NLTS2 Data Brief
Reports from the National Longitudinal Transition Study
April 2005 • Vol. 4, Issue 1
NLTS2 is being conducted by SRI International
The Transition Planning Process
By Renée Cameto
The transition from school to young adulthood can present challenges for youth
served by special education, but the transition period also entails opportunities
for educators and practitioners to provide young people with experiences that
lead to success. In the two decades since transition planning entered
the special education lexicon, changes in service delivery have helped shape
the implementation of the transition planning process in schools for students
with disabilities (National Center on Secondary Education and Transition, 2004).
One outcome of the transition requirements included in IDEA ’97 has been
to focus attention on how students’ educational programs can be planned
to help them achieve their goals for life after secondary school and how postschool
services can be identified that will promote students’ successful movement
from school to young adulthood. This NLTS2 Data Brief provides a national view
of the transition planning process undertaken during high school with and for
youth with disabilities as they prepare for life after school. Information reported
here comes from a mail survey of school personnel who knew the 2001-02 school
programs of study members well. Findings from NLTS2 (see footnote
1) generalize to youth with disabilities nationally who were 13 to 16 years
old in December 2000, to each of 12 federal disability categories, and to each
age group within the age range.
School staff report that planning for the transition to adult life occurs for
almost 90% of students with disabilities. The percentages of students for whom
this planning has taken place increases steadily across the age range, from
75% of 14-year-olds to 96% of 17- and 18-year-olds. Among students with disabilities
who have transition planning in place, about two-thirds begin the process by
age 14 (see footnote 2), whereas 20% do so when they
are 15 years old and 14% when they are 16 or older.
Students’ Transition Goals
Students with disabilities have postschool goals that are similar to
those of other young adults, including continuing education and training,
attaining employment, enhancing social competencies, and increasing independence.
According to school staff, more than 45% look forward to attending 2-
or 4-year college, and 40% plan on postsecondary vocational training (Exhibit
1). About half of students with disabilities have competitive employment
as a primary transition goal; small proportions of students are working
toward supported (8%) or sheltered employment (5%). The school programs
of many students with disabilities reflect their goals; school staff report
that about three-fourths of students with disabilities have IEPs or transition
plans that specify a course of study or kinds of classes that will help
them meet their postschool goals. In addition to academic or vocational
aspirations, living independently is a transition goal for half of students
with disabilities, with about one in five students working toward maximizing
their functional independence and one in four working on enhancing their
social or interpersonal relationships.
Participants in Transition Planning
Effective transition planning is characterized by the consistent involvement
and participation of appropriate individuals, including parents and students,
together with regular and special education personnel and others from
agencies outside the school (Hasazi, Furney, & DeStefano, 1999; Johnson
& Sharpe, 2000; National Council on Disability, 2000, NICHCY, 2000).
Virtually all students with disabilities with transition planning (97%)
have a special educator actively involved in that process, and 85% have
parents who participate (Exhibit 2). All but about 6% of these students
participate in the process in some way, although only about 70% do so
actively by providing input (58%) or by taking a leadership role (12%).
A variety of other individuals participate in the transition planning
process, including general education academic and vocational teachers,
other school staff, and representatives from outside organizations. About
60% of students have a general education academic teacher who is actively
involved in transition planning, even though about 70% take general education
classes in a given semester. General education teachers are significantly
more likely to participate actively in transition planning for students
who have 2- or 4-year college as a postschool goal than for students who
do not have a college goal (67% vs. 49%). Fewer general education vocational
teachers are actively involved (32%), although 43% of students with disabilities
take general education vocational classes in a given semester (Cameto
& Wagner, 2003).
General education vocational teachers are significantly more likely to
participate actively in transition planning when students plan to attend
a postsecondary vocational training program than when they do not (40%
vs. 27%). They also are actively involved in transition planning for significantly
larger proportions of 17- and 18-year-old students than for younger students
(40% vs. 20% for 14-year-olds); this finding is not surprising, given
that vocational education course-taking increases significantly across
the grade levels (from 55% of middle school students to 68% of high school
juniors and seniors [Cameto & Wagner, 2003]).
School counselors and school administrators are actively involved in
transition planning for 61% and 56% of students with disabilities, respectively.
The active involvement of school administrators is more likely for older
students (63% among 17- and 18-year-olds vs. 44% among 15-year-olds).
Related service personnel are less likely than other school personnel
to be actively involved in transition planning. Eighteen percent of students
have related services personnel participate in their transition planning,
although parents of 59% of students with disabilities report the receipt
of related services from their schools (Levine, Marder, & Wagner,
2004). However, when students’ postschool goals include obtaining
supported or sheltered employment, maximizing functional independence,
or improving social and interpersonal skills, related service personnel
are more likely to participate actively in transition planning than when
students do not have these goals. For example, 43% of students with a
postschool goal of obtaining supported employment have related services
personnel actively participate in their transition planning, whereas those
personnel participate in planning for only 16% of students who do not
have this goal.
