Postsecondary Transition Services

Assessment, Consultation, Planning, Real-life Coaching, Training and More

Transition is the multi-faceted process by which an adolescent or young adult masters the skills necessary to function competently in postsecondary life. NESCA offers vision-driven and person-centered transition services that redefine transition as a process that both anticipates high school completion and extends beyond it. NESCA offers a comprehensive array of services designed to support the needs of students, families, schools and professionals before, during and after postsecondary transition. These services are coordinated by Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS, and provided by our Team of Transition Specialists in conjunction with our Clinical Staff.

What We Offer:

Transition Assessment Services

NESCA offers a wide range of transition assessment services, designed to identify and cultivate a student’s postsecondary living, social, learning and vocational goals, and to determine the students related strengths and needs. It is recommended that all families schedule a one-hour parent intake and consultation before beginning the transition assessment process. The ultimate aim of transition assessment is to identify skills and services necessary to ready the student for the transition from high school to the next phase of life. NESCA’s transition assessment services are designed to support the needs of students, families, schools and professionals.

Transition Planning Assessment (TPA)

Transition Planning Assessment is the most commonly requested transition assessment at NESCA. TPA can be conducted as a standalone evaluation or an adjunct to a neuropsychological evaluation at NESCA. This is often a good starting point for a student who has not yet participated in a holistic transition assessment or for a school or family who is interested in gaining new data to explicitly inform the transition planning process. TPA is a comprehensive testing process that identifies a student’s measurable postsecondary goals and evaluates a student’s interests, preferences, needs and skills as they relate to the demands of current and future social/community, living, educational and work environments.

This assessment typically involves parent, student and school-based staff interviews as well as one to two office-based testing sessions with a transition specialist. Questionnaire data from the student, parent and educator(s) is critical to the process. TPA can help to determine short- and long-term planning goals, inform annual instructional needs, identify necessary educational and community services, support instructional programming decisions, provide information about present level of performance, and refine a student’s personal vision.

Comprehensive Transition Assessment

NESCA’s comprehensive transition assessment is comprised of a series of tests, interviews and questionnaires, as well as home, school, vocational and/or community-based observation. The assessment typically consists of an intake session with the parent, three to five hours of in-office assessment, two hours of observations outside of the office (e.g., at school, an internship site, in the community, etc.), and a feedback session. Comprehensive transition assessments may be conducted by a team, as we have found that when it comes to this type of assessment, “two sets of eyes are better than one.”

Best practice indicates that transition assessment should be thought of as a process conducted over a number of years beginning in middle school, rather than as a one-time evaluation. However, in the event that this process has not taken place (which is not particularly unusual, given that transition assessment and planning is relatively new to many clinicians, families, and schools), students in their sophomore, junior, senior or postgraduate years of high school might require a comprehensive transition assessment, in which the range of transition readiness areas (e.g. learning profile, daily living skills, social skills, coping skills, pre-vocational skills, etc.) is assessed within a compressed timeframe and functional observation data is incorporated. Typically, these types of transition assessments span a two to three-month period, from the initial intake session to the time the written report is finalized.

Assessment Consultation

There is a countless number of formal and informal measures to choose from when assessing a student’s current performance level and skill-building capacity. Moreover, a number of assessments are performed throughout the education process but may not be documented or credited as transition assessment, or results may not be fully integrated into a students transition plan and educational program. NESCA staff frequently work in partnership with schools to evaluate current transition assessment practices, identify the best tools and strategies to support the needs of their student population, and provide training related to administration, scoring and interpretation of necessary assessment tools.

Vocational Assessment

Vocational assessment carefully evaluates a student’s preferences, interests and aptitudes in relation to current and future employment through a variety of informal and formal evaluation tools. A critical component for evaluation of student abilities is situational assessment and/or observation of current work-related activities. Interviews with family, school and community providers familiar with the student’s strengths and needs are also crucial.

As with all transition assessment at NESCA, the vocational assessment process is highly individualized based on the student’s current programming and experience, or lack of experience, with employment. Individualized vocational assessment is often as relevant for a student who has a part-time job at a local supermarket as for a student who has not yet had their first volunteer experience. Regardless of prior experience, vocational assessment at NESCA includes a detailed written report with specific recommendations for supporting progress toward postsecondary employment goals including appropriate career exploration activities and initial or next work experiences.

