CA Dept. of Education


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Secondary Issues Archive 2002


Priscilla Harvell, M.A., CCC-SLP
Secondary and Speech/Language Specialist

Priscilla Harvell's expertise is supported by over 20 years in the field of Special Education as a Speech and Language Pathologist, Special Day Class Teacher and eight years as a Secondary Specialist for the Northern California Diagnostic Center.

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  • Strategies/interventions and resources for IEPs.


I am a Speech and Language Pathologist and serve students between 14 and 18 years of age. In looking at the IDEA Transition Requirements for individuals 14-21, I cannot determine if I am responsible for providing Transition Language in my IEP's for students with a speech and/or language only IEP. It "feels" like a very gray area to me. Could you clarify and also offer strategies/interventions and resources you have found to be useful?


This has, and continues to be a gray area for many Speech and Language Pathologist and other specialists working with students 14 years and older. The simple answer to your question is, yes. I am sure you are aware that IDEA 1990, and its reauthorization in 1997, assures that students 14 years and older have Transition language and services included in their IEP/ITP. Transition is to be addressed in the areas of instruction for students 14 years and at 16 years and older the inclusion of community experiences, development of employment and post-adult activities related services and if appropriate, daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation are added. See the website for additional information regarding Transition. 

Although the law does not explicitly state "Speech and Language Pathologist" or "Resource Specialist" for that matter, as a Transition Trainer of Trainers, the law is saying yes to your question. 

Now with all of the "legalize" out of the way, you need not be disheartened! For one thing, you are probably already providing Transition language and activities as part of the services you offer. There are, however, some suggestions for ways to enhance your program to meet IDEA Transition requirements. 

First, you need to consider the following important tips if your goal is successful intervention: 

• include the student in the selection of IEP goals 
• collaborate with the student's general education teacher and parents/guardian 
• use meaningful, age appropriate material based on the student's interests, abilities and needs 
• speech and language target goals, e.g., language, articulation, voice goals, that bridge academic, social or vocational environments 

Second, it is important to help the your students develop a basic self-knowledge base: 
• by focusing intervention on the vocabulary of academics and/or work 
• by completing and discussing learning styles surveys 
• by completing and discussing the results of interest surveys (
• by developing disability awareness (Disabilities Awareness websites for students and
• by understanding their speech and language disabilities and how they affect social interactions with a wide array of individuals and/or settings 
• by learning how to communicate this information to others 
• by developing work-related skills and vocabulary/language of work 
• by making sure their knowledge of study skills is adequate 

Remember, at this age of involvement, the focus should probably be on teaching compensatory skills rather than remediation. Using these strategies to teach compensatory skills will help your students achieve the necessary speaking, listening, reading, writing and thinking goals important in their academic curriculum. 

In conclusion, I refer you to a resource, Transition and School-Based Services: Interdisciplinary Perspectives for Enhancing the Transition Process (1999), edited by Sharon deFur and James Patton, published by ProEd in Austin, Texas. In chapter four, I discuss the concept of developing a student action plan in which the student explores his/her personal strengths, obstacles, steps toward goals, needed supports, and anticipated outcomes. Such planning, in collaboration with other key players, allows the student to work on specific speech and language goals, develop self-determination/advocacy skills, problem-solve, make decisions, and learn disability awareness. All of this can happen with your guidance and will allow you and your students to achieve meaningful IEP goals. 

One last important tip: I am sure you realize that most adolescents do not like to be singled out for individual therapy in or outside the program. What should you do? REMEMBER to let them be a part of the decision-making process, i.e., goal development, scheduling, where therapy occurs, etc. Students can then practice their speech and language skills in the natural environment of the classroom, community or worksite (if applicable). Refer to Language Disorders in Older Students by Larson and McKinley (1995), published by Thinking Publications, Eau Claire, WI for more strategies. 

I do hope this information is helpful and that you visit Ask a Specialist again. Oh! Tell your colleagues too!

  • Offering person-centered transition planning to a diverse group of students.


I am a special education teacher in a small rural district. I am the only special day class teacher for students ages 15-22. I have a Community Based Instruction (CBI) on a high school campus. Since I get the students at age 15 or 16 I could potentially have them in the same program for seven years. I already have had a few students for five to seven years. With a caseload of 12-13 students and diversity in their levels it is very difficult to offer ALL students person centered transition planning. This is especially true for the students who have already spent four years on a high school campus and should be in a post secondary transition type class. Do you have any suggestions? Or do you feel it is appropriate for students to stay on a high school campus for six to seven years.


First of all, thank you for a question that many special day class teacher face. You are absolutely correct in your assumption regarding the challenges you face with your student. Of course, the ideal setting would be for your students to transition to a post high school 18-22 transition program on a community college campus. From your question, it does not sound like a viable option for you. If this is true, then you have to look at alternative ways to view student-focused planning. To provide student focused planning for your students, you should be able to respond positively to most of the questions below; if you can't, include those items as part of your planning. Before responding to the questions, remember that collaboration with other program/specialist may alleviate some of your challenges, e.g., WorkAbility 1 Program services, District Speech and Language Pathologists, school/district staff. 

