CA Dept. of Education


On Haitus

Secondary Issues Archive 2007


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.

Submit A Question

Click a topic below to expand the full question and answer.

  • Transitioning from individualized instruction to general education classroom.



I am working on an action research project for my MAE at Chapman University. The focus of my research is on how to best assist students with transitioning out of small group individualized instruction in R.S.P. to whole class instruction in the general edu cation classroom. I have a group of students in fourth grade who are transitioning out of R.S.P. They have been receiving RSP support since first grade but are having a very difficult time being successful in the general edu cation classroom. I was wondering if you had any resources or ideas that could assist me with helping these students to be successful.

Thank You,

Holly Orzol


Hi Holly,

Your transition question is not the typical Transition question submitted to my Ask a Specialist page. However, I do have some input for you based on my own classroom experience, contact with other teachers like yourself, edu cation specialists at the Diagnostic Center Northern California (DCN), and other research-based resources.

General edu cation classrooms consist of diverse learners and teachers do their best to provide differentiated instruction. When you add R.S.P. (Resource Specialist Program) students into the mix, there is often cause for anxiety, frustration, accountability concerns, and the students’ success.

If your students are having difficulty in the general edu cation classroom, there are some questions you need to consider before and during placement.

Question 1: Did the IEP team discuss the supplementary aids/accommodations the student needs before the decision to transition them to a general edu cation classroom?

Question 2: What supports are provided to the general edu cation teacher to enable your students to access the curriculum? Supports can be in the form of co teaching lessons, brainstorming problems, etc.

Question 3: What consideration is given for the instruction format (whole group, flexible small group, peer to peer tasks, activity-based); task/activity demands (pacing, complexity, criteria for success); materials and equipment used; classroom learning environment (physical layout, lighting); and how the students learning and progress are evaluated

Question 4: How/when does collaboration occur with the general edu cation teacher that addresses sharing information about the student, curriculum being taught, classroom routines, problem solving, and planning? Collaboration opportunities are often challenging, however, some options include using student communication binders, informal meetings, as needed basis, or by phone or e-mail.

Question 5: What accommodations are in the students IEP and how is this information shared with the general edu cation teacher? View sample accommodations at (from Diagnostic Center Northern CA (DCN) online training Understanding 504, author Mary Anne Nielsen, Director, DCN).

Question 6: Has the student been asked why the general edu cation class is difficult? Oftentimes, we forget to go to the source, the student, as part of our problem solving/evaluation process.

My last question, which could be the first if prioritized, is how well does the general edu cation teacher know the following information about your student(s)?

  • Student’s strengths, abilities, and learning style(s):
  • Areas of difficulty
  • Effective learning and behavioral strategies (accommodations):
  • Instructional Supports
  • Learning Objectives

This information can be provided to the general education teacher through the dissemination of a Fast Facts Student Profile.

Although these questions are not all inclusive, they can be the impetus to help you begin to monitor and/or evaluate your students’ performance in the general edu cation classroom.

The resources below should help you focus on strategies that help with your student realize success vs. frustration in the general edu cation classroom.

Good luck!

Resources :


Bireley, Marlene. Crossover Children: A Sourcebook for Helping Children Who are Gifted and Learning Disabled, The Council for Exceptional Children (second edition), 1920 Association Drive, Reston, Virginia 22091

  • Areas covered in this book: teaching basic skills (language arts, handwriting and spelling, math, content subjects), academic enrichment (creative thinking, problem solving, decision making skills, critical thinking)

Educating Everybody's Children: Diverse Teaching Strategies for Diverse Learners: What Research and Practice Say About Improving Achievement (1995) edited by Robert W. Cole, ASCD, Alexandria, VA 22311

  • This book covers interventions for reading, writing, math, and oral communication.

Glasgow, N.A., Hicks, C.D., What Successful Teachers Do: Research-Based Classroom Strategies for New and Veteran Teachers, Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, CA,

  • Areas covered in this book includes interventions for teachers in the areas of interacting and collaborating with students; managing classroom organization and discipline; organizing curricular goals, lesson plans, and instructional delivery; using student assessment and feedback to maximize instructional effectiveness, and working with special needs students. Each section provides a brief research summary.

