How to Prepare Students to be Involved
Person-Centered Transition Planning
Involving students and parents in setting goals for transition is not only politically correct, it is the law. Still, in reality person-centered planning is not always put into practice. Transition planning meetings are still conducted without students and parents attending. Plans are written by service providers who write goals that assume what is important to the person receiving services. Consumers are asked questions that assume they have the life experiences necessary to make informed responses. Equally troubling are good plans that are not being implemented. Whatever the reasons for the lack of true student and family involvement, person-centered planning approaches show promise. Person-centered planning is a process. It is learning how a person wants to live, describing where a person wants their life to go, and determining what needs to be done. There are common elements among most person-centered planning processes (Miner & Bates, 1997). These types of plans reflect…
- Respect for the person with the disability and their family
- Support for the individual
- What is important to the person in how they live
- What is important to those who know and care about that person
- A plan of action with responsible parties
What unites all these efforts is a commitment to learning what is important to people, and a commitment to implementing what was learned. At the core of developing and implementing person-centered plans is a sharing of control with the people supported and their families. While many tools have been developed and used widely as a means of supporting more inclusive educational outcomes for students (e.g. Making Action Plans, Pearpoint, Forest, & O’Brien, 1996; Circles of Friends, Snow & Forest, 1987; Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope – PATH, Pearpoint, O’Brien, & Forest, 1993), tools to specifically guide the transition planning process are needed.
Developing a Tool to Support More Effective Transition Planning
A quality of life framework is useful in transition planning (Halpern, 1993). Key characteristics of all definitions of quality of life include: general feelings of well-being, feelings of positive social involvement, and opportunities to achieve personal potential (Special Interest Group on QOL [Quality of Life], 2000). In current educational practice, high priority is given to providing the kinds of functional supports that will enhance physical and social inclusion and, thus, quality of life (Wehmeyer & Schwartz, 1998; Wehmeyer, M. & Schalock, R., 2001). Furthermore, individuals who are self-determined are more likely to have more positive perceived quality of life outcomes (Wehmeyer, M. & Schalock, R., 2001). Self-determined behavior includes “acting as the primary causal agent in one’s life and making choices and decisions regarding one’s quality of life free from undue external influence and interference” (Wehmeyer, 1996). It is our belief that helping students experience: setting goals, evaluating options, solving problems, observing outcomes, making mistakes, experiencing results, and exploring social networks - enable self-determined behavior to emerge. In and of itself, the acquisition of appropriate Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) technologies and related supports and competencies do not automatically result in active participation in daily life events nor do they imply automatic community membership or a high quality of life (QOL) for students with complex communication needs. We must address the underlying, fundamental skills that enable an individual to function independently and autonomously, even if they remain dependent on others to meet their physical and access needs. As mentioned previously, student involvement, choice and participation in planning individual program plans, particularly in the area of transition, are well supported by law. A coordinated set of transition activities must be based on the individual student’s needs, taking into account that student’s interests and preferences. An essential characteristic of self-determination is autonomy – when it’s according to one’s own preferences and abilities; and self-regulation– when individuals are able to make decisions about what skills they need, when they examine their options, and when they formulate a plan of action, making revisions when necessary. It is a myth that self-determination must be accomplished through independent performance and self-sufficiency. Rather, it is having opportunities for assuming control in supportive environments, with supports and accommodations in place. We have found that Framing A Future (FAF) is an effective tool for guiding the team in developing appropriate plans for transition that build on the following critical principles:
- Educational outcomes include not only core academics, but areas that will ensure our students achieve autonomy and independence (e.g. membership in the community, control of personal health and welfare, pursuit of lifelong learning, developing talents and interests, creating healthy relationships, building self-reliance, and developing a personal sense of spirituality).
- Person-centered planning, or a commitment to learning what is important to individuals and commitment to implementing what was learned, is at the core of such planning.
- Participating in the planning process in and of itself can be a means of developing self-determination for individuals with disabilities, when done in a supportive environment with team members providing appropriate supports and accommodations.
- A person’s quality of life is perceived and valued differently by each individual. It is a changing vision that includes anticipating possibilities and experiencing the journey. Quality of life results from a person’s perceived satisfaction with the possibilities that they value as important (Renwick, 1988). Our goal is to provide support for students to develop the highest level of quality of life possible.