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Person-Centered Transition Planning for Students with Disabilities

written by: Anne Vize • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 8/2/2012

So your students have finally reached the end of their high school years and are ready to move on. For some students with disabilities, the choices they make now can be challenging and complex. This article will guide you through the process of effective person-centered transition planning.

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    Person-Centered Planning - What is it?

    So what exactly is this procedure, and why is it important in my work as a special educator?

    Well, simply put, person-centered planning means taking a holistic view of the planning and transitional approach for students with disabilities. This will probably already be a fairly logical approach for you if your background is in special education as much of our work tends to focus on an Individual Education Plan (IEP) which has the student as its main focus.

    Person-centered planning simply means using that same philosophy to help a young person plan for their future choices beyond high school. Just as you do with an IEP, it is important to see the transition planning process as starting and ending with the student themselves. It is their needs, interests and desires, and no one else's., which are critical in planning for a successful transition.

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    Exploring Options

    So here are some of the possible future transition options that might be worth exploring:

    Adult day placements - these are often based at a single venue or center and provide for the needs of students who have higher levels of care and support requirements. They may be staffed by a combination of leisure workers, disability support workers, personal caregivers and therapy or allied health staff. They may cater to students who have dual or mutiple disabilities, or complex health impairments.

    Employment services - the goal here is often to help the young person to find meaningful, appropriate and safe work in an environment where they will be able to develop their skills in a supported and positive way. The young person may work with an employment consultant who specialises in the disability support area to help them find the best options for them.

    Vocational training - this can include university or TAFE / vocational centers where courses are offered according to a structured system with accredited certificates, diplomas and degrees which are recognized beyond the training center in which they were obtained. The focus is on work skills and the ability to move on to further training or into a job. For example, a young person may complete a Certificate in Home and Community Care, or a Certificate in Preparing for Work.

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    Working With Advocates

    Many young people can and do utilize the support of an advocate. This is a person who is there to provide support and guidance through the transition process, and is often someone who is known to the young person. It may be a family member, friend, neighbor or member of the extended family network. It could also be a person from a professional advocacy organization.

    The notion of an advocate is as a support, rather than as a decision maker. They are there to help the young person make good choices for themselves, but they are not there to do the decision making for them. Just as teachers and support staff should value a holistic approach, an advocate too should take a person-centered approach in their transition planning. This will ensure the young person is in charge of their own life and choices to the best of their ability, but that they are supported and encouraged to do so in a way which acknowledges the affect a disability can have on decision making skills.