Community-based Assessment of Transition Skills (CATS)

Community-based Transition Assessment is a person-centered and highly individualized, community-based assessment developed to address questions regarding transition readiness. In response to the student’s articulated vision, this assessment includes observation in familiar and novel environment(s) in which they anticipate pursuing their postsecondary goals.

Assessments can be located in a wide range of settings; each unique to the student being assessed. Typical locations may include school, town centers, retail settings, college campuses, recreational settings, volunteer sites and vocational settings. Through a combination of structured activities and naturalistic observation, the CATS functionally assesses key abilities for postsecondary life, such as social communication, navigation, executive functioning, self-advocacy, self-determination, problem solving, stamina and use of technology in real-world environments.

CATS is a highly functional transition assessment that may be performed by a transition specialist, occupational therapist or team of clinicians. CATS traditionally includes a document review, student interview, two to three hours of observation and a written report with recommendations. Depending on the unique referral question and focus of evaluation, formal assessment of a specific area of concern (e.g., executive functioning, self-determination, adaptive functioning, college readiness, vocational aptitude, etc.) additional observation hours may be added.

As with other transition assessments at NESCA, CATS can be conducted as a standalone assessment or in combination with a neuropsychological evaluation. Please note, parent intake/consultation is not included in CATS and is a separate service that must be conducted prior. Parent intake/consultation is used to determine whether CATS is the most appropriate evaluation process for the student and to adequately plan the timing, setting and, if so, scope of the assessment. 

Consultation and Planning Services

Ongoing Consultation and Planning

Transition consultation and planning involve understanding and nurturing an individual’s postsecondary vision and helping that individual and his or her family identify resources, services, skills and strategies necessary to realize it. We collaborate with families, schools and community members 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.

However, transition planning often needs to go much further, complementing school-based programs and remaining available to a student through the entire transition period.

Following a parent intake and consultation appointment, the transition planning process generally begins with two to three tightly spaced student meetings to facilitate student input, the development of a relationship and strategic planning. In some cases, it may be advisable for the transition specialist to attend neuropsychological testing feedback sessions or perform school observation(s) to facilitate a common understanding and coordinated care.

Subsequent meetings will be scheduled as necessary to monitor and revise the transition plan. This is highly individualized and can range from monthly meetings to as few as two times per year.

Short-term Consultation

What’s the most productive way to use the summer time? How can we create a meaningful gap year? What postsecondary transition programs in New England might be a fit for my child? What type of transition assessment does my child need? How do we know if the transition assessment we had was good? How do we navigate the transition from schools to adult human service supports? Short-term consultation may be appropriate for families who are looking to answer a specific question related to transition planning and/or are trying to decide whether ongoing planning and consultation services are appropriate for their needs. Short-term consultation is often as brief as a record review and hour-long parent consultation, but may also be as comprehensive as several parent and student intake sessions, culminating in a transition specialist participating in a TEAM meeting or completing a written report with updated transition planning recommendations.

Program Consultation

Serving the individualized transition needs of students with widely varying social, emotional and cognitive needs within a school, summer or after-school program is a complex endeavor. With over a decade of experience designing transition-specific programming, our staff work collaboratively with schools to refine current services, design new classes and programs, develop skill-building curricula and train staff to effectively facilitate the development of independence skills for students.

Coordination or Case Management Services

Transition programs and services are constantly evolving; it seems like new opportunities are available every day. Still, it can be difficult to find one singular program that meets a student’s unique transitional needs. In these instances, we are available to work with schools and families to build a team of providers to deliver services for an individualized transition plan or postgraduate year program. NESCA will also facilitate the program to ensure coordination of care.

Training for Schools, Professionals and Groups

NESCA offers a wide variety of workshops providing both theoretical and practical information for supporting students with developmental, learning and/or emotional challenges. Below is a sampling of our most popular workshops related to transition-age youth. These and other trainings pertaining to students with learning differences may be tailored to meet the needs of your school or organization. Workshops typically range in length from one and a half to three hours but can be shortened or lengthened upon request.

  • Only 12: Why and How to Begin Transition Planning
  • Assessments: The Cornerstone of the Postsecondary Transition Process
  • Venturing Outside of the Classroom: Community Supports for Effective Transition Planning
  • Using the Transition Planning Form to Your Advantage
  • Laws, Advisories and Guidance that Inform Transition Planning
  • The ABCs of Agencies: A Brief Overview of State and Public Supports
  • Strategies for Supporting Tweens, Teens and Young Adults with Social-cognitive Deficits
  • Fostering Self-awareness and Self-advocacy in Youth with Social-cognitive Deficits

Real-life Skills Coaching

For students with social, emotional, organizational and/or learning differences, hands-on instruction in real world environments is a critical means of developing skills for postsecondary living, learning and working. NESCA is pleased to offer individualized home-, community-, and office-based coaching services delivered by a team of seasoned Occupational Therapists (OTs) and Transition Specialists to support the needs of transition-age youth.

