How can school counselors further support successful transition planning?
Page 11: Collaborative Activities for Families
Because they are often the only constant in a student’s life, families play a critical role in transition planning. School counselors will find, however, that the approach to working with families is as individual as the families themselves and will require an ongoing relationship that develops over time.
Although the transition process is about the student’s life and should be as student-driven as possible, it is crucial that families continue to play a key role. Family involvement is widely recognized as a primary contributor to a student’s success both in school and in post-school life.
In regard to working with parents, the Ethical Standards for School Counselors (ASCA, 2004) state that the professional school counselor:
- “Respects the rights and responsibilities of parents/ guardians concerning their children and endeavors to establish, as appropriate, a collaborative relationship with parents/ guardians to facilitate the student’s maximum development”
- “Is sensitive to the diversity of families…”
Barriers to Collaboration
Before the school counselor can collaborate effectively with families, however, he or she must understand their perspective. It is also important for the school counselors to understand barriers to successful collaboration, real or perceived, whether created by the school system or originating with the families. Most important is for the school counselor to undertake steps to overcome these barriers.
|Barriers to Collaboration||Suggestions to Overcome Barriers|
|Language barriers (home language, non-English speaking, and use of professional jargon)||
|Childcare for younger children||
|Experience of negative interactions with school personnel||
|Fears of moving from entitlement (IDEA ’04) to eligibility programs (Vocational Rehabilitation)||
|Reading level of parents||
|Families feel their contributions are ignored||
Activities that Promote Collaboration
Besides the student, families have the most to gain and the most to lose in the transition process. School counselors and secondary special educators who provide transition services should collaborate to strengthen connections with families. There are lots of methods and activities counselors can use to foster collaboration:
Often, school counselors or educators offer an evening or weekend information night for parents. Some ask guest speakers to speak about adult services, such as Vocational Rehabilitation, Independent Living Centers, and Developmental Disability Organizations.
Many communities or districts have established Community Transition Teams, which are made up of education staff, agency staff, families, employers, and students. These teams work together to develop linkages, access and monitor services, and provide a means for ongoing communication and collaboration. School counselors are often members of these teams.
Transition assessment is critical to the development of post-secondary goals. School counselors can provide expertise in interpreting results and identifying areas of strength and need.
School counselors often possess extensive knowledge of the community resources for families, students, and adults with disabilities.
More and more often, students with disabilities attend post-secondary schools. Families usually have lots of questions regarding college life, and the expectations associated with college. School counselors can help prepare students and families to find the answers to these and other questions.
Ideally, Students with disabilities should begin to explore career options as early as middle school. In high school, students may job shadow, participate in vocational assessments, and explore employment options. Counselors can help students and families to process these experiences and use them to influence further decisions.
As their children grow older, many families will have questions about such topics as guardianship and financial planning for their child with special needs. Counselors can communicate and collaborate with families to identify these needs.
School counselors can help families become advocates for their child and to assist the family in helping the child to become a self-advocate. School counselors can work with families to help the child become as independent as possible, make mistakes and learn from them, and gain more responsibilities throughout the transition process.
Amy Harris shares her thoughts about the ways in which counselors can help to make the transition process a more person-centered experience for students with disabilities (time: 0:27).
Amy Harris, Parent
For Your Information
When a student reaches the age of majority, he or she gains the legal power to make key decisions regarding school services. The age of majority varies from state to state, but is typically 18 or 19. At that time, the rights (e.g., notice for consent for special education evaluations and services) of the parent legally transfer to the student. Parents will receive notification from the school system a year prior to the age of majority for their child.
Transition Update – Sandra's Family
Sandra’s family has been active in helping her think about her dreams and her goals even as these have changed. This kind of family support will help Sandra in her transition to adult life. Her parents, along with Mr. Hunter, are supporting Sandra’s decision to volunteer at Green Springs Assisted Living Center. They also attended a parent night meeting during which a financial planner discussed long-term financial planning. The family knows that Sandra has made a good start toward her post-school goals because of Mr. Hunter’s communication and collaboration efforts.