There are various parts to the transition planning process that will need to be considered. The planning process will involve identifying specific goals for your child’s future as well as action steps to achieve those goals. It will require the involvement of different people as well as meetings, follow up discussions, monitoring and evaluation. There are specific planning tools available that will help make the planning process more successful. One planning tool, known as PATH, is discussed in the next section of this module.
Who Should Participate in Transition Planning?
Planning for transition usually involves people from within and outside the school system. There may be people involved in your child’s life or in your community that will have valuable information and advice to offer. Since transition planning should take place over a number of years, there may be different people who are called upon, as they are needed. You may want to start the planning with a small group of people and add others over time. This will give you and your child a chance to become familiar and comfortable with the planning process.
There are no rules regarding who should be involved and how many people should be involved in transition planning. As a general guideline, transition planning should include your child and yourself, a teacher who is working closely with your child, the school guidance counselor, and other individuals who may be able to assist with future educational or employment opportunities.
Transition Planning Meetings
If transition planning starts early enough, there will be a few key meetings during your child’s secondary school years (grades 6-12). The initial planning meeting will be crucial since it will be an opportunity to discuss the vision you have for your child and set some important long term goals. Other meetings will likely be required to review those goals and to identify a plan of action for the current school year. It will be important that you remind other people about the vision for your child as you go through this process.
Effective planning usually requires someone who is able to run the planning meetings. This person guides the meeting to ensure the purpose of the meeting is achieved and that you and your child are encouraged to talk and present your ideas. The person who runs the meeting should:
- Be objective and not too closely involved with your child;
- Be open minded;
- Not have strong views on what your child should be planning for once he or she finishes school;
- Be able to guide the discussion about the vision of your child’s future, the specific goals that are set, and what actions need to take place to achieve the goals; and
- Be skilled in involving everybody present at meetings.
If such a person is difficult to find where you live, you will need to rely on someone within the school system or another individual you know who may be able to help.
Identifying a Vision and Goals for the Future
Planning usually starts with a vision. This means being able to imagine what your child’s life could look like as an adult. Identifying a vision gives you, your child and others a clear idea how you see the future and what you want to accomplish. It helps create some positive expectations about your child.
Identifying a vision of the future requires the active involvement of your child. Your child must be allowed and encouraged to express his or her ideas, hopes and dreams for him or herself.
Setting goals for your child is the most important aspect of transition planning. Goals will help decide what kind of experiences and skills your child should have and learn during his or her last few years of school. Setting goals will also help to clarify the vision of your child’s life as an adult.
Below are some guidelines you may wish to consider when setting transition goals with your child:
- Goals should be reasonably possible to achieve.
- As much as possible, goals should be specific about what you and your child would like to achieve in the areas of employment, community participation, etc. Specific goals maybe easier to set as your child moves closer to completion of high school. In the beginning of transition planning, goals may sound more general. For example, in grade 9, a transition goal may be that after graduation, your child will be working in the community for real wages. By grade 11 or 12, the goal may be that your child is working in a specific occupation for at least a certain number of hours per week.
- Consider setting both long term and short term goals. Long term goals may be the ones you wish your child to achieve when he or she leaves school. Short-term goals may identify things you may want your child to learn or experience during a school year.
- Set goals that you are able to measure. In other words, will you able to determine whether or not your child has achieved the goal?
- When setting goals, consider fears that you or your child have about the future. Be prepared to talk about these fears with the group of people who will be meeting to assist with transition planning.
- When you have set transition goals for your child, consider where he or she is now in relation to where he or she would like to be in the future. What has to happen while your child is in school to make sure that the goals are realized?
Agreeing On an Action Plan
Before you leave a transition planning meeting, make sure the goals you have set have an action plan. The action plan should identify what specific steps will be taken to help your child achieve his or her goals.
The action plan can be based on what should happen during the entire school year, or even a shorter period. The planning meeting should identify someone who will be responsible for ensuring the action plan is carried out. This does not mean that only one person is responsible to do everything. It means that one person is responsible for making sure that everyone involved does what they have agreed. The goals, action plans and people responsible should all be written down in a document identified as your child’s transition plan.
Monitoring and Follow up Meetings
Well-prepared transition plans will be of little value unless there is commitment to act upon the plans and to determine whether the goals are being achieved.
Monitoring means making sure that the things which are supposed to be done actually get done. It means staying on top of what is happening so that problems can be solved as they arise. Monitoring provides opportunities to fine tune the action plans in between planning meetings.
Follow up meetings are an important part of monitoring and evaluation. After each transition planning meeting, make sure you set a date for the follow up meeting. Follow up meetings will allow you to bring your full group to:
- Review your vision and goals and to find out what has happened for your child since the last meeting;
- Discuss goals that have been met or goals that may need to be changed;
- Solve problems that may have arisen; and
- Set out the next steps for achieving the goals for your child and getting commitments from people in the group for further action.