Adaptive and Functional Skills Coaching

Real-life skills coaching of adaptive and functional skills may be a time-limited or ongoing intensive service focused on developing practical independent living skills in real-life environments. This is critical for individuals needing to generalize skills taught in the classroom and/or who learn best experientially.

This type of skills coaching is suitable for any student seeking experience outside the walls of a high school environment and also may be an important component for an individual taking part in a fifth year, postgraduate or gap year experience.

Specific, individualized goals are established for continued learning, vocation and community life. Our OTs help clients build skills to assist with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)—everyday, basic tasks that allow a person to both function and thrive—and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs)—more complex tasks that allow a person to live and thrive independently. Our transition specialists help build skills to address transitions specifically to employment or postsecondary learning environments.

Examples of ADLs NESCA addresses are:

  • Self-care/hygiene
  • Dressing
  • Development of morning/evening routines

Examples of IADLs NESCA addresses are:

  • Executive functioning (organization and planning techniques)
  • *Travel training/community navigation
  • Grocery shopping
  • Managing finances
  • Meal planning and preparation
  • Fitness and nutrition

*OTs are uniquely positioned to serve as travel trainers, helping individuals successfully and safely get from point A to point B. In this role, OTs assess, advise and train individuals to use transportation systems and services to get from home to work, school, stores or other destinations within the community and back home again safely.

Examples of transition skills NESCA addresses are:

  • Self-advocacy
  • Participating in volunteer/community service work
  • Managing college application process
  • Building skills for navigating transition to a specific college campus
  • Finding volunteer, summer, part-time or full-time employment
  • Building soft skills for employment or technical skills for a specific job
  • Finding leisure and social activities to participate in within one’s community

Specific short-term goals are often set by the client and coach in collaboration with family or school team members during the first one to two coaching sessions. Overall well-being and familiarity with community resources are a focus for every participant.

Moreover, our coaches work collaboratively with agency representatives and accompany clients to meetings with them as appropriate, on behalf of eligible individuals who will be receiving ongoing support from adult human service agencies, such as the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) and/or the Department of Developmental Services (DDS).

Pre-college Coaching

NESCA offers pre-college coaching services carefully designed to help students develop concrete skills and knowledge critical for managing the transition from high school to college. Created to meet the needs of students intending to enroll in two- or four-year college programs, NESCA offers an individualized and real world approach to the process of exploring and identifying college options.

Through one-to-one sessions with a transition specialist, students are able to learn about a variety of postsecondary options as well as key differences between high school and college. Pre-college coaching sessions often take place in local community settings, enabling students to explore college for the first time, learn how to navigate specific college campuses and practice hands-on skill development, such as self-advocacy, navigation, money management, social communication and time management utilizing resource found on a college campus. Pre-college coaching at NESCA is a learning process that meets a student where they are at and provides a practical road map outlining short- and long-term goals unique to their college transition.

For families needing support with college selection, NESCA offers a short-term service to help prepare a student and family to select an appropriate college environment; when appropriate, college selection also occurs as part of Transition Planning and Consultation.

College Selection

Searching for a suitable postsecondary setting that affords opportunity for success is a difficult process for students with learning disabilities and/or autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Through short-term consultation, NESCA’s transition specialists support students (and their families) in developing a college planning timeline, creating college lists, learning how to explore a college online, planning college visits, researching support services and more.

Importantly, transition specialists are able to visit local colleges with students to help them get the most from their experience, reality test “fit,” and investigate beyond the official presentation offered by the college. While NESCA does not provide ongoing college counseling, consultation with a transition specialist is an ideal way to start the college selection process.

Moreover, when questions about a student’s readiness for a two- or four-year college experience are raised, NESCA transition specialists are uniquely qualified to assess readiness and provide appropriate referrals to alternative transition, gap year and age 18-22 programs.

