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Education Transitions


There are many things to consider when transitioning from high school.

The following pages contain many useful tips to make the transition smoother and give you the information you need to make the right decisions for yourself.

Education Transitions Facts

Defining Transition

A Transition is defined as being a set of coordinated activities that:

  • Improves the academic and functional skills of the student in order to facilitate his/her movement from school to post-school activities such as post-secondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living or community participation;
  • Is based on the individual student’s needs, taking into account his or her strengths, preferences, and interests;
  • Includes instruction, related services, community experiences, the development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives and, when appropriate, the acquisition of daily living skills.

Federal Policy

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, (IDEA), 2004, outlines:

  • that transition planning must be in effect once a student is 16 years old;
  • that the development of appropriate, measurable postsecondary goals must be based on age-relevant transition assessment; and
  • that a statement of transition services to assist the student in reaching these goals must be developed.

The Importance of Educational Transition

Why is Educational Transition Important?

  • It is crucial to students’ success after high school.
  • NOD, The National Organization on Disability (2000), found that individuals with disabilities are more likely to be unemployed, lonely, and unhappy with their lives compared to those without disabilities.
  • Demchak (1994) concluded individuals with disabilities, who engage in appropriate recreation and leisure activities, increase their chances for success in the community.

Education Transitions - Historical Perspective

Transition planning became a focus of federal policy for students with disabilities beginning in the 1980s, when it was conceptually operationalized as a ‘bridge’ from school to young adulthood (Will, 1984).

Early transition planning and implementation focused on employment.

Halpern (1990, 1992) designed a more appropriate model that incorporated not only a student’s employment but residential environment, social supports, and community adjustments.

Frank and Sitlington (1990) posed that post-school transition would be ‘successful’ for students with disabilities not only if they obtained employment, but lived independently, paid part of their living expenses, and were involved in more than one community leisure activity.

Effectiveness of Education Transitions

So, how is that working for us?

Transition literature, research, and professional personnel training has primarily focused on employment (Sitlington, 1996).

Post-school adult adjustment for students with disabilities has been poor but improving (NLTS2, 2004).

Most leisure choices by students with disabilities are typically physically passive (NLTS1, 2003).

Because many students with disabilities don’t access or take part in community programs, they can be socially isolated. Community integration and social interaction are primary indicators for quality of life.

It is speculated that the lack in addressing the interests of a student with disabilities in transition planning is a major factor in poor post-school adjustment. So adjusting to community life and participation should be a significant part in post- school transition planning.

The Present in one State -- Minnesota

Educational Transition assessments need to include:

  • Interests of the student
  • Interests of the family
  • The knowledge and competencies the student needs to move from school to community-based living
  • The knowledge, competencies, and strengths the student needs to be successful

The student's physical activity, fitness, and community activity cannot be overlooked:

  • Students with disabilities should be involved in physical activity at the post- secondary level.
  • Students need a certain level of fitness to be involved in vocational employment. They need minimum strength, endurance, and flexibility to perform typical employment tasks.
  • Students need a lifetime physical activity “vocabulary” in order to participate in physical activities when not sleeping, not at work, or not involved in self- maintenance.
  • Students should be active participants in community activities.