According to school staff, the frequency of participation in transition
planning of personnel from organizations outside the school is much lower
than that of school staff; but, among the organizations that could be
involved in transition planning, students are more likely to have the
involvement of a vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselor (14%) than personnel
from any other single type of outside organization. Students with goals
of obtaining sheltered employment or maximizing functional independence
are twice as likely as students who do not have these goals to have a
VR counselor participate actively in their transition planning (28% vs.
14%). Students with goals of obtaining supported or sheltered employment,
maximizing functional independence, or enhancing social and interpersonal
relationships also are more likely to have the active participation of
personnel from an outside organization (e.g., a social service agency
or advocate) than students who do not have these transition goals. The
likelihood of participation by staff from outside organizations increases
for older students as they approach the time of transition to adult life.
Fewer than 1 in 10 students up to age 16 are reported to have a VR counselor
actively involved in transition planning, compared with 1 in 4 students
who are 17 or 18 years old.
Transition Preparation and Supports
Transition planning involves identifying measurable postsecondary goals,
transition services, and a course of study that will help students achieve
those transition goals. Students with disabilities can receive further
assistance through instruction that focuses on transition planning skills;
such instruction can help students understand their interests and abilities
and make informed decisions about their future.
Course of study and instruction in transition planning.
According to school staff, about three-fourths of students with disabilities
have IEPs or transition plans that specify the course of study or kinds
of classes they should pursue to meet their postschool transition goals
(Exhibit 3). Almost two-thirds of students are reported to have received
instruction in transition planning skills. However, older students are
more likely than younger students to have participated in this type of
instruction, despite the fact that most students begin transition planning
by age 14. About half of 14- and 15-year-old students (48% and 54%, respectively)
have received instruction in transition planning, compared with 76% of
17- and 18-year-olds.
Postschool service needs. About three-fourths of students
with disabilities have needs for postschool services identified as part
of their transition planning (Exhibit 3). Two types of services predominate:
accommodations to help in the pursuit of postsecondary education and vocational
services to help in securing employment. Almost half of students have
a need for postsecondary education accommodations specified in their transition
plans, whereas the transition plans of 38% of students with disabilities
specify vocational training, job placement, or support services as postschool
needs. Other types of services are reported for about 5% of students;
those services include mental health, social, and transportation services;
behavioral interventions; and supported living arrangements. More specialized
services, such as occupational or physical therapy, are reported for even
fewer students. Older students (i.e., 17- and 18-year-olds) are more likely
to have post-high-school service needs identified in their transition
plans (81%) than their 14-year-old peers (63%).
The types of postschool service needs identified during transition planning
reflect students’ postschool goals. Two-thirds of students planning
to attend college have postsecondary education accommodations specified
as a needed service, compared with fewer than one-third of students who
do not have college as a transition goal. Similarly, the need for these
accommodations is more commonly specified for students who plan to attend
vocational school than for students who do not (56% vs. 42%). Students
with an independent living goal are more likely than students who do not
have this goal to have vocational service needs identified (44% vs. 32%).
Students with postschool goals that include supported or sheltered employment,
maximized functional independence, or enhanced social and interpersonal
relationships have multiple needed postschool services identified as part
of their transition plans. These students are more likely than students
who do not have these goals to have transition plans that specify postschool
needs for vocational training, job placement, or support; supported living
arrangements; behavioral interventions; or mental health, social, speech/communication,
and transportation services.
School Contacts with Service Providers and Organizations
on Behalf of Transitioning Students with Disabilities
Educational best practice suggests that “effective transition
planning and service depend upon functional linkages among schools, rehabilitation
services, and other human service and community agencies” (National
Center on Secondary Education and Transition, 2004). Coordination and
collaboration between schools and service agencies that may provide services
to youth with disabilities as they transition into the adult world can
be a critical element in helping youth access those services and making
their entry into adult life a more positive experience.
The percentages of students for whom schools make contacts with organizations
or service providers regarding programs or employment for students with
disabilities when they leave high school range from fewer than 5% to almost
40%, depending on the type of agency/program (Exhibit 4).
The state VR agency is the organization contacted for the most students
(38%). Contacts with colleges and vocational schools are equally likely;
24% of students with disabilities have contacts made on their behalf with
each kind of institution. Schools contact a variety of employment organizations,
including sheltered employment programs (for 7% of students), supported
employment programs (14%), other vocational training programs (26%), and
job placement agencies (24%). Employers and the military are contacted
for 20% and 15% of students, respectively. With the exception of VR agencies,
school staff initiate contacts with individual adult service agencies
for fewer than one in five students.
Contacts with certain types of agencies or organizations are more likely
to occur for students age 16 or older, consistent with the IDEA ’97
requirement for identifying postschool service needs and related interagency
involvement, if appropriate. Postsecondary education and training institutions
are more likely to be contacted for high school students preparing to
leave school than those beginning high school; 38% of 17- and 18-year-old
students have had colleges contacted on their behalf, and 32% have had
vocational schools contacted, compared with 6% and 4% of 14-year-old students,
respectively. All types of employment or job training programs are contacted
significantly more often for older than younger students. By the time
students with disabilities are 17 or 18 years old, more than half (56%)
are reported to have had the state VR agency contacted by their school
on their behalf, compared with 16% of 15-year-olds. The likelihood of
schools’ contacting any other social services on students’
behalf also increases, from 9% of 15-year-olds to 26% of 17- and 18-year-olds.