Career Coaching

Career coaching is an opportunity for students (or recent graduates) to develop workplace skills and explore possible careers. Learning about the range of career options is an important experience as an initial stage of overall career development. Preparation begins with awareness and exposure. Through an individualized approach, students are explicitly taught about their own personal strengths, interests and abilities and how they apply to the world of work. With this early exposure, students and their families can define a clearer vision for the future and map out a specific course of action. Through career coaching, students and parents begin the process of navigating the future while setting attainable short- and long-term goals. As coaching progresses, the student will gain access to increased self-awareness, actively form self-advocacy skills, and feel ownership of their vision.

NESCA offers coaching opportunities designed to meet students at their stage of career development:

  • Career Awareness – Students have the opportunity to learn about the world of work including how the language and expectations are different than school. They will learn about themselves and how their strengths, interests and abilities carve out a path to employment. Students will gain familiarity with skills and behaviors required for work, including social communication, as well as the range of options related to their unique interests and abilities.
  • Career Exposure – Students learn about the differences between jobs and careers. They will be able to identify short-term goals leading to future employment. They will be exposed to job shadows, informational interviews, paid and unpaid internships, and/or volunteer work. Students will become more familiar with their own self-determination skills, enhancing their abilities to identify strengths, aptitudes, learning styles, transferable work skills and behaviors as well as work preferences.
  • Career Preparation – Students will create a step-by-step action plan for achieving realistic career goals. This may include educational planning for attendance at technical schools, increased job training and/or higher education. Students will be taught explicitly how to remain flexible with respect to potential career choices, develop independent coping skills and to make a well thought-through decision. Students will further reduce dependence on school support by identifying and developing independent networks. Students will learn and follow through on job seeking tasks with supportive or competitive employment as the ultimate goal.
  • Career Maintenance – Students will have a job and/or internship. They will receive job site-specific coaching to maintain employment. They will improve on their communication skills as they apply to the world of work. They will learn how and with whom to problem-solve on the job. They will be able to describe to future employers what their transferable employment skills are and how they learn best on the job. Students will increase their independent living skills and self-advocacy skills as they relate to the world of work.

Career coaching may take place initially at NESCA to obtain basic knowledge regarding students’ strengths, interests and abilities. This can happen after transition assessment by NESCA or as a part of Transition Planning and Consultation. Once students are interested and/or able, career coaching will take place in their local communities and include learning to access transportation and other job-specific skills necessary for success.

Virtual Coaching for Teens and Young Adults (and Their Parents)

NESCA is proud to offer person-centered virtual coaching services that are available to help teens and young adults with a wide range of learning profiles build self-awareness, self-advocacy and goal-setting skills, develop skills for managing current and future stress, increase social-emotional functioning, and begin making steps toward defining and achieving the goals that they have for themselves! Each of our clinicians has special expertise ranging from college planning or career and vocational counseling to development of life skills including executive functioning and social-cognitive skills.

Many of our real-life skills coaching services (described in detail above) are appropriate to deliver virtually to young people and we also offer parent coaching and training to best support growth and individuation for the students and young adults we work with. Every young person has a coaching schedule and emphasis that meets their current needs.

Thank you so much for meeting with me this morning. Initially, as you know, I had resisted thinking that I wouldn't learn anything new but I stand corrected. You were quick, on target, very well informed - just what this harried mother needed! We were recommended to you with, "she's the best in the business" or something to that effect - I agree! Thanks again for your very helpful, concise, informative meeting.

Mother of a transition-aged youth

My experience with NESCA has been extremely positive; everyone is very professional and [transition specialist] has been so helpful , she goes above and beyond with advice and valuable information to help my son and his future. She helps and care for the families, both , child and parents; she offers a wealth of information and advice which is essential to parents as guidance.

The outcome was that our district accepted NESCA’s evaluations and recommendations as the formal evaluation on file and declined having to perform their own; this was a huge help towards getting my son into the right program, which we were able to accomplish. I highly recommend NESCA and if [our transition specialist’s] services are a reflection of everyone that works for NESCA I would encourage families to leverage all their services. We have had an excellent experience.

Parent of a transition-aged youth

“My husband and I want to thank you for all of your help with guiding [our son] (and us) through this process. We all think [this] College will be a good fit for [our son] and are excited for this experience knowing he will have the support he needs. You have done an excellent job with providing [our son] with the guidance he needed, while also making him accountable for researching and completing the tasks associated with college admissions.

We will certainly be in touch in the future if we feel more educational guidance is needed. Thank you again for everything, your help was extremely beneficial.”

A N.H. Parent