Connecting Outcomes, Goals, and Objectives in Transition Planning

Article excerpt

Lisa, who has mental retardation and requires limited supports, is in the lath grade. She wants to work in the community when she graduates, preferably in a supermarket. Lisa also wants to live in her own apartment; participate in community recreation activities, such as hiking and bird watching on weekends; and participate in an adult basketball league during the week. Lisa's parents support her desired aspiration, although they are understandably anxious about her future. Her curriculum consists of school-based and community-based instruction in skills directly relating to her desired postschool outcomes. Because Lisa understands that she is learning skills that she needs to fulfill her aspirations, she is highly motivated to work on these skills.

Jill, also in the loth grade, has specific learning disabilities that affect her abilities in reading, math, and overall organization. She is not sure what she wants to do when she grows up, but she is sure that she does not want to go to college. Her curriculum is primarily academic within the general high school curriculum, with necessary accommodations provided. Despite the concern and dedication of her teachers, Jill is discouraged and unmotivated. She sees little reason to stay in school and is in danger of dropping out.

These two students possess positive potential for future success, yet one appears to be embarking on a successful adult life, while the future for the other student seems bleak. The decisions and actions taken at this point in their lives will have an effect on them for years to come. This article describes the nature of the connection between goals and outcomes in transitions for young people, raises challenges for effective planning, and suggests strategies for enhancing the effectiveness of transition planning.

Transition planning teams often include special and general education teachers, guidance counselors, parents, vocational rehabilitation counselors, related services professionals-and the students themselves. Because self-determination is such an essential aspect of effective transition planning, we first discuss this as a framework for the remainder of our recommendations.

Overriding Role of Self-- Detemination

Self-determination is a combination of skills, knowledge, and attitudes (Field, Martin, Miller, Ward, & Wehmeyer, 1998; Wehmeyer, Agran, & Hughes, 1998). Wehmeyer and Schwartz (1998) described self-determined behavior as

* Choice-Making.

* Problem-solving.

* Goal-setting and attainment.

* Risk-taking and safety.

* Self-regulation.

* Self-advocacy or leadership.

* Self-awareness or self-knowledge.

Because effective planning for the future depends on the student's ability to clarify his or her wishes and aspirations, self-determination is essential to all facets of the planning process (Thoma, 1999). We find close relationships among skills associated with selfdetermination, desired postschool transition outcomes, and their associated annual goals and short-term objectives (see box, "Self-Determination Skills").

Self-determination skills are essential to clarifying desired postschool transition outcomes for the following reasons:

* To decide on careers to pursue, students must know what they like, are good at, and are interested in. This is true also for recreation and other nonvocational community activities.

* To choose among careers, colleges, recreation opportunities, or places in which to live, students must have choice-making and decision-making abilities. They must also have experience in making choices and decisions.

* In all aspects of planning for the future, students must be able to clearly and confidently articulate their choices and desires, even when significant others do not entirely agree.

Because of the critical importance of self-determination skills in the transition process, educators should incorporate specific application of these skills into the curriculum and should include the skills in annual goals and short-term objectives. …