Transition is the process by which an adolescent or young adult masters the life skills necessary to function independently in postsecondary school, the workplace, at home and as a member of their community. NESCA offers transition assessment, planning, coaching and consultation coordinated by Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS. The process of transition begins informally at a young age. At NESCA, our transition specialists most often support clients (and their schools and families) from middle school through young adulthood.
Transition in this context is the process of progressing from one life stage to another. The movement from secondary school to college and beyond, into the workplace, can be exciting but daunting. Our society has, in practice, addressed transition arbitrarily as an individual event coinciding with the completion of high school. At NESCA, we have redefined transition as a process that anticipates this milestone but extends beyond it, because ideally, the work should begin early and continue well beyond the event.
Transition planning and consultation involve understanding and nurturing an individual’s postsecondary vision (i.e., their goals for their postsecondary adult life), and helping that student and his or her family identify resources, services, skills and strategies necessary to realize it. Young adults clearly benefit from the development of a long-term relationship dedicated to the construction of a solid bridge to adulthood that remains supportive beyond completion of secondary school.
The transition from high school into college, vocational training, employment and/or independent living is a big shift and is stressful for every student, but for those with disabilities it can be that much more challenging. Research suggests that students who have participated in active planning toward realization of their own vision are more engaged as students and experience more success and satisfaction as young adults. It is important to remember that skills necessary for living a fulfilling and independent life go well beyond academic success.
Learning to cross the street, attend a sleep-over, buy one’s own ice cream cone and make a phone call are all early steps toward transition. The list of skills to be mastered is infinite (aren’t we all still working on something?) and prioritized based on the student’s vision, but the more skills a student can truly master before making the transition, the easier it will be for everyone. In whatever novel situation follows high school, the more automatic a skill is, the more easily it will transfer to a new routine and setting.
NESCA transition specialists are experts in the special education process as it relates to transition assessment, services, and planning. For students who are engaged in special education, we collaborate with families and schools to optimize the use of the Transition Planning Form (TPF), to assure that it is closely aligned with the student’s vision and IEP goals, and to support IEP development. However, transition planning often needs to go much further and to maximize times when students are not in school including summer months. Transition services at NESCA complement school-based programs and remain available to a student through the entire transition period.
This is a highly personal decision for each family and there is no age too early or too late. Massachusetts mandates that schools address transition goals beginning at age 14 for students with special education services, but there are advantages to beginning to address transition even earlier. Transition planning from a young age allows a student and his or her family to enter into the school conversation fully prepared and with a better-defined vision to guide their work. Students are also more prepared to be active and heard in their team meetings. It also allows the family to incorporate the long-term vision into their lifestyle and parenting decisions.
Transition planning and support can also be provided for students later in the transition process as well as for those who have already completed high school and those without disabilities. All young people can benefit from skilled support with career and educational planning. Engaging in this highly person-centered planning process builds important executive functioning and self-determination skills including goal setting, planning, self-monitoring, problem-solving, and self-advocacy.
Highly individualized assessment is a very important aspect of the transition planning process. Transition assessment is designed to get a better sense of a student’s postsecondary living, learning, social, and vocational goals and to determine the skills a student needs to develop to reach those goals, with the ultimate aim of readying that student for transition from high school to the next phase of life.
Best practice indicates that transition assessment should be thought of as a process conducted over a number of years beginning in middle school. Transition planning assessment provides a snapshot of a student’s strengths, interests, preferences and needs across major transition planning and service areas that have emerged in research and from legislation in recent years.
The purpose of transition assessment is to gain preliminary knowledge of a student’s inherent strengths and needs in relation to their postsecondary vision for learning, working, and living. Transition assessment is highly individualized. While it is rare for two students to have the same assessment battery, transition assessment often evaluate abilities such as self-care, self-direction, self-advocacy, career interests, career aptitudes, communication, community use, functional academics, health and safety, domestic skills, leisure, readiness for college or other forms of postsecondary learning and training, transferrable work skills and readiness for employment. Once the student’s profile is understood, recommendations can be made to set goals, identify services needed, determine course of study, determine community-based, extra-curricular and summer activities, establish baseline performance, and refine a personal vision.
Neuropsychological evaluation focuses primarily on a student’s learning profile, and while information about a student’s learning profile greatly informs the transition assessment, a transition assessment gives equal weight to a student’s daily living skills, social skills, coping skills, pre-vocational skills, and self-advocacy skills. While transition assessments provide detailed recommendations related to current educational programming and transition services, a strong focus of transition assessment is the student’s readiness to function in postsecondary learning or training, daily living, community and employment settings.
Transition planning assessment is billed at a flat rate fee. This includes a 60-minute intake session with parents, 60-minute intake with student, 2-3 hours of additional office testing with the student and written report with recommendations. Testing is often booked as two 2-hour sessions or on a full day, depending on the student’s ability to sustain attention and effort.
Parent and school reporting in response to formal and informal questionnaires and conversations with school staff or long-term providers are critical components of transition planning assessment. When assessments are conducted over summer months, it is important to plan for this information to be collected from staff who know the student well prior to the end of the school year.
A complimentary 60-minute parent feedback session may also be arranged to answer questions about the report and discuss implementation of recommendations. Parents are welcome to invite a collateral provider, such as a family advocate or therapist to attend the parent feedback session as long as the focus of the feedback remains on the family. Transition specialists will also consult with parent advocates, attorneys or community providers after the parent feedback, but will need to charge for consultation hours that occur after the assessment is complete.
The base cost of a transition planning assessment ranges from $4200-4600. When a more comprehensive assessment is needed, including a school, home, or community observation, there is an additional charge of $1400. We require a 50% payment at the time of the parent intake appointment and the balance at the second student testing session. We accept personal checks and all major credit and debit cards.
Ancillary services including further consultation and document review, observation hours, program evaluation, team meeting participation and expert testimony are billed separately.
Transition services are considered educational in nature and are typically not not covered by insurance.
Team Meeting participation is often an important time to include a transition specialist to support implementation of transition assessment recommendations or consult to the team regarding a student’s transition planning needs. NESCA transition specialists enjoy participating and creatively problem-solving with educational teams and regularly make themselves available to be part of the team process for students and families. While most of NESCA’s transition services are offered at an hourly rate, Team Meeting participation can be arranged for a flat rate fee of $750-850 depending on meeting location.
Parent and school report in response to formal and informal questionnaires is a critical component of transition planning assessment. In this regard, timing of written reports is dependent on prompt return of all paperwork. As a guideline, our goal is to deliver written reports several days before the parent feedback meeting. For various reasons, reports may sometimes take longer than this to be completed. If you have a specific date (i.e. upcoming TEAM meeting, school conference) when you will need a written document, please let us know when making your appointment or at the intake session, so we can determine if that deadline can be met. Please plan accordingly by scheduling team meetings more than two weeks after the parent feedback session. This will allow you to closely review the report and provide it to your school at least 10 days prior to your meeting, which most schools require.
Prior to appointments, we recommend telling the student that they will be meeting with a transition specialist (a counselor who helps plan for careers, college, or life after high school) who will be asking a number of interview questions and may perform some testing to learn about the student’s strengths and interests as well as areas of difficulty. Meeting with a transition specialist is different than other evaluations that the student has been part of and more time will be spent talking, completing questionnaires, and even participating in computer-based activities.
Please schedule appointments at times that the student is likely to be alert and engaged. When possible, make sure that the student has had adequate sleep and is well fed before the appointments. It is also important for you to convey a positive attitude about the process with the student.
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