a body of research--much of it supported by the
Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)--that 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:
* How to choose goals. Provide experiences so students identify their
interests, skills, and limits across transition areas.
* How to participate in and lead their IEP meetings. Teach students
self-determination, self-advocacy, and meeting skills.
* How to accomplish goals. Teach students how to develop a plan to attain
their goals, take action on the plan, evaluate and adjust their plan of action.
Curricula are available to assist practitioners in helping students direct
their IEPs (e.g., Martin et al., 1996).
HELPING STUDENTS PARTICIPATE IN THEIR IEPS
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
* Begin instruction as early as possible. Some areas of study, such as
self-determination skills, can begin in the elementary school.
* Be prepared to support students with sensitive issues. Some students may
never have seen their IEP and some may not even know what it means. Even if a
student knows about IEPs, reading about one's disability can be unsettling.
Teachers need to work through all issues and questions with students. It may
help to talk individually with students before sharing the IEP.
* Ensure that students understand what their disability means. It is
important that students know about their disability and can talk about it to
others. Encourage students to become comfortable stating what they need and what
they do not need.
* Make sure you feel comfortable with the process. Students will know if
adults are uncomfortable talking about a topic or allowing the student to lead
* Schedule time for students to develop skills related to IEP participation
on a regular basis. It is very easy to let other subjects--particularly
academics--take priority. Teachers must believe that self-determination,
planning, and self-advocacy skills are priorities.
* Teach IEP participation skills as a semester course. Students need
sufficient time to master the skills. Although students can be taught skills
once a week or in a day-long course, if you really want students to take an
active role, you must allow sufficient time.
* Use motivational techniques to interest students. Before you begin
training, invite an individual with a disability to talk to students. It helps
to have role-alike models as speakers (e.g., an individual who is a college
graduate, an individual who has gone to a vocational education center, an
individual who works in supported employment, a person who owns a business).
* Communicate with families. Let parents know your intentions. It helps to
invite families to a meeting where you can explain the approach and answer their
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, No. 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
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
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 Transition Alliance for Youth with Disabilities.
National Transition Network.
Transition Research Institute.
Center for Self-Determination.