How do I prepare my students for adulthood? 
proactively addressing life skills within the curriculum 
develop self-determination/self advocacy skills 
assess and plan comprehensively for transitional needs 
provide meaningful community-based experiences 
assist families in dealing with the many adult services 

How do I encourage families to become involved in their young persons transition? 
discuss the demands of adulthood and the transition planning process 
discuss their participation in the transition process 
discuss their follow through on designated agency links/activities 
discuss ways for them to seek assistance when needed 
discuss ways for them to advocate for their children 

How do I prepare my students to contribute to the transition process? 
by identifying their own preferences and interests (using pictures if necessary) 
by taking and interest in the process (at their ability to do so) 
by participating on their transition IEP team 
by following through on designated activities (community, life skills) 
by knowing where and how to access supports and services (with parent/guardian) 

How do I connect with adult service providers to create a seamless transition? 
know what the demands and requisite skills needed in their particular settings or programs 
provide this information to school-based personnel 
offer accessibility and assistance to families 

This type of student-focused transition planning requires a lot of time, effort and support/collaboration. You may never have all of the above in place. However, having the knowledge and motivation of what is important for your students who will eventually leave school and venture into the community, gives you the opportunity to make a difference in their lives. Your role continues to be one of providing your young adults with the knowledge, skills, supports and services that will enhance their lives and contribute to their experiencing some degree of personal fulfillment. 

In conclusion, check out the excellent resources that should answer any unanswered questions. Good luck!

  • Standard and non-standard transition assessment tools.


I am a Transition Specialist in my district and I would like to create a resource list of standard and non-standard Transition assessment tools. Hope you can help me.


What a timely question! I just co-presented a training entitled "Transition: A Functional Assessment Model" and provided the participants with just such a list. The list included the following assessment instruments that are obviously only some examples of the multiple tools available on the market. Remember, these are suggestions only; therefore, check them out and hopefully some of them will meet your request.

Standardized Instruments (focus is on multiple Transition planning areas)

Tests for Everyday Living (Halpern et al., 1979) 
Target Group: All junior high students and average to low functioning high school students in remedial programs, including those labeled as having learning disabilities.

Responsibility and Independence Scale for Adolescents (Salvia, Neisworth, & Schmidt, 1990). 
Target Group: Higher functioning students with mild educational disabilities, students at risk, or juvenile offenders; appropriate for students 12-0 through 19-11 years of age.

Quality of Life Questionnaire (Salvia, Neisworth, & Schmidt, 1990). 
Target Group: Individuals with mild to severe cognitive disabilities, ages 18 and older.

BRIGANCE Life Skills Inventory (Brigance, 1995b). 
Target Group: All disability populations, high school ages and adults, mild cognitive disabilities, with reading grade levels 2-8.

Transition Planning Inventory (Clark & Patton 1997). 
Target Group: All disability populations, ages 14-25; mild through severe levels of disability.

Non-standardized Instruments (Transition-Referenced Assessments)

Enderle-Severson Transition Rating Scales (Enderle & Severson, 1991). 
Target Group: Designed for all populations, ages 14-25, mild through severe levels of disability. Features: Criterion-referenced instrument with two forms: Form J for students with mild disabilities, Form F for students with moderate to severe disabilities. Includes Framework for Transitions Planning form.

Life-Centered Career Education (LCCE) Performance Batteries (Brolin, 1992c)
Target Group: Mild cognitive abilities; moderate to severe learning disabilities; mild to moderate behavioral disorders; grades 7-12. Features: Open-ended questions on worksheets and performance activities. Five items for each of 21 LCCE life skills competencies (choose appropriate competencies based on areas you want to assess).

Transition Skills Inventory (Halpern et al., 1997) 
Target Group: Mild to severe learning disabilities; mild to moderate behavioral disorders; ages 14 to adult. Features: Comprehensive informal self-evaluation instrument embedded in a student transition and educational planning curriculum. Instrument completed by student, teacher, and parent/guardian and provides profile report comparing responses across raters.

Don't forget these types of nonstandard assessment tools/procedures:

Learning styles inventories 
Observational learning styles assessments 
Curriculum-based assessments 
Structured situational assessments 
Environmental assessments 
Structured interviews with students, parents/guardians 
Self-determination checklists

Good luck as you build your Transition assessment resources. These should enhance what you and your colleagues already have available.

  • Models for providing transition services.


Are there sources that list best practices in terms of models for providing transition services to young adults in the special education context? I've heard that some counties have really interesting programs with classes that take place on community college campus or work really closely with rehab agencies, and I was wondering where I could find out more.

