There is a buzz on campus the day schedules for classes roll out across secondary schools. For some students, it’s a little stunning: either high school or middle school with endless choices that seem to excite them. Finally, something different on the horizon. For others: it’s a time of high anxiety. It seems that all of life’s questions come to the forefront all at once: How do I get into college? Who am I? What is important to me? For some students with disabilities, they may not be able or willing to express that it is overwhelming or exciting.
Like their peers, there are a lot of different ways students with disabilities will navigate some of their final formalized academic years. For some students with disabilities, there is no question, a high school diploma and a chance for post-secondary education like many peers is what they want and can achieve. Other students may need a few more steps.
Depending on the community at large, there may be “Year 13” or an Adult school for adults with disabilities. Other students want nothing to do with school anymore, they want a job.
Like their peers, students with disabilities should start this discussion even as early as sixth grade. Perhaps not in depth as one might need in ninth and tenth grade. Knowing that life goes on and creating a life goal is an age appropriate activity.
Some students can even hold a person centered planning. Person centered plannings may look a little like an IEP but there are a lot of discussions that include topics like:
- where the person will live after high school
- how they may get around (transportation)
- what plans they may have or ideas that the family/friends may have for their future
- services they may need
Person centered plannings are also sometimes called MAPS (Making Action Plans- Forest & Lusthaus, 1990), GAP (Group Action Planning – Turnbull & Turnbull, 1992), or PATHS (Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope – Pearpoint, O’Brien, & Forest, 1993). All have a specific layout and a suggested list of people to invite to the meeting.
Specifically, just remind your students who are anxious over just a few things when those papers come out. So, yes, those goals of your future matter. Yes, the world will not come to an end. But most of all, yes, you can be nervous and not think about it “right now” as those papers and catalogs are pointed out or packed safely into a backpack.
So where do paraeducators fit into this? Sometimes not very far. Although knowing about these events is helpful to support the student. Some paraeducators are invited to person centered plannings. For the paraeducators who have gone, they find the events uplifting as the community that comes for the student with a disability buoys the person up planning on for their future.
Have you been to a person centered planning? What transition activities are heading your way? Are you interested in participating as a Guest Blogger for ParaEducate? Do you have a question for us? Find ParaEducate online here, here, here and here. ParaEducate is company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.