Transitioning Special Needs Students Beyond School

Special Education Resource
June 26, 2012 — 1,055 views  

The transition from adolescence to adulthood is difficult for any child, but it can be especially challenging for special education students. While the parents of these students will certainly play an important role in preparing them for their adult lives beyond high school, teachers and school staff also have an essential part in making this transition as seamless as possible.

School teachers and staff should be prepared to teach special needs students the skills they can use for a lifetime, even as adults beyond the classroom. The U.S. Department of Education explains under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that the transition period between high school and beyond should be a results-oriented process that seeks to improve a student's functional and academic achievement to facilitate this change into adulthood. This includes all activities and paths a student might pursue including post-secondary education, continuing and adult education, vocational education, community participation and independent living.

Educators can assist a student through a successful transition period by focusing on the child's interests, needs, preferences and strengths. Just like with any other student, a teacher should strive to help a special education student plan for his or her future and reach his or her goals. Concentrating on their interests can help zero in on attainable goals and plan accordingly to meet these targets. A teacher or school staff member should be prepared to also address any fears the student might have. Everyone is apprehensive during this transition and the sooner fears are discussed, the more likely obstacles can be avoided during adulthood.

Each school and teacher should have a transition plan for each student in special education, under the IDEA. The plan should be included in his or her IEP by the time the student is 16 years old and updated yearly. Teachers and staff can reference this plan for each child, while continuously working toward maximizing their opportunities for independence and self-fulfillment beyond high school. This can be done by creating a personalized curriculum for each student and maintaining a supportive environment in the classroom.

This curriculum should be a blend of life skills instruction and academic learning. Life skills learning can include occupation skills lessons, personal and social skills and daily living skills that will be useful for the student for engaging meaningfully in the community and pursue employment. Special education students need the support, instruction and encouragement from both parents and educators to make this transition successful.

Special Education Resource