Heacox, D., Ed.D. (2002) Differentiating Instruction in the Regular Classroom: How to Reach and Teach All Learners, Grades 3-12, Free Spirit Publishing Inc., Minneapolis, MN,

  • This book provides interventions on planning, instructional grouping, tiered assignments, choice making, and specific differentiated instruction for special populations.

Karten, T.J. Embracing Disabilities in the Classroom: Strategies to Maximize Students’ Assets, Corwin Press Publishers,

  • This revised edition of I Can Learn will help students with learning difficulties or learning disabilities excel in the general edu cation classroom. It offers teachers “ lessons, tables, rubrics, instructional guidelines, and charts to help teachers improve both interactions and introspections related to disabilities in school settings and beyond.”

Web sites:
Including Students with Disabilities in General Edu cation Classrooms
Strategies to help kids who struggle with reading

Read about strategies common to these areas: why they struggle, targeting the problem, assessment process, parent tips, self-esteem/self-advocacy issues, and lots more. Additional links look worth exploring.
National Center for Learning Disabilities

Find numerous links to accommodations, technology, classroom strategies, and many more strategies.

  • Ideas to help a child develope career awareness.


I am a parent of two precocious 13-year-old twin boys. My husband and I have talked about different jobs with them but somehow we feel like we’re am missing information to give them. Do you have any tips we can use to make sure we provide career awareness information in a parent friendly way?


First, take a deep breath! Then you and your husband pat yourselves on the back for being proactive and discussing this important topic with your children. As I read various Transition resources, I come across many ideas for parents and teachers to use as they prepare their children/students for the future. The following is a list of ideas to help your children develop career awareness.

  1. Encourage your children to use the local library as a resource on careers and information gathering. 
  2. Have your employer sponsor learning activities at your children’s school. 
  3. Help organize field trips for your children’s class related to the world of work. 
  4. Participate in parent involvement activities at your children’s school, particularly those related to School-to-Careers. 
  5. Have your children volunteer for a charity or community organization. This will empower your children to better the community and develop interpersonal and organizational skills. 
  6. Make your children aware of the connection between education and careers. Talk about how you apply your own education to your work and create games connecting school subjects to work tasks. 
  7. Seek information from professional associations on career opportunities. 
  8. Make presentations or speeches at your children’s school during a Career Day or School to Careers meeting. 
  9. Allow your children or other students to shadow you for a day at your workplace. (Shadowing is when a student attends work with an adult for a day to learn more about a career in which he/she is interested.) 
  10. During vacations, work with your children to explore the occupations and careers which are occur in your community. Review newspapers and attend kid friendly community meetings. 
  11. Read the newspaper together: What are the headlines? What are the jobs that come to mind? Which of these is interesting to your children? Why or why not? What school subjects do the articles bring to mind? Is it a favorite subject for your children? Review job advertisements. Discuss qualifications and their relation to academics. 
  12. Keep a portfolio with your children. Encourage them to assist you in choosing the contents. What kinds of things will they consider keeping? Include information such as schoolwork, community outings, pictures, special awards/accomplishments. Allow your children to take over maintaining the portfolio when ready and able. 
  13. Encourage friends, relatives and acquaintances to talk to your children about their jobs and the skills and values they use in the workplace. 
  14. Plan leisure time activities that explore interests, abilities and skills. 
  15. Create a budget with your children based on her or his allowance. Discuss what is important to save for and to spend.

There are numerous activities you can implement and you probably have many more ideas. This list should get you started. Do not forget to ask your children for their suggestions.

Good luck.

  • What are the qualifications for a Transition Specialist position?


I am currently a principal of an alternative school. Because of reduction in force, I am being placed in a position as Transition Specialist. What are the qualifications for this position?


