For the last couple of years, Innovations and Perspectives has published many articles about the secondary transition process. One of the greatest challenges we have heard from our readers is how to involve students with atypical communication skills and intellectual disabilities in this process in a meaningful manner that allows the student to be in the driver’s seat. Many of these students are passengers on the road of life and often their voices are not heard as plans are made for their postsecondary life. We challenge you to think differently. Consider the student as the driver of a car, communication skills as the engine which keeps the car running, and the student’s preferences, interests, needs and strengths as the four wheels — all integral parts of a successful trip toward meaningful transition assessments.
Consider the student as the driver of a car, communication skills as the engine that keeps the car running and the student’s preferences, interests, needs and strengths as the four wheels — all integral parts of a successful trip toward meaningful transition assessments.
Mary E. Morningstar, Ph.D., from the University of Kansas and lead of the Transition Coalition came to Virginia in October 2009 to share her experience with identifying and adapting age-appropriate transition assessments for students with intellectual disabilities . Many of the laws and definitions surrounding the transition assessment process were discussed and written about in the article, “Thinking about transition assessments” . Now that we know we need to do it, where do we begin when working with students who present with communication challenges?
Consider a three-step process, similar to the K-W-L teaching strategy often used when introducing a new topic to students.
- What do you know about the student?
- What information about the student do you already have? Locate pre-existing data through a record review.
- How does your student show what he knows? Be ready to adapt the assessment materials to meet his communication style.
- Does the student use assistive technology (AT)? Be sure the student’s AT needs are met during assessment.
- Collect data related to preferences, interests, strengths and needs. This might include informal interviews, informal observations, informal interest inventories and surveys, situational assessments, or commercially available assessments.
- Gather the information collected into a student transition portfolio. This is described in the article “Transition portfolio serves as a tool for documenting transition outcomes.”
You have identified where they want to go and now it’s a matter of getting them there! Maintenance throughout the trip is critical as your students’ preferences and interests may change as they grow. Keeping the students’ communication style in mind during the trip will make it more meaningful for everyone. As your students are beginning to travel the road through secondary transition, be the navigator and guide them with directions as needed.
Morningstar, M.E. & Pearson, M. (2009). Transition assessments for students with significant disabilities. Retrieved February 8, 2010, from http://transitioncoalition.org/transition/tcfiles/files