Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Mediation as a Transition Process: The Impact on Postschool Employment Outcomes

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Mediation as a Transition Process: The Impact on Postschool Employment Outcomes

Article excerpt

At the inception of transition studies, researchers suggested that the lives of people with disabilities be placed at the center of attention (Berkell & Brown, 1989; Gillespie & Turnbull, 1983). This early commitment is sustained through focusing on an individual's transition to adulthood within the context of a whole life--a context in which other people's lives and their life transitions intersect with that of the individual. The life transition process ultimately should be seen as comprised of intersecting and intertwining individual and social dimensions.

Various beliefs about an individual's competence and aspirations--those held by the individuals with disabilities themselves, their significant others, and service providers--all interact with each other to either limit or increase opportunities and growth. The interconnection between beliefs and aspirations can be described through the concepts of script as a representation of the individual dimension, social network as a representation of the social dimension, and mediation as the process that explains how scripts and social networks are intertwined. Together, these concepts can help us understand the development of employment outcomes as one domain of the transition to adult life.

Mediation is the social process that integrates a life transition. It is the ability of a person, in the context of a social network, to reach out in the world and make things happen, by making connections between two worlds. These connections eventually facilitate the transition from point A to point B. In addition, mediation involves negotiation between two or more parties, each of which often represents not one person but a network of individuals. Furthermore, mediation is anticipated by critical life events, and it results in socially recognized outcomes. For example, in the transition to adult life, mediation develops in anticipation of graduation from high school as the critical event, and results in an employment outcome. Therefore, mediation involves the concrete negotiation of outcomes in which the person with a disability, family members, friends, school and agency personnel, and employers are the most obvious stakeholders. The transition literature has for some time recognized the impact of the "self-family-friend network" on employment outcomes (Hasazi, Gordon, & Roe, 1985). It is important to go beyond this to examine the context of negotiations with established service providers and employers.

An ethnographic methodology is an excellent way to: (a) explore the nature of mediation, (b) identify mediated actions that are concrete expressions of mediation, and (c) evaluate their impact on employment outcomes. This kind of ethnographic database generates useful insights that can inform current transition practices in school settings.

The Individualized Education Program (IEP) is the major instrument that schools use to guide the transition process. The IEP process assumes that the transition process is facilitated through team decision making and collaborative consultation (Rodger, 1995). In adding a transition component to the IEP planning of educational objectives, it appears that transition planning is viewed as similar to educational planning. The IEP team approach further assumes that problem-solving is the most effective approach for transition planning. However, the distinct nature of transitions suggests an alternative approach that builds on the development of mediation as the central process in a life transition. The purpose of this research was to study this alternative approach.

Ethnographic and life history studies of persons with mental retardation influenced the design of this research (Bogdan & Taylor, 1976; Edgerton, 1993; Langness & Frank, 1981; Langness & Levine, 1986; Whittemore, Langness, & Koegel, 1986). We maximized our work with individuals of diverse backgrounds who are labeled as having mild mental retardation. …

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