Good question. Your current position is administrative; does this mean you are making a lateral move to a Transition Specialist Coordinator (TSC) or as someone who reports to a TSC? Transition Specialists are also referred to as Vocational Specialists. A Transition Specialist’s responsibilities are usually district specific. Many districts do not have people in this position. Since I have limited information on your job title, I will list some general descriptions for the job:

  • Works collaboratively with secondary high school teachers in the development, implementation and assessment of transition plans
  • Identifies appropriate job sites for students in all special education programs
  • Assists teachers in providing skills training for students on specific work behaviors
  • Assists teachers with placement of students on jobs in the school and community
  • Monitors students on job sites
  • Prepares, maintains data and files reports on individual students work behaviors
  • Identifies appropriate community resources to assist students in overcoming employment barriers
  • Maintains high expectations for student outcomes
  • Uses program evaluation data to provide information to the Special Education Program Manager
  • Participates in multidisciplinary collaboration/consultation, e.g., teaching staff, parents, and school districts
  • Actively involved in career path planning
  • Implements vocational training programs for students
  • Provides direct service to students
  • Performs other duties as assigned

Visit this Internet web site by the DIVISION ON CAREER DEVELOPMENT AND TRANSITION for additional information:

  • Are there guidelines for students with disabilities participation in ROP programs?


I teach a high school special education class for students with mild to moderate disabilities. I have parents who want their son to participate in our district’s Regional Occupational Program (ROP); however, the district says he does not qualify for this program due to his disability. I agree with the parents that he would do well in this program, specifically the auto repair class, with accommodations. I’m willing to do what I can to make this work for this student. Are there guidelines for students with disabilities participation in ROP programs? Thank you for any help you can offer.


I have addressed this question on several occasions. Here is my best answer.

In thinking about your student’s vocational education program (ROP) opportunity, you should know that Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, [Title 29, U.S.C, Section 794], says that students with disabilities cannot be denied access to vocational programs because of their need for aids or because of architectural barriers.

With that statement made, it is challenging for me to respond to your question without more specific information, i.e., knowing the school district’s policy and having only one side of the discussion. Therefore, you, the parents and the student may first want to consider these questions before moving forward:

  • Is this solely the district’s criterion or the parents’ interpretation of the district’s policy?
  • Is the student age appropriate for the ROP class (16 years old)?
  • Is the student a risk factor, e.g., behavior, does not follow directions, concern for his/other students safety?
  • What are the minimum qualifications for the auto class (computer skills, math standards)? Does your student meet these qualifications?
  • Can he attend the class on a full time basis?
  • How much support will he need to be successful in the class? For how long?
  • Is there an ROP waiting list?
  • Is the student interested in the ROP class or is it mostly for the parents’ benefit?

Once these questions are discussed and the parents wish to continue pursuing the ROP class, meet with the IEP/ITP (Individual Transition Plan) team to discuss the ROP class placement and the following information. Let the team know the student has your support and his parents. See if the IEP/ITP team is willing to offer a trial placement with a follow-up meeting to evaluate the student’s performance in the class/program. Be sure to add an addendum regarding this trial placement in his IEP/ITP.

If your student requires adaptations to “level the educational playing field”, be sure all staff who work with him know and understand the purpose of the adaptation(s). Most adaptations are based on common sense and involve safety or teaching practices that benefit ALL students. The most common types of adaptations are:

  • Curriculum adaptations (shorter assignments, more time for tasks)
  • Specific instructional strategies (using overheads, TV. repeating directions, checking for understanding, etc.)
  • Adaptations of equipment or facilities (ramps, Braille manuals, accessible desks, etc.)

Some specific adaptations used to facilitate placement in regular vocational programs will depend on careful analysis of your student’s needs and the specific vocational program. Since I do not know the specific nature of your student’s disability, I can only offer a sampling of commonly used techniques:

  • Provide a daily structured orientation period
  • Peer tutoring
  • Small group instruction
  • Task analysis (i.e., break down task into smaller parts)
  • Teach to student’s learning style
  • Assistance of a vocational resource teacher
  • Others…

As you know, being in an inclusion program can include both classroom and lab instruction that focuses on either an occupational area (e.g., business, auto mechanics) and a specific occupation (e.g., clerical, change oil). Inclusion programs can offer your student the advantage of regular interaction with nondisabled peers. The ROP program should closely resemble the work setting your student will encounter when he leaves school and goes to work. What better way for him to practice the social communication skills, social interpersonal relationships, and work ethics than in a safe, comfortable environment.

