Change is in the Air
Post-Secondary Transition Planning
Students need to understand the differences between attending high school and post-secondary institutions. Students with disabilities are able to get accommodations, however, it is up to them to make sure they ask someone for help. Most institutions have a disability coordinator that is available to help students with disabilities get started. It is up to the student to seek that person out. The coordinator gathers information that proves the student has a disability. A previous IEP/504 is not necessarily enough for a college to indicate a disability. Only a medical diagnosis is not necessarily enough either. It's important to speak with the coordinator as soon as possible in order to get help as soon as possible.
The disability coordinator will not attend classes with students, and there are no paras to sit with students. No one is there to hand in assignments for them or to keep them organized. Institutions are not required to do anything that would diminish academic requirements. Most will not shorten assignments. They will however provide a quiet place for you to test or give extended time on tests, among others.
As a teacher, it is important that you prepare your students before they leave high school. I had a student that had determined he would be going to the local community college. We knew this his junior year. He had been used to having a para with him at all times and having assignments shortened. When we had his IEP at the end of his junior year we made some adjustments. The team agreed he would have a para with him for 1st quarter. 2nd quarter he would have a para with him 3 days a week. 3rd quarter he would have a para for 2 classes, 3 days a week, and then 4th quarter, he would not have a para at all. We felt this was a responsible way of transitioning him into post-secondary education, so that community college was not such a shock. He did wonderfully, and will be receiving his welding certificate next month.
Another thing for teachers to do is allow their students to advocate for themselves. I believe that students should run their own IEP meetings. I accomplish this by having them present an IEP. I have a basic outline, and then each student personalizes it with their own information, pictures, and colors. Then they start the meeting by introducing everyone, and they stand in front of the room and run the IEP. After certain slides, I will stop the student and ask the group for input and then the student continues on with the next slide. I have had great feedback from students, parents, and teachers alike. It makes the meeting more fun, and the student feels ownership with the goals that are set for him/her, because he/she puts his/her thoughts out there about them before anyone else has a chance to say anything. He/She is not being told goals, but helping create them him/herself.
Other ways of advocating include allowing students to speak with their teachers about concerns. I ease them into this, if they are not used to it, by going with them, but staying back by the door, while they go have the conversation with the teacher. I also have the students deliver their IEP goals and accommodations/modifications to each of their teachers. The student explains them to the teacher, which is what would have to happen in college.
Within-School/District Transition Planning
For example, I taught in a K-12 district. Small school, all in one building. The elementary special education teacher and myself made sure to hold an IEP at the end of a student's 6th grade year for transition planning into 7th grade. This was a significant time for students because they were going from being in a self-contained classroom all day, to changing classes and teachers every 50 minutes. They would only have 2 minutes in-between classes to get to their lockers and get back to class. It was a significant change. We would make sure to discuss how to help with that change. Generally we would line up a student for them to shadow for a day while they were still in 6th grade, so they could have an idea of what it would be like. Then the following year, we would organize all of the 7th graders into pairs so they would have a buddy. At least if they got lost, they weren't confused in the hall all by themselves.
Forward thinking is important because it's an opportunity to plan for what-if situations. It is much better to have a plan in place prior to the transition, because once the school year starts and things start going badly, it can be difficult to get things back on the right track.
Next year, I will be teaching in a much larger school district. Students will be transitioning not only from being in a self-contained room to traveling between classes, but they will be completely changing buildings. They will be having a within-district transition. This is important to plan for because beyond just changing classes, there are different hallways to learn, different bathrooms, different teachers, some of which, they have never seen before. Much like within-school transitioning, a plan needs to be put in place prior to the student seeing the change.
Not only is the student transitioning, so are the parents. It's important to have conversations with them as well about what the change will look like. This is a stressful time for them as well, as they are nervous for what is in store for their child.
Indicator 13 & Indicator 14
Indicator 13 addresses transition planning. Schools need to make sure that they are creating transition goals and providing opportunities for students to meet those goals. Transition goals are in addition to the annual academic goals in the IEP. Schools are required to invite the student to the IEP once the student is 16 years old. Personally, I think they should be invited to the meetings much earlier than the age of 16, but according to Indicator 13, it's not required until the age of 16. Also, agencies that can help the student with the transition need to be invited to the meetings. These could include representatives from vocational rehabilitation or a transition specialist that can help with all of the paperwork for social security and college.
According to project10.info, Indicator 14 of the State Performance Plan required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 is the percent of youth who are no longer in secondary school, had IEPs in effect at the time they left school, and were:A) enrolled in higher education within one year of leaving high school,
B) enrolled in higher education or competitively employed within one year of leaving high school,
C) enrolled in higher education or in some other postsecondary education or training program, or competitively employed or in some other employment within one year of leaving high school.
When discussing transition planning, it's important to look at a student's current/previous employment and post-secondary education plans. By looking at these things, the team can determine ways of helping the student with employment, even if that is putting an internship plan into place in the IEP. If the student has struggled with previous employment opportunities, a plan can be put into place to teach skills related to obtaining and keeping a job. If the student is interested in (or even if they are not) post-secondary education, a plan should be put into place to visit colleges. If they are unsure of what career they would like to pursue, interest inventories can be taken. Voc. Rehab. can be contacted and that paperwork started to see if they qualify for financial assistance.
While it sounds overwhelming, following the plan set up on the SRS system helps guide you through everything you need to discuss. It also does not hurt to create your own outline of what needs to be discussed when it comes to transition. If you have a transition specialist available in your area, it is well worth having them come to a meeting. The times I was able to have her at a meeting, she went onto the SRS system and filled out the transition portion of the IEP form for me. Utilize all of your resources, human and otherwise.