Transition is a hot topic in special education and the learning disabilities community. It drives IEP writing and becomes a topic of fear for many parents whose children struggle with school and learning. Questions arise: “Is my child going to be able to go to college?” “Will my little girl be able to find employment, and what kind?” “Will my boy be able to live independently in the community?”
Believing that all students, with the right instruction, guidance, and nurturing can be empowered to work toward their highest potential, the staff and faculty you work with at your child’s school should give students an open place to explore their interests so that they may find what they were truly called to do with their lives. If we, as a culture, believe that students without disabilities can be called to a profession and career, then why is it that this same culture often appears to think that students with disabilities are just finding a job to do? As a parent or teacher of a person with one or multiple disabilities, you must believe that every person has something they are meant to do within their families, the work force and their communities. Transition programming for students should be a concentrated effort to help students reach their future goals.
No matter where your student is on their educational journey, your school, community, direct service providers, your family, and your student should team together to prepare for whatever direction the student may feel called as they move from high school on to their futures. To help encourage these students, we should start here:
- What can you do now at any grade level to help your students prepare for life after high school? Here are 5 tips for guiding students on their journeys. They are simple, but, in our school’s experience, so effective.
- Talk to your student about how their learning differences and styles affect their learning. It is important that every student, whether a toddler just beginning to explore or senior about to graduate, understand what makes them unique so they can find the right fit for them in the future.
- Ask what accommodations and strategies they have been using. The more students can talk about what they use now and why, the better they will be able to explain this to a disability services office at the college, vocational school, or workplace level.
- Provide opportunities to volunteer in your community. Time is always an issue, but when you can, give students a chance to volunteer at different types of organizations and events in your community. Experience is what fuels interests that could lead to a career.
- Encourage risk taking. All individuals can get stuck in doing the same things over and over and saying the same things over and over. “I can’t do that.” “I only like to do this.” Stepping out of their comfort zones can be hard, particularly if your student has experienced repeated “failure.” Help them to start fresh each day and guide them in healthy risk taking.
Dream HUGE! Don’t just dream big for your student. Dream the biggest dreams you can imagine! Students who are encouraged to do more, often, do more. Being realistic, does not mean squashing big dreams. It means helping kids to take what skills and talents they have to get them as close to touching their dreams as you can. So, dream huge.
Courtney Vincent is the Transition Coordinator at Brehm Preparatory School, a private boarding school for students with complex learning disabilities. She specializes in guiding students’ career exploration and research, helping them to develop their executive functioning skills and thinking creatively about the workplace, where they may fit within it, and the best route they could take to get there.