Family-Directed Transition Planning Guide Excerpt from Section 1
LETTER TO FAMILIES
This Family-Directed Transition Planning Guide was prepared especially for families of students with disabilities by families who have already experienced the transition process. Change challenges all of us and transition from school to adult life is one of the most comprehensive changes that we face. During the school years, students with all types of disabilities are taught by teachers and other professionals who take the lead in developing curriculum and identifying supports that will educate students to their fullest potential and prepare them for the next steps. It is generally at some point during adolescence–when most adolescents are typically struggling with issues of separation and independence–that families are expected to step back into the guiding or directing role. The purpose of this guidebook, as the title indicates, is to help you move into the driver’s seat at the beginning of the transition planning process. There are several reasons for this. Families know themselves–their likes and dislikes, their strengths and limitations–better than anyone else. For the most part, family members are the constant in each other’s lives, providing support and influencing choices throughout life. And, families have the greatest investment in the desired outcomes–in how things turn out.
TRANSITION PLANNING MUST START WITH THE STUDENT AND FAMILY
Family-directed planning means that both the student and parent(s) or guardian(s) are involved in the process. It may include other family members as well as other significant people in the family’s life. Transition planning needs to start with families and to do this, it would be helpful for families to understand what’s involved and to have an overview of this planning process. This guidebook is intended to be used as a way to begin to discuss transition and to help families work through this process together with school personnel and other professionals.
STUDENTS WITH VARIOUS DISABILITIES ARE INCLUDED
Not all the information included in this guidebook pertains to every type of disability–physical, emotional, learning, developmental, or behavioral. Information related to students with different types of disabilities is included because there are often dual issues, such as developmental and behavioral, that do not fit neatly into any one service but require some collaboration on the part of a number of people. Also, not every student will be able to participate in the transition process to the same degree and some may need assistance in communicating their thoughts and ideas. It is helpful to address these types of challenges so that all students are included to the greatest extent possible. Not all sections of this guidebook will be relevant at the same time. For example, in Section 5 you will find information on Independent and Supported Living Opportunities which may be more appropriately addressed as one approaches young adulthood rather than at age fourteen. However, since at some point moving out is part of every student’s transition, it is included for discussion. Although it would be helpful for you to read through this guidebook section by section, some of the information will be freestanding and not based on what was written previously. There will be times when you may want to reference a particular issue, so we have tried to present topics, and what you need to know about them, as completely as possible in each section.
WHO SHOULD BE INVOLVED
Teachers and other professionals should provide assistance and support throughout the transition process. It is important for them to know what you are thinking or trying to accomplish so that you can work together effectively. Hopefully, you will be able to use the information in this guidebook to more clearly identify who needs to be involved in the planning process and at what point different people and/or services need to be included, especially as you get closer to exiting the educational program. The value of directly involving students with disabilities, including those with multiple disabilities, in the planning meetings goes beyond transition services. As one student, age fifteen, commented after actively participating in his annual review for the first time in ten years: “I feel like a real person!” This simple statement underscores how important it is for students and families to make an investment in this planning process. There are many factors that can interfere with transition planning, not the least of which is confusion over who is responsible for what. Different people will play different roles throughout the transition process so during the planning meetings it is important to identify who will do what. These people–both professionals and friends–will probably change over time and although some changes are predictable, many are not and gaps in services and supports can occur. It is important for you to keep in mind that whether you get what you want depends on your willingness to take an active role in this process, even when the path to get where you want to be is not clear or seems blocked. Busy schedules, limited expectations, inaccessible services, lack of follow-through, missing or incorrect information–all these and more can lead to frustration with transitions. We hope that this guidebook will serve as an ongoing reference and assist you through the difficulties as well as the successes.