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Transitioning to College and Beyond

Transition Disabilities - College Transition


Authoritative research-based data on successful transition to post-secondary school and work settings for adolescents and young adults with LD. Information must apply to all post-secondary students (regardless of school location, graduation status, prior school experience, parental expectations, and socio-cultural factors), and address issues including: academic achievement, social-emotional development, work-related competencies, and family involvement.

Ask first graders to look ahead and imagine what their high school experience will be like and you're almost sure to hear glorified accounts of scholastic achievement, social popularity and elaborate and well-defined plans to leap from the shackles of school into post-secondary nirvana. Ask 12th graders about their plans following high school graduation and the responses (after "I don't know") are anything but predictable. And for good reason. Transition planning, while intuitively the right thing to do (and a required activity for students with disabilities), is often left for the last minute, and parents, school guidance personnel, and teenagers are thrown into a pressure cooker approach to decision-making at a time that is already fraught with the tensions of adolescents trying to "break away" and take the first real steps toward independence.


There are a myriad of post-secondary options available to students today, including 2-year, 4-year and community colleges, apprenticeships and vocational training programs to name a few. The expectations placed on graduating high school students today, especially given the highly technical and increasingly specialized nature of the workforce (and a society that values traditional college completion), have never been higher. The challenges faced by students with learning disabilities (LD) are, in a word, enormous, and while parents and school personnel do have a growing pool of resources, the unfortunate reality is that the vast majority of information available on post-secondary transition is based on survey data, personal reflections, and common sense.


Wouldn't it be grand to say that, based on carefully designed empirical studies, we are able to personalize this experience to every student's unique needs and, with confidence, answer questions like:


  • Which students are best suited for a competitive college experience, and which would do better with an introductory pre-college work or work-study experience?
  • What accommodations are likely to enable particular students to succeed in competitive work or academic settings and how should these students go about disclosing their LD and assuring their rights to these entitlements?
  • What activities need to take place during a student's middle and high school career to build the self-confidence and self-advocacy skills that are essential to post-secondary success?
  • What particular supports (including technology) are most likely to succeed in providing students the help they need in critical areas such as goal setting, time management, note-taking, and seeking assistance?

So where can you look for answers to these questions? Start by reading the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2, that documents experiences of a national sample of students who were 13 to 16 years of age in 2000 as they move from secondary school into adulthood. Topics covered in this report include: high school coursework, extracurricular activities, academic performance, postsecondary education and training, employment, independent living, and community participation.

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Tags: grade9-12, college-adult