The type of agency or organization contacted on behalf of students relates
to the postschool service needs identified in the transition planning
process, which in turn reflect their goals. Students who will need postsecondary
education accommodations are more likely to have teachers contact 2- or
4-year colleges or vocational schools than students who have not had such
accommodations specified (35% vs. 10% for colleges and 31% vs. 17% for
vocational schools). Students with postschool vocational service needs
identified are more likely than students who do not have such needs to
have a variety of agencies or organizations contacted on their behalf,
including job placement agencies, the state VR agency, vocational training
programs, employers, and supported or sheltered employment programs.
Students who need supported living arrangements after high school are
more likely than those without this need to have their schools contact
mental health services or sheltered employment providers, supervised residential
programs, or adult day programs. The schools of students for whom postschool
behavioral intervention and mental health service needs are specified
are more likely to contact mental health agencies on the students’
behalf than they are for students without these needs specified (45% vs.
8% and 75% vs. 6%, respectively). Interestingly, schools also are more
likely to contact supported or sheltered employment programs or employers
for students with behavioral intervention or mental health services identified
than they are for students who do not have these needs identified.
Informing Parents of Postschool Service Options
An important part of the school’s role in assisting the transition
of students with disabilities to adult life is informing parents about
the services related to a student’s disability that are available
after high school. As students approach the transition years, parents
more actively seek information on a variety of topics to support their
adolescent and young adult children in transition, including postsecondary
and employment options, financial planning, Medicaid, and VR (PACER, 2001).
According to school staff, schools provide increasing percentages of
parents with information as students prepare to leave high school (Exhibit
5). For example, parents of about one-third of students who are 15 years
old are provided information about postschool services and programs, compared
with parents of about three-fourths of students who are 17 or 18 years
old. However, school staff report that information about students’
postschool services has not yet been provided to parents of about one
in four students who are 17 or 18 years old.
NLTS2 provides a national picture of the transition planning process in schools
today. There is variability in the extent to which the expectations for the
transition planning process, which are embedded in law, regulation, and best
practice, are being met for all secondary-school-age students with disabilities.
Further, the transition planning process appears to develop over time and is
more fully articulated for older students as they near their move from school
to adult life. In the coming years, NLTS2 will address the question of whether
differences in students’ transition planning relate to their achievements
in postsecondary education, employment, and independence during early adulthood.
Cameto, R., & Wagner, M. (2003). Vocational education courses and services.
In M. Wagner, L. Newman, R. Cameto, P. Levine, & C. Marder, Going
to school: Instructional contexts, programs, and participation of secondary
school students with disabilities. A report from the National Longitudinal Transition
Menlo Park, CA: SRI International. Available at http://www.nlts2.org/reports/2003_12/nlts2_report_2003_12_ch7.pdf
Hasazi, S. B., Furney, K. S., & DeStefano, L. (1999). Implementing the
IDEA transition mandates. Exceptional Children, 65(4), 555-566.
Johnson, D. R., & Sharpe, M. N. (2000). Results of a national survey on
the implementation of transition service requirements of IDEA. Journal of
Special Education Leadership, 13, 15-26.
Levine, P., Marder, C., & Wagner, M. (2004). Services
and supports for secondary school students with disabilities. A special topic
report of findings from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2).
Menlo Park, CA: SRI International. Available at http://www.nlts2.org/pdfs/servicesupport_completereport.pdf
National Center on Secondary Education and Transition. (2004). Current
challenges facing the future of secondary education and transition services
for youth with disabilities in the United States.
Retrieved April 28, 2005, from http://www.ncset.org/publications/discussionpaper/
National Council on Disability. (2000). Back to school on civil rights.
Washington, DC: Author.
National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY).
(2000, January). Questions and answers about IDEA. News Digest, ND21,
PACER. (2001). Technical
assistance on transition and the Rehabilitation Act: A survey of federally funded
Retrieved October 29, 2007, from http://www.pacer.org/tatra/resources/survey.pdf
NLTS2 Welcomes Feedback!
333 Ravenswood Ave.
Menlo Park, CA 94025
The author is part of the NLTS2 research team at the Center for Education
and Human Services, SRI International.
- NLTS2 has a nationally representative sample of
more than 11,000 youth who on December 1, 2000, were ages 13 through 16, receiving
special education, and in at least seventh grade. Information from NLTS2 is
weighted to represent youth with disabilities nationally as a group, as well
as youth in each of the 12 federal special education disability categories
used in NLTS2.
- Some students with disabilities represented in NLTS2
may not have begun receiving special education services, and therefore were
not subject to transition planning, until age 15 or later.
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This report was supported in whole or in part by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, (Cooperative Agreement No. H326J000005). The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, and no official endorsement by the Department should be inferred.
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