Refer his parents to the Schwab Learning web site on legal rights at At this site, your student’s parents will find information on IDEA 2004, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

  • Preparing students with Autism for secondary/post-secondary options.


Hi Ms Harvell,

My name is Marnie and I teach a high school special day class for students with learning disabilities. My students have various disabilities and a number of my students are on the Autism Spectrum. Some of my students will be able to attend community college, go to trade schools or go to work after high school. I have placed much of my curriculum focus on academics with little emphasis on life after high school. However, I realize my resources are limited when it comes to information for students on the Autism Spectrum and preparing them for secondary/post-secondary options. What is out there for this group? Thanks for any resources you can offer.


Hi Marnie,

Thank you for your question. There are several resources available to you for planning purposes. Remember, any student in special education, must have an IEP that addresses Transition in the areas of instruction, community experiences, related services, development of employment/other post-secondary activities, and if appropriate, daily living and a functional vocational assessment. The California Department of Education provides a document titled, Transition to Adult Living: An Information and Resource Guide (revised 2007 edition). This document offers detailed information on IDEA 2004 and Transition requirements. To view these documents go to To request a hard copy of the guide, fax (707-206-9176) or e-mail Donna Lee at

As for resources on secondary students on the Autism Spectrum, there are some available. In my research for a future training titled Transition and Students on the Spectrum (available Fall 2007), I discovered several that may be of interest to you. Review the following books published by Future Horizon’s at

There are several additional resources located at the Gray Center for Social Learning and Understanding. Peruse for resources specifically focused on adolescents and adults on the Autism Spectrum.

I hope these resources offer suggestions for your program planning.


Disclaimer: The resources provided on this page are for the reader’s perusal and not as an endorsement to purchase any products.

  • Helping students lead their IEP meetings.


Hi Priscilla,

I am teaching my mixed grade high school students about self-advocacy and would like to help them lead their IEP meetings. Could you give me a list of different programs available to assist me?

Thanks. SDC/LH teacher


Your question is very timely. In my continued research for state of the art resources on student 
self-advocacy, I come across various Internet links about student led IEP meetings. 
One of the most thorough links on this topic titled Who Makes the Choices? is located at
. See the table of contents below: 

Table of Contents
The Student-Led IEP Process
Implementing SL-IEPs in a Variety of Settings
Meeting the Needs of Unique Students
Levels of Involvement
Sample SL-IEP Goals
Sample SL-IEP Lesson Plans
Frequently Asked Questions
Appendix A:
Forms and Handouts Supporting SL-IEPs
Appendix B:
Additional Resources
Appendix C:
Arizona State Standards in 
Support of Student-led IEPs
Appendix D:
Glossary of Special Education Terms
About the Contributors
Figure 1:
Flow Chart SL-IEP Process

You may want to review the new IDEA 2004 regulations regarding secondary Transition revisions/additions. In my May 2006 Ask a Specialist response, I reference a web site with updated information on secondary Transition changes/revisions to IDEA 2004. View this information at

Let me know what you think of the “Who Makes the Choices?” teacher’s toolkit.


  • Website to motivate students to learn about living on their own.


Hi Ms. Harvell,

I need a really good, motivating web site for my high school students to learn about the reality of living on their own. They are writing essays about their futures as adults and all I hear about is wanting to live in a big house, drive a nice car, have all the latest technology, etc. What’s a teacher to do to bring them back down to earth?



Hi Sue,

I have just the activity for your students. They can maneuver at their own pace through a reality check activity. The purpose is for the student to realize that they cannot have all the “bells and whistles” once they are on their own; they may need to adjust their life style radically.

