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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Top Ten Transition Tips for Administrators

What do Administrators need to know about involving parents in effective Transition Planning?

These top 10 tips for school administrators are designed to effectively bring parents into the transition planning process as equal partners with the school team. I’ve broken down these top 10 tips in an easy-to-remember format with the acronym TRANSITION.

Take the parents’ perspective.

Whether a student’s goal is community college, vocational training, four-year university, or other outcome, transition planning can be daunting and stressful for parents. Many parents are overwhelmed by the notion of a child with a disability becoming an adult, and ‘making it on her own’. If a student has significant disabilities, parents are worried about the child’s livelihood, ability to live a fulfilled and independent life, and are concerned about who is going to care for the adult child after parents pass away. To add to the parents’ stress, the multidisciplinary team and IEP development process requires parents to digest lots of information with which they are not familiar. Parents may have also had past disagreements or mistrustful relationships with school teams, which can make transition planning by the age of 16 (or earlier, as needed) difficult for parents and school teams alike.  Additionally, parents know the student best in settings outside of school and understand the child’s strengths, interests, aptitudes and abilities. Parents can be a valuable asset in transition planning. Ask parents what would be helpful for them as equal partners. Assigning members of the IEP team, such as a specialist in transition, counselor or social worker, can help the IEP team understand a parent’s perspective, build trust, and create effective parent-school partnerships.

Resource allocation

Be sure your multidisciplinary team has the resources, including time, it needs to assess the student, work with parents, create a transition plan, and deliver the services needed for the coordinated set of activities defined in the plan. Assign a transition specialist as case manager to coordinate transition planning.


A good transition plan will begin with assessment of the student’s strengths, preferences, aptitudes, abilities, and interests. The assessment can include interest inventories, vocational assessments, career planning assessments, job shadowing, job sampling, or a variety of other tools to guide the development of the transition plan. Assessments should be completed before developing the IEP and transition plan.

KNowledge of Transition

Administrators need to know the definition and importance of transition planning. Because adults with disabilities generally are underemployed, over-incarcerated, and participate much less in post-secondary education as compared with adults without disabilities, transition planning is designed to improve post-secondary outcomes related to living independently, schooling, career and job success, and overall independence.

Transition is defined by IDEA 2004 as:
“a coordinated set of activities for a child with a disability that is designed within a result-oriented process, that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the child with a disability to facilitate the child’s movement from school to post-school activities, including postsecondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation.”

 TIP 5
Student involvement

Involving the student is critical in transition planning, development of activities, and development of self-advocacy skills. After all, as an adult, the student will likely be in charge of advocating for herself as she navigates her way into adulthood.

 TIP 6
Individualize the transition plan.

We know that the IEP must be individualized, and the transition plan is no different. Parents and school teams that work together to create a meaningful plan, individualized to a particular student, will have the best chance to assure the student’s success in adulthood.  As a result of transition planning, the student’s IEP will contain instruction, daily living skills, related services, accommodation, community experiences, post-secondary goals, and vocational evaluation designed to allow the student to experience success in the adult world. The transition plan is part of the IEP, not a separate entity.

Trusting relationships

Parents and school teams develop a trusting partnership when parents and students understand the transition planning and transition services process. Providing parents and students with documents in advance of meetings, taking time to explain the language used in the documents, and generally understanding the importance to the family of effective transition planning are ways to accomplish effective parent-school partnerships.

 TIP 8
Invite community agencies and institutions

Businesses, colleges, vocational training institutions, agencies providing adult services, and other community partners will be the receiving the young adult into their worlds. Inviting community partners such as businesses, agency representatives and other community partners to the IEP team for transition planning will assist the parents, student, and multidisciplinary team in understanding the demands for each setting. Having these people attend the IEP meeting will also positively affect the student’s acquisition of self-advocacy skills. 

 TIP 9
Offer support and training

Administrators are key in providing support to parents and training for staff in the area of transition planning for students with disabilities. Even if the administrator assigns someone to care for the parents’ concerns or staff development, the administrator who offers support and training will provide necessary leadership to foster partnerships and empower school teams and parents working together for the student’s life success.

 TIP 10
Nurture the Team

Providing praise and acknowledgement for team members who are effective in developing parent partnerships, navigate the transition planning process with parents, provide services toward successful transition to adulthood, develop community partnerships and who are extraordinary deserve special recognition. After all, the team’s actions can make a huge difference in our communities. The student with the disability who transitions to adulthood successfully is as fiscally independent as possible, successful in a job or career, participates fully in the community, has family and friendships, contributes to others, and advocates for himself…this is something to celebrate!

Please comment and add to these tips!

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