Impact Feature Issue on Parenting Teens and Young Adults with Disabilities

Honoring Values and Needs:
Personalizing the Transition Planning Process

The transition planning process for young adults with disabilities is based on federal legislation requiring the development of an Individual Education Program (IEP). Certain activities must take place and specific guidelines must be met in order to fulfill the legislative requirements. However, the rules and regulations can many times make the transition planning process generic and rigid, rather than flexible and customized to a particular individual and family. Despite this obligation to meet the letter of the law, there are many ways in which young adults and their families can work with school staff and service providers to personalize the transition planning process to reflect their unique family values, culture, and needs.

Below is a list of activities that take place within a typical transition planning process, as well as a list of suggestions about how families and young adults can help the transition team to respond to their values and needs. The success of these suggestions is in part dependent on how receptive the case manager, IEP team members, and school are to them. Parents and young adults may have to be assertive and persistent in advocating for these options, and unfortunately may not always be successful. Yet, these suggestions are intended to help the process fulfill its purpose of supporting the successful transition of the young adult by ensuring that it respects those things that are important to the individual and their family:

  • Transition Process: Inform young adults with disabilities and their families about the IEP transition planning process by providing written information developed for this purpose.Family Suggestion: Speak with the case manager about your family, including important family and individual values, expectations, and needs that must be considered when planning with your young adult for post-school life. Share views and needs in relation to transition planning, such as how the process can be respectful of family values and characteristics, as well as needs for information in alternative formats such as Braille or languages other than English.
  • Transition Process: Send a letter notifying families of the IEP transition planning meeting date, time, and place. Hold the IEP meeting at the school during regular school hours.Family Suggestion: Speak with the case manager about where and when you prefer to meet. Is it better for you if the meeting is held in your home, workplace, or a community location other than the school? Is it better if it’s held in the evening?
  • Transition Process: Invite service providers and key school staff to attend the meeting.Family Suggestion: Tell the case manager who you would like to invite to be part of the transition planning process. For example, you may want to include friends, grandparents, aunts and uncles, community elders, or interpreters.
  • Transition Process: Review the previous IEP at the meeting in order to familiarize team members with goals, objectives, and progress made toward meeting those goals. Develop IEP goals based on legislated mandates that reflect student preferences.Family Suggestion: Review the IEP ahead of time to prepare for the meeting and to identify the goals your young adult wants to work toward. Generate a list of questions, concerns, or needs that you want to discuss. Identify ways in which goals need to be stated to reflect your young adult’s and family’s preferences, values, and culture.
  • Transition Process: Implement the IEP as stated.Family Suggestion: If problems, concerns or questions arise as the IEP is implemented, contact the case manager to discuss ways to address them in light of your views, values, and preferences. Suggest alternative ways of implementing goals that are respectful of your beliefs, traditions, and culture. Invite IEP team members to attend events with your young adult and family in your community so that they can learn more about you and what is important to you.
  • Transition Process: Review the IEP at the beginning and ending of each school year and add or modify goals as needed with input from the student and family.Family Suggestion: Contact the case manager to review and modify the IEP as often as needed, and make your needs and concerns known. Help the IEP team understand how your young adult and family view the world, as well as the transition planning process, so that they can understand how you approach the revisions.

Transition planning can be a wonderful experience when the IEP team, the young adult, and their family work together to address each young adult’s goals for the future through attention to unique needs, family values, and cultural heritage. When we address the transition planning needs of youth in a creative and sensitive way, everybody wins!