This afternoon I attended a training on The Nuts and Bolts of Transition Planning for Special Education students, that was sponsored by the Central Maine Inclusive Schools (CMIS).  It was a very good training and I got to catch up with a lot of educators from other schools who I have not seen in a couple of years.  So I considered it a very successful use of my time and I learned/reviewed some good strategies and guidelines about Transition Planning for a student’s IEP.  Below are my notes for this training:

Barriers to Transition Planning

  1. Time
  2. Interest by students or staff
  3. Need to be reality based upon the abilities, skills and interests of the student – not staff or parents.

What is the purpose for Transition Services

  • It is the right thing to do for the student, to prepare them for life after school
  • Improves Performance of students
  • Enhances Student Self-Advocacy Skills, teach the student to “speak-up” for themselves.
  • It is the law

Transitions – are life-long experiences, everyone goes through several transitions throughout their lifetime.  i.e.  Elementary –> Junior High –> High School –> Life after High School, etc.

We don’t want kids who have been closely or heavily supported in Special Education to suddenly find themselves out of school with no idea of what comes next, but at the same to have realistic expectations of what they actually are able to do. Don’t take the student’s dream away and encourage them (and the parents) as much as possible, think about ways that we can help a student achieve their their goals.  Expose students to the expectations and the actual work that will be required for them to achieve their dream with appropriate supports, but  we also have the responsibility to have them understand reality of their individual situation and if they find out that they can not or unable to achieve their original dream that we are there to provide other options for them.

We do need to be very careful that we do not limit students based upon our interpretations of their limitations and is one of the biggest issues that Special Education faces is the lack of adequate Transition Plans for our students.
Transition Assessments – Preplanning goal setting stuff

  • What is the student’s disability – the student needs to understand their disability.
  • Interests – What is the student interested in, there are several websites that can be utilized to learn the students interests.
  • Learning Styles  – What is the student’s learning style – again there are several websites for this
  • Completing the S.N.O.W. Strengths – Needs – Opportunities – Worries from the Maine Transition Network
  • Transition to School/Work – what does the student want to do after school. Career Interest Surveys.

When you have a student complete these surveys whether online or pen & paper you need to look at the language that is being used — if students don’t know the words, they will guess which basically invalidates the test.  If a typical accommodations is to read or scribe for the student these should be done for the student on these surveys that way you get a valid (or at least more valid) result.

The presenters strongly recommend using the Interests and Abilities survey first.  To get a basic understanding of what the student is interested in and what some of their abilities are.

Make sure that the students understand what transition means and that it is their transition plan (NOT YOUR’S), use their language.  Remember the Transition Planning Process is about the student, not about the parent or the teachers first and foremost.  Parents, teachers and others are part of the team process to help the student choose a realistic plan that fits their interests and abilities.  The bottom line is to ensure that the student participates in the pre-planning and transition planning process.

Ensure that the student receives their own invitation to the PET, they should not be listed as “student”, use the student’s name in the invitation.  If possible have the student ready to present their S.N.O.W. form at the PET and work on developing their Self-advocacy skills Student Participation in the IEP meeting.  Do role-play to prepare them for meetings, which they need for life beyond school, but if developed in the safe environment of school is easier for the student to gain the needed self-confidence to advocate for themselves in front of others.

If the student decides to attend the PET have them describe their interests & preferences, work on their self-advocacy skills.  Even if the student does not attend the meeting, the transition plan can include what the student has identified as their needs in the following areas:

  • Education/Training
  • Employment
  • Independent Living

There should be an aligned set of transition goals/objectives in the Student’s IEP these goals/objectives must have measurable and realistic outcomes for the individual student, not a set of pre-generated, generic goals/objectives.  In Maine the Learning Results have a Career Preparation that can be used to accomplish this and align it to State education standards.

