Parent Involvement in the Transition Process

What is Transition?

Once a child reaches the age required by their State and/or Indicator 13, they formally begin planning for their Transition to adult life including identifying postsecondary goals.

Parental involvement in the transition process is essential since they  accompany their child through their school and life transitions. The parents' input at each transition can ensure that appropriate services and supports are in place and increase the chances of the child's success in the new program.

Even though understanding about Special Education and the transition process for high school age students and young adults is increasing, some parents and general education teachers may not be aware that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires schools to help their child during the transition process. IDEA requires transition assessments, goals, and services in their child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) before he/she turns 16.

Parental Role within Transition

In all transition planning models; students, parents, and school personnel should collaborate in order to develop and implement an effective transition program. Even further, many parents may not realize that they can contribute insight for transition meetings as a parent of a transitioning high school student while providing a unique perspective about their child throughout the entire transition process. When parents share information about their child with their child’s school and an IEP team, they not only help the team select appropriate tests for the transition assessment but act as an advocate and model for their child.

In fact, states must now record the percentage of parents with a child receiving special education services who report that schools facilitated parent involvement as a means of improving services and results for children with disabilities (20 U.S.C. 1416 (a)(3)(A)).

Within the transition process, parents and students should be present to assume a crucial decision-making role, when appropriate, and prepared to participate in transition planning and team meetings as equal partners with school personnel. They Wehmeyer et al. (1999) note that in transition, families should:  

  • Expect to be very involved.
  • Ask school personnel to be specific about what is needed.
  • Support the student’s self-determination/self-advocacy efforts.
  • Keep the focus on present levels of performance and strengths instead of weaknesses.
  • Support the school’s efforts to provide career development and job training.

Understanding Transition Needs Assessment

By the time, a child reaches the transition age, parents should be made aware of any transition assessments that are necessary for in order to create a good transition plan. For example, the student’s IEP team should select assessments based on the goal of clarifying a child’s interests, strengths, preferences, and priorities. It may be helpful to reiterate to parents that because of different individualized student needs, there are no necessarily required tests that must be included in a transition assessment. There are however three main types of assessments that play an important role in the Transition process which include:

Formal Assessments

  • Transition Planning Inventory that includes student interests

Informal Assessments

  • Inventories, interviews, record reviews
  • Observations of behavior and attitudes or activities

Casual Assessments

  • Anything that could demonstrate a student’s strengths, needs or interests

Planning for Transition

Prior to IEP meetings or annual reviews, it is important for parents to communicate with their child's teachers concerning upcoming transition needs. First, when discussing their child's service needs, it is important to understand:

  • A child's level of performance in his/her current placement based on transition needs assessment
  • The requirements in the new placement
  • The areas their child will likely require supports to help him/her adjust

Next, when working with the IEP team, parents should begin to consider their child’s knowledge and skills in areas like these:

  • Career awareness, workplace readiness, job-seeking strategies
  • College and vocational education
  • House, food, clothing, health, physical care.

Lastly, parents and the IEP team need to consider a child’s adaptive behavior and self-determination skills including:

  • Goal setting
  • Problem solving
  • Self-advocacy
  • Independence and daily living skills
  • Communication and social skills

Throughout the transition process, parents and the rest of the IEP team (administrators, teachers or therapists, etc.) will identify any adaptations, modifications, or other supports needed for a parent’s child to succeed in his/her new placement. In addition, skills should be identified for parents to utilize and reinforce at home, which will foster greater independence for them and their child.

Parental Involvement Summary

In the end, it is important for parents to remember that when their child leaves high school their involvement will transition to mentor, while their child will assume control of making life choices once they’ve created the age of majority (age 18 in most states). Parents should also be aware that during the year prior to the student’s reaching the age of majority, teachers, parents, and the student should work together to understand the ramifications of this change, and to provide self-advocacy training for the student.