See how well your students follow directions. Here are the steps to access this web site (adapt the steps as needed):

  1. go to
  2. click onto “Tools & Resources” (in the top right red box)
  3. click onto “Student Activities” (red tab at the lower left hand side of screen)
  4. click on “read more” under Career Zone, (see middle of box “student activities…”)
  5. click onto “read more” under Career Zone
  6. click onto the “Flash” license plate
  7. click onto “Get a Reality Check”
  8. click again onto “Flash Version” (make sure volume is turned up; the kids love the intro)
  9. click onto “entire site”
  10. go to #1 “Get A Reality Check”
  11. click onto the red arrow
  12. click on the city you wish to live in on the “Living Space” page


You should go through the following screens: Housing, Utilities, Food, Transportation, Clothes, Health Care, Entertainment, Personal Upkeep, Miscellaneous, and Saving Money.

  1. at the green, “Total Expenses” screen, notice how much money you will need to make annually
  2. click onto red arrow button
  3. in “Occupations” screen, find the bullet that says: I don’t know, include all Ed levels (in Occupational Category); click on it
  4. in the next section, find the bullet that says: I don’t know, include all Occupational Categories; click on it
  5. click onto Red Arrow Tab
  6. it shows all suggested careers that make the yearly salary needed!
  7. click onto a career and there is a wealth of information to follow

After your students have completed this activity, return to the first screen with the three boxes:

    • the first box “Assess Yourself” is a great tool for students to discover who they might become (an interest survey)
    • the second box “Explore Industry Sectors” is also a great way to check out cluster careers

NOTE: The Current job openings in California in chosen careers are up dated monthly.

I hope your student enjoy this activity. The ones I have used it with were motivated through to the end.



  • Resources for materials to help focus on being independent.


Hi Ms. Harvell,

I’m a parent of a 16-year-old boy “Toby” and I’d like some materials to help him focus on being independent and what it takes to live on your own. Are there any teen web sites or checklists available (not too expensive please) that I can use to jump-start him. Please help!



Hi “Sue”,

I am glad to hear from a parent who is considering these two important areas of teen development. Fortunately, I have a couple of web sites that specifically deal with both areas and should be of interest to “Toby”.

The first web site is located at At this site, “Toby” can take an interest survey titled, Assess Yourself ,and explore monthly expenses of living on your own with Reality Check. I use these activities as Transition self-awareness tools to help students (and parents) understand life’s realities and realistic career possibilities. Both of these activities are fun to do together and allows you the to guide him and answer his questions.

The next web site is titled Adolescent Autonomy Checklist and is located at It is free and easy to download. This is one of my favorite online tools because you and “Toby” can assess his daily living skills together, he can decide which one(s) to focus on, and he can monitor his progress, and check off tasks when completed. Selections are based on “Toby’s” choice(s), which should get his buy-in. Select “Download a printable version of the checklist” for a more user-friendly document.

Let me know how “Toby” does with these activities. I am sure both of these will teach him self-awareness and show him the skills and information necessary to become independent.

Good luck!

  • Teaching life skills to students with mental retardation.


How can I teach life skills to students with mild to moderate mental retardation?


Hi Terry,

Teaching life skills to students with mild to moderate mental retardation takes time, lots of practice in natural settings, and dedication. Bender , Valletutti, and Baglin report in A Functional Curriculum for Teaching Students with Disabilities (ProEd):

“A primary purpose of special education is to help students with disabilities lead successful and personally fulfilling lives now and in the future. Curriculum for students with mental retardation should be designed to prepare students to function as independently as possible in an integrated society. This curriculum should include a broad range of skills and be chronologically age-appropriate and useful to the learner. Such a curriculum fosters the development of skills that increase autonomy, encourages constructive codependence, and nurtures problem solving in the home, school, community, and workplace.”

Along with your dedication, you need the support of the family, instructional assistants, and special education administrators. Family buy-in is critical for student success as you prepare them for adulthood and adult services. Numerous teaching strategies exist for this student population. Any intervention must include the following:

Remember the goal is for the student to develop the skills mentioned earlier. The best teaching occurs in the student’s natural environment (home, school, community, work) and should be integrated throughout his/her day.

The following book contains interventions across domains that will support your efforst and provide meaningful curriculum strategies:

Curriculum and Assessment for Students with Moderate and Severe Disabilities by Barbara Wilson and Diane M. Browder can be viewed on line.

Hope everything works smoothly.