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What's in a transition assessment?

More than "independent" living, work, and training

(Why do I write "independent" in quotes? Short of living off the grid in an isolated place where you harvest your own food, generate your own power, and do EVERYTHING by yourself - no partners, no neighbors, no traders - no one is truly "independent.")

I've been formally working in the field of transition (from high school to adulthood) since 2015, mostly by conducting Transition IEEs (Independent Educational Evaluations) for high schoolers and students in segregated post-secondary programs. Each assessment is unique and each experience allows me to continue growing and developing. My reports and recommendations from 2015 are lightyears away from my work now and I am immensely grateful for the ability to grow as a professional and as a person.

What is an ITP? A student's Individualized Transition Plan (ITP) is part of their Individualized Education Program (IEP), which, simply put, entitles a disabled student to specific supports. Depending on the practices of the student's school district, their ITP is generally developed toward the beginning of their high school experience.

Two broad areas must be included in all ITPs: "education / training" and "employment." Depending on where the student attends school these domains might be called something slightly different. A third area, generally called "independent living," is often listed as "when appropriate," meaning it's up to the person writing the ITP whether they include this domain (I'll get back to this later).

When we think of being an adult, what's included? Much more than work, education, and "independent" living! What about healthy relationships, being part of a community, lifelong learning, recreation, self-advocacy, physical health, mental health, spiritual health, etc. etc. etc.? One could argue that these areas can and should be included in the "independent" living domain, but are they? Not in any of the dozens of ITPs I've seen.

In all the IEPs and ITPs I've seen focus on living skills (read, anything but employment and education), only a person's physical living situation has been addressed ... "so-and-so will live with their family" or "so-and-so wants to live on their own," etc. Nothing to do with HOW a person wants to live their life, or what it takes to do so.

An in-depth independent evaluation will include things outside this scope, including and not limited to:

  • Healthy relationships: resources on how to develop and maintain meaningful, healthy relationships with boundaries)

  • Being part of a community: people, resources, activities, etc.

  • Lifelong learning: beyond college, career prep, etc.

  • Recreation: what to do in your free time, how to access opportunities, etc.

  • Self-advocacy: how to talk about your goals, strengths, and support needs (mine include time alone and information presented visually)

  • Physical, mental, and spiritual health: access to effective resources and community

  • What else?

a black-and-white photo of a person typing on a computer

"The topic of transition to adulthood is not simple. It’s not a curriculum or an intervention. It really does require systems thinking and almost about how we disrupt our systems." - Dr. Mary Morningstar, 2016

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