What makes a great transition for students in special ed?

By: | January 11, 2019
HEALTHY FUTURES IN SPECIAL EDUCATION—Hannibal Public School District’s Basic Employment Skills Training program helps students with special needs learn life skills through work experience at a local hospital.

There are successful transition plans and then there are successful transitions for special education students. The National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT) offers a set of research-based predictors that links what happens in schools to better post-K12 outcomes.

David Test, who is co-project director for NTACT and professor of special education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, says the most crucial predictors include:

1. Students invested in their own IEP process.

The best schools teach students to lead their IEP and become heavily involved in transition planning. Educators can look for free and low-cost curriculums to teach kids how to do this. Once the student is invested, the transition plan should guide choices that eventually lead the student to post-K12 goals.

2. Work-based learning.

This could be school-based, such as working in the spirit shop or snack bar, or through a paid or unpaid internship. Work experience teaches a particular set of vocational skills and fosters myriad soft skills.


Main story: Moving forward with college and careers in special education


3. Interagency collaboration.

Schools need to work actively to connect special education students to adult service agencies and community organizations. One proven method of connection is called CIRCLES (Communicating Interagency Relationships and Collaborative Linkages for Exceptional Students), a program developed by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and funded by the Institute for Educational Sciences.

“If the transition plans are actually looked at and used—as opposed to being placed in a drawer—they can become a good way to guide students,” Test says.