Thanks! A Parent Advocate


Dear Parent Advocate,

This question is somewhat challenging because I usually have more specific information when suggesting model programs for parents or teacher to observe, e.g., geographical area, student's age, grade, and level of functioning. However, there are a couple of programs you may be interested in arranging time with the instructor to observe and learn their community activities. I will share those and other relevant resources at the end of my answer. For now, there are several characteristics of a model transition program of which parents should be aware. Parents should consider programs that exemplify the following:

    • Provides person-centered Transition Planning
    • Promotes community-based Inclusion
    • Develops skills that foster community inclusion (independence, daily living skills)
    • Develops basic work skills
    • Explores and implements appropriate adult employment opportunities
    • Includes money management practices
    • Develops appropriate social skills across environments
    • Promotes culturally sensitive practices
    • Assist families with the appropriate adult service agencies

Of course, the list is not all-inclusive by any means. Despite assumptions to the contrary, development of these characteristics allows those young adults with significant cognitive disabilities to become competent, self-determined individuals. Therefore, all of these elements should be a part of any model transition program.

It is important to remember that the program should not focus on changing the individual, but instead change the environment in which the individual lives, works, and plays. This focus should alter the way others interact with and perceive these young adults.

Now for the resources I promised earlier:


Rich Hopper 
(18-22) community based program
San Leandro High School
14735 Juniper Street
San Leandro, CA 94579
(510) 293-2978

Diablo Valley College 
Disabled Students Program
Pleasant Hill, CA 
Sue Garcia/Terri Armstrong, Coordinators
(925) 685-1230 

College of Alameda 
Programs and Services for Students with Disabilities
Helene Maxwell, Coordinator
(510) 748-2328


Dr. Keith Storey
Chapman University 
2600 Stanwell Drive, #110 
Concord, CA 94520 
(925) 246-6128

Nick Certo, Ph.D. 
Department Chair 
Department of Special Education 
San Francisco State University -HSS 1600 
Holloway Avenue 
San Francisco, California 94132 
(415) 338-2503

Barbara Garcia, Ph.D. 
Chairperson Alameda County 
Developmental Disabilities Planning and Advisory Council 
(510) 267-3261

Cathy Thoni
Eden ROP
Hayward, CA
(510) 293-2900 ext. 920


Wehmeyer, M., et al(1999). Family Involvement in Transition Planning and Implementation. Pro-Ed, Austin, TX. 800-847-3202

NICHCY is the national information and referral center that provides information on disabilities and disability-related issues for families, educators, and other professionals. Their special focus is children and youth (birth to age 22). 
Find topics and links to other websites for information, resources and support to parents, guardians and families of children with disabilities.

Hope this information adequately addresses your question. Please feel free to share our website with other parents and families of children with disabilities.

  • Developing self-determination and self-advocacy skills.


Dear Ms. Harvell,

I teach students with Learning Disabilities who will one day graduate from high school, get a job and perhaps marry and have children. We work a lot on developing self-determination and self-advocacy skills. One of our more "heated" discussions occurs when we define "disability" and the importance of "disability awareness." Students don't like labels (unless their wearing them) and often say things like "I'm not retarded" or "I don't have a learning disability." I want to guide them towards an acceptable understanding of the term and also show its connection with possible accommodations needed to equal the academic and career playing field. Sorry for the long scenario! Hope you can help. L. O., SDC/LH teacher.


The whole area of self-determination, self-advocacy is a life-long process that one becomes more proficient in through problem solving, choice making and evaluating consequences. Your typical Resource Program and many SDC/LH students fear that a special education disability label will identify them as retarded to their peers and family. They do not like the negative connotation so they try to ignore it and believing that it will go away. When I work on disability awareness with special education students, I find the following strategies very useful:

First, it is important to allow the students to express their feelings regarding the term. Try using discussion via brainstorming or mapping techniques. Be sure to establish the ground rules regarding brainstorming, e.g., accepting each other's comments, being non-judgemental, etc.

Second, spend time discussing and defining the term "Disability Awareness" with the students and explain the importance of understanding one's disability. Students need to know just because someone has a disability:

  • this does not mean they can not reach their goals or dreams in life
  • it does not mean they are "retarded"
  • others will still appreciate who they are
  • there are accommodations to help "level the academic and career playing fields."
    Find out more about test accommodations at

Third, have the students look at their IEP's and their eligibility label and provide brief definitions throughout the discussion. Guide the students through the IEP with the following questions:

  • Does the IEP identify the student as "Learning Handicapped" with a description of below grade level reading comprehension, poor math and written language skills?
  • Are the accommodation listed necessary for "Johnny" to succeed? What are they?

Make sure the students understand these and other relevant terms in the IEP. Have them complete activities that guide them towards understanding, e.g., develop a glossary of terms, write a paragraph about their disability, interview their parent/guardians, and research famous, and not so famous individuals, who have succeeded despite their learning disability.

Fourth, have your students respond to the following questions and then share their responses with a partner and later with another trusted peer or adult:

  • How would you describe your disability?
  • What is your attitude about your disability?
  • Which Special Education program are you enrolled in? Why?
  • Does this program meet your needs? How?

Next, if your students are developing an academic/transition portfolio, make sure this information on disability awareness is included. If you have access to the Internet, send your students to the following website for information and links to other sites to learn more about various disabilities: Once at this site, they can link with other websites for additional publications. They can also get in touch with various disability-related organizations in your area.

In conclusion, an additional website resource can be found at Please let me know how these strategies work and if any new ideas are generated from this activity that may benefit other teachers. Good luck!