Secondary Transition: Helping Students with Disabilities Plan for Post-High School Settings
Transition planning is a process that occurs over time for students with disabilities. Though transition planning must formally (by law) begin at age 16, many states still begin the process at age 14 when students begin high school. Transition planning involves planning for and preparing students with disabilities for post-school environments and activities: education (college or vocational), employment, independent living, or community participation. The Taxonomy for Transition Programming provides teachers and school personnel with a framework for organizing the five components of secondary transition planning:
David Test briefly summarizes each component of the taxonomy (time: 2:50).
David W. Test, PhD University of North Carolina at Charlotte Co-Project Director, National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT)
On the one hand, secondary transition is deceptively simple. It’s simply preparing students to achieve their post-school goals. The problem is that, in practice, it really involves everything that goes on around a student in high school. There are basically five big chunks that the taxonomy organizes the information around. One is on student-focused planning, one is on student development, one is on interagency collaboration, one is on family involvement, and one is around program structures.
Program structures, that’s the policies and procedures that a school has to have or a school system has to have in place to make sure that all the other four pieces work well. That often involves resources. It means hiring the right personnel and doing the professional development and technical assistance and coaching to help teachers learn about the transition planning process and be able to do it correctly.
Students-focused planning is really around helping students to become part of the transition planning process, from assessment to stating their goals and post-school goals. Anytime you plan for a student’s future, they need to be part of it. I don’t think anybody would wanna have someone else plan their future and then tell them what it is. I think we’re all pretty much want to be able to say we’re in charge of planning our own future.
Student development really is about student-skill development. It’s about teaching kids skills, whether it’s algebra, geometry, history, vocational skills, social skills, leisure skills. That’s what the majority of high school is all about is teaching kids skills. We often think about just academic skills, but for all kids, and kids with disabilities in specific, it’s important to also teach skills that aren’t necessarily academic but may be employment related or related to what they need to live independently once they leave high school.
Family involvement involves helping families learn about the transition planning process, helping them learn about what resources are available in the community, helping families learn how to advocate for those resources, and helping families be part of the whole process.
Interagency collaboration can’t be done just by schools. You need outside agencies. You need the business community. You need families. You need everybody that’s going to be there for the rest of the kid’s life after they leave school. They’re going to be out in the community much longer than they are in high school, so it’s good to get the agencies working together and knowing what’s coming.
Revisiting Initial Thoughts
Think back to your responses to the Initial Thoughts questions at the beginning of this module. After working through the Perspectives & Resources, do you still agree with those responses? If not, what aspects about them would you change?
What is secondary transition and why is it important for students with disabilities?
What can school personnel do to help students in the transition planning process?
When you are ready, proceed to the Assessment section.