Community-Based Collaborative Transition Model for Minnesota Youth with IDD

Community-Based Collaborative Transition Model for Minnesota Youth with IDD

Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota

Renáta Tichá, PhD, FAAIDD, Brian Abery, PhD, Matthew Roberts MS, Emily Unholz-Bowden, PhD, and Seunghee Lee, PhD

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.

Exploring transition in Minnesota logo


Secondary Transition

  1. Secondary transition: A purposeful movement or change from childhood to adulthood that can be applied to both youth with and without disabilities.
  2. Transition of youth with disabilities in the US context (at a federal level) is defined legally in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004) under “transition services”
  3. Transition services for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD)
  4. Focus on customized and competitive employment (Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA, 2014)

Project of National Significance (PNS) Minnesota

  • Funded by the Administration on Community Living (ACL)
  • 5-year duration
  • Purpose: Improve transition of youth and young adults with IDD to employment and post-secondary education, with a specific focus on students from diverse backgrounds

Project Partners

Minnesota state agencies,

Department of Employment and Economic Development Minnesota Department of Education Department of Human Services,

Minnesota employment agencies,Inclusive Networking, Kaposia,

Minnesota advocacy agencies,

The Arc,

Advocating Change Together,

Minnesota DD Council, Centers for Independent Living, Disability Law Center,

Utah State University,

Institute for Disability Research, Policy, & Practice,

Minnesota Inclusive Higher Education Consortium (MIHEC),

Minnesota LEAs/transition programs,

Minneapolis, ISD 196, Benton-Stearns,

Northern Lights,

University of Minnesota,

Institute on Community Integration

Partnering with a State Initiative on Transition: Minnesota Youth in Transition Framework and Toolkit

Disability HUB Minnesota, Youth in Transition



To explore and describe four transition programs serving students with IDD in Minnesota across four geographic regions of the state

Research questions

  1. What are the strengths of each program in supporting the transition of youth with IDD?
  2. What are the program areas most in need of improvement to effectively support the transition of students with IDD?
Phase I
  • Site visits in 4 districts
Phase II
  • Focus groups: Teachers, support staff, families (10)
  • Interviews: Youth with IDD (23)
  • Photo elicitation: Youth with IDD (10)
Phase III
  • Community conversations (2)


Findings from focus groups

  • Family members are looking for support from other parents/guardians/families of transition-age youth with IDD.
  • Educators feel confident in their ability to support transition students
  • Support staff (paraprofessionals, job coaches) did not have access to the same information as educators (e.g., IEPs)
  • Needed resources not currently available include training for persons serving as job coaches, greater transportation options, the capacity and resources to educate employers about the importance and benefits of work-based learning and hiring employees with disabilities
  • Schools are in need of information/data that allows for an evaluation of program effectiveness based on student outcomes
  • Differences by district

Findings from student interviews

  • Hopes and dreams do not always match with available opportunities – related to employment and post-secondary options“I would either like to be a game developer for Nintendo or a voice actor or build my own company, which is to become a therapist that specializes in not only children with disabilities, but also adults. And help them understand more what their feelings and use art or their special topic to help them.”“I've worked at the school cafe and coffee cart. I also worked at the university food service until they fired me for not meeting quota, which I just think they just fired me because my year thing was over.” (transition student)
  • Program flexibility – “no bells, no homework, no periods, no rush”
  • Useful classes on independent living in the community (e.g., banking, cooking, spending free time)
  • Family members and job coaches are viewed as key supports

Findings from photo elicitation

  • Transition students with IDD have lives outside of school that bring them both challenges and enjoyment
  • There is more to transition than getting employment, more education, and independent living
  • Transition is about more than training and instruction but also about student feelings in the moment and on a day-to-day basis:
    • Do students have a sense of self-confidence and self-respect?
    • Do they have friends?
    • Do the dreams of young adults with IDD about living a fulfilling life match the content of their transition plan?

my life art exhibit

The my life art exhibition is a window into the daily lives of transition students from three countries and their dreams for the future. The exhibition is in collaboration with three transition projects, two of which are international. The third collaborator is a Project of National Significance focused on the transition of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Minnesota. Youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities from Minnesota, Singapore, and the Czech Republic share photos of their transition from school to adult life.

Photo collage with the title My Life: A window into daily lives and dreams for the future

Czech Republic online gallery

Minnesota online gallery (Art for All at the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota)

Singapore online gallery

Guests of an art reception look at point at photos displayed on the wall.

Art for All reception at the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota

Findings from Community Conversations

There is a need for greater:

  • Awareness on the part of families of available transition resources and processes
  • Numbers of trained job coaches
  • Enhanced communication between schools and outside service provider agencies
  • Inclusive community engagement opportunities (employment and other day activities)

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.

The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. This document is available in alternative formats upon request.

The University of Minnesota stands on Miní Sóta Makhóčhe, the rightful homelands of the Dakhóta Oyáte. We recognize the U.S. did not uphold its end of these land treaties. It is the current and continued displacement of the Dakhóta Oyáte that allows the University to remain today.

Ongoing oppression and discrimination in the United States has led to significant trauma for many people of color, immigrants, people with disabilities and other oppressed persons. At ICI, we affirm our commitment to address systemic racism, ableism and all other inequalities and forms of oppression to ensure inclusive communities.