By: Becki Lauzon, M.A., CRC
Transition Specialist and Consultant
As a young adult nears the end of their high school career, many parents begin to question whether or not their child is prepared to make the transition to college or career. In Massachusetts, transition planning begins at the age of 14 in order to best prepare individuals for their future. There are cases, however that some students require an extra year of special education services or will access those services until the age of 22. When a transition program is proposed, parents and caregivers tend to have many questions as to what components they should be looking for and what questions should be asked of the proposed programs.
The following areas are identified by the Massachusetts Student-Driven Secondary Transition Model:
- Education and Training
- Competitive Employment
- Independent Living
- Community Participation
It is important to note that not every student will require training and instruction in each area. This is where a comprehensive transition assessment can be helpful to determine priority areas. Transition services should be individualized, just as each IEP is individualized throughout a student’s school career.
Transition can be an overwhelming and unfamiliar area for many students and families. While researching transition programs to determine the right one for your teen, the following questions can be helpful in gathering the most information:
- What does a sample schedule look like? It is important to be sure that every student does not have the same schedule, as the services should be tailored to the individual’s needs.
- How many hours are spent on instruction in the classroom?
- How many hours are spent on instruction in the community?
- What transition curriculum do you use? It is important to note that with transition curriculum, many programs do have to adapt due to student profile. Having an outline of the curriculum areas can be helpful, then ask for examples of how topics are adapted for individuals. For example, when thinking about financial literacy, some students may be working on identifying coins, while others are working on online banking or filing taxes.
- What does the staffing look like? Many students who are used to small student/teacher ratios or 1:1 assistance will need to start thinking about how that will transition to the adult world.
- Do you offer MCAS tutoring and test taking? Some students enter a transition program while still needing to complete an MCAS and/or high school credits. This can be done within a transition program environment.
- What related service providers are part of the program? As students get older, services such as occupational therapy (OT) and physical therapy (PT) begin to fade. Many times, this is due to the reality of the adult world. It is important to make sure that a student is receiving these services, if needed, in a community setting. Counseling services are also an important area to ask about. Many students who have attended a therapeutic high school program are used to having access to a clinician throughout their day. When you think about the adult world, you most likely would see your counselor once a week or every other week, so it is important to work on a plan to develop coping strategies for when that support begins to fade.
- What does their remote learning plan look like? In the times of COVID, it is important to ask for a copy of what a program’s remote learning plan looked like. Even if the plan is to return to school in the fall, it’s helpful to know how a program would continue to provide services during these unprecedented times.
- Do you offer community college supports? If your student is interested in trying a college class, is this something that the program allows? If they do, what does the support look like? Do they assist in accessing disability services, tutoring, etc.?
- What do the vocational services look like? It is unrealistic to expect that a program can guarantee a paid job, however asking questions related to what their internships look like, what job coaching support they offer, etc., can be helpful.
- If you are attending a program that is not in your local community, will the program and staff tailor some travel training and/or community-based opportunities to your home town?
About the Author
Becki Lauzon, M.A., CRC, works with teens, young adults and their families out of the Newton, MA and Plainville, MA offices. Lauzon has unparalleled experience as a Transition Specialist, Transition Consultant and Vocational Program Coordinator. Lauzon will be providing transition assessment (including testing, functional evaluations and observations) consultation, case management, training and professional development for schools; and transition planning, consultation and coaching for transition-aged students and their parents.
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Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton and Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 617-658-9800.