Exploring Student Perspectives on the Transition Process for Youth with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Exploring Student Perspectives on the Transition Process for Youth with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota

Note: This is the expanded and accessible version of a poster session presented at the AAIDD Annual Meeting, June 10-12, 2024, in Louisville, Kentucky

Seunghee Lee, PhD, Julie Kramme, PhD, John Smith, MS, and Renáta Tichá, PhD


  • Successful transition from school to adulthood for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) requires a lot of collaboration and coordination across different key stakeholder groups, including students with IDD, their families, teachers, and support staff.
  • Especially, transition-age youth with IDD have critical roles in designing and implementing their own transition programs and practices.
  • The aim of the current project is to understand the perspectives of youth in the transition process.
  • Understanding youth’s lived experiences in their own transition process will help identify strengths and areas for improvement to provide better support for youth with IDD during their transition process.

Research Question

  1. What happens during the youth transition process from the perspective of students with IDD?


  • Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with current students who are attending four partnering transition programs as part of a Project of National Significance on transition services.
  • The interviews included 23 students (14 males; 9 females) ages 18-21 receiving transition services in Minnesota.
  • The data from interviews were analyzed to capture students’ lived experiences and perspectives on their transitioning process using principles of Grounded Theory, including open and axial codings (Corbin & Strauss, 2014).

Preliminary Findings





IEP for communication across stakeholders

“... you can sit around with teachers, staff, staff, social workers and all that.”

“They talk about how am I doing in my classes or how good am I in my math and reading?”

“My teachers reported that I'm doing well in classes at my IEP meeting.”

Students’ active participation

“I was very happy that we were able to talk about that I would like to do and things that I would do and not want to do.”

“Practiced IEP meeting in class recently; it was helpful.”

No student attendance/participation

“I didn't attend my last IEP meeting but I will do that in the future.”

Family involvement/participation

“The people at my IEP meeting were my dad, my mom, and all of my brothers and sisters.”

Future goals


"I really like to be hired for a bookstore because I like reading books."

Further education/job training

“I would still like job training on how to cook, and learn what I'm doing wrong with cooking.”

Housing/community living

“I want to live in a group home. That's peaceful, quiet, no fighting, no arguing."

“I plan to stay home with my mom.”

“... living on my own with a roommate right after graduation.”

“I want to live up in Alaska and I want to try to sustain off the land.”

Life goals (e.g., family plan)

“... have a happy family with kids around me” “I want to have a wife and a baby son.”

Self-determination skills

Student’s self-identified strengths

“I always work really well with the other people in my group, no matter who it is.”

“My personal strengths are social skills, being organized and communicating well”

Student’s help seeking

“I tell them [teachers at Transition Program] about my situation, what's going on. I always tell them, can they help me with something and they always do.”

“I ask whenever I feel like I need something from my teachers or staff here [transition program].”

Student’s choice making

“We [Student] always vote on which book we choose.”

Student initiative to reach goals

“"[To reach my goals of working in a bookstore] I'm volunteering at the library.”

“My goal is trying to work on budgeting. I'm not too good with that."

Perspectives of transition program

Change from high school

“I realized that some of the stuff that I bought [for high classes], I don't really need [in the transition program].”

“What I learned here [transition program] helps you out with like everything and provides experiences you wouldn't get in high school.”

“Smaller school environment [in transition program] means you have more connection to people one-on-one, easier than being in a bigger school [like high school].”

“Likes the many choices offered in transition program - more respectful than high school”

Positive experiences

“What's better here at the transition program; gaining confidence, friendships, speaking up more in class.”

“ [I] like T Plus very much. Very nice. It's peaceful, calm. There's no fighting, no arguments here. It's all calm.”

Negative experiences

“My first year wasn't that impressive because they were telling me lies and I got bullied on my messenger and Instagram much.”


Support from teachers in transition program

“My teacher prepares me to find what you want in life or just to see what you want to do.”

“The school has helped me get into a group home. I like the therapists, work coordinators. They're kind of like my friends, like best friends, like family.”

“My teacher as well as my work coordinator have been helping me search for some of the options that I could choose from and suggesting which colleges have the culinary arts program.”

Support from family

“My family is my life, they make me happy.”

“My parents also help me think about life after school is done.”

Support from other professionals (e.g., social worker, vocational rehabilitation counselor)

"[My social worker] told me I going to visit my second group home on February 13th. That's the second one that I'm going to have dinner…”

“[vocational rehabilitation counselor] like still supporting me after I'm done basically with this program.”

Work experience

Work experience that matches with interest and preference

“... likes the security work at school because [I like] watch people what they are doing through camera.”

Work exploration

“Doing exploring various different work sites to -expand upon what I know and test out.”

“[Work experience] helped feel like the flow of what a workplace would be.”

“Getting work experience at a place with varied opportunities helps me learn what I like and don't like.”

Paid job experience

“I worked at [landscaping job] for a year, and I got paid for it.”

Sample from photo elicitation

Suburban house with long driveway.

“Basically somebody living in there doing everyday stuff, whether it's lawn work or housework or getting a good night's sleep…it's really important for rest after work and staying with family.”

Sunrise over shopping mall.

“I just enjoy, enjoy it when the sun rises and sunsets.”


  • Students had different individualized goals for their own adult life. There were differences in their experiences in transition that were and were not supporting them toward their goals.
  • There are areas of life that go beyond employment, post-secondary employment, and independent living that are important in the transition period.


Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (2014). Basics of qualitative research (4th ed.). London: Sage

This project was funded by Administration on Community Living (ACL), #90DNCE0007-03-00, awarded to the Institute on Community Integration at the University of Minnesota.

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