Course of study for each year that they have completed to show actual courses completed and a plan to ensure that they will meet graduation requirements and pre-requisites for post-secondary education or training in the field they want to pursue.  If the student is planning to go to college this includes college preparatoryclasses with necessary supports.  This will document student progress and if the student changes their mind about what they want to pursue after graduation, then Special Education staff have to document the changes and ensure that the new transition plan is in place showing the student’s current plans and the roadmap that we need put together to help them achieve their goal.

Transition Services

A.  Related –
Services from outside agencies that can support transition for students…i.e. counseling outside of the school.

B.  Community
1.  School
2.  Residence – access resources in the community i.e. register car, drivers ed enrollment.

C.  Employment
1.  do they want to work while in high school, work study, summers, part-time
2.  What do they need for successful employment.

Show other employability skills that students do during school or during work study, but liability issues are always a concern.  Extra-curricular activities can be included.  Work programs can be used to increase student positive behaviors.  Time spent can be developed by the planning team.

D.  Independent Living

  • Finances
  • Medical Consumer, Doctors name, how to take prescriptions, how to contact them, fill out medical forms
  • Resources for safe residence:  knowing it is okay to go to the police or fire departments
  • Transportation:  In rural areas must have a drivers license.

Just a reminder that when assigning who is responsible, it can be the student, parent or other community organization, not just the school.  The school Special Education case manager is responsible to document whether who is responsible is completing their part of the plan, but it is not their responsibility to see that it happens if it is agreed to and assigned to another party.

The presenters reminded us to always remember that the Transition Plan is the Student’s Plan, not the staff or parent’s plan and as special educators you have to document discussions and meetings to show that you have had reality based discussions on the student’s knowledge, skills and abilities.  It is always best to have open and honest lines of communication with everyone involved.

There was a lot of discussion regarding State Vocational Rehabilitation supports.  The presenters stated that there is a misconception out there that you have to wait until a student reaches their Senior Year in High School or six months before their 18th birthday to apply.

Students or their parents can apply for Vocational Rehabilitation assistance upon completion of the student’s 10th grade year (parents can/should complete applications), if a student is “at risk” a they may apply maximum of 6 months prior to their 16th birthday.  Don’t wait to apply, do it as soon as possible because the waiting lists for these services is very long.

Some possible VocRehab services students can receive starting in Junior Year:

  • Drivers Education paid for
  • Job coaching
  • OJT – 12 Weeks of 20 hours per week. can negotiate 24 weeks of 10 hours per week.
  • Pay for tutoring – for vocationally related examinations
  • V/R cannot pay a student themselves, you have to help them come up with someone who will pay, and then V/R reimburses the employer.
  • V/R does not do Functional Vocational Assessments, but they do pay for those to be completed.

Who needs the assessment:

  • can they be independent,
  • can they work in an integrated work setting or are they going to be in a segregated work center.
  • Can they be independent with natural supports (just the people they work with),
  • do they need be in an integrated with minimal or maximum supports (job coach 50% of the time).

Special Education personnel need to document in the IEP (Transition Plan section) that a referral has been made to V/R and the date of the referral.

Anticipated Services is a way to have the student, their family and other involved people look at what services and supports the student will need in place to be successful after school.  This can be a place where you learn about supports that are in place that the school does not know about.  Also the team should review Independent Living, Transportation needs and post secondary school/training services that will be needed.

Providing transition services is really no different than teaching academics.  We have a legal and moral obligation prepare students for the next phase in their life by “passing the baton of education and self-advocacy to them with successfully.

Educators and schools need to look at transition services as any other academic class.

I have been on both sides of this fence as a parent and as a Special Education Teacher, I do not believe that Transition Services and Preparation are given enough credibility or time to be done correctly in most schools.  It is a change that is taking place, but taking place slowly.  Many of the things that were taught in the presentation today are the same issues that I was taught 3-4 years ago.

We need to move to the next phase…but with so many things in flux (economy, ESEA, standardized testing, college as the panacea, etc.), I don’t see a big change coming anytime soon, but the change is happening…albeit slowly.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.






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