CA Dept. of Education


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Secondary Issues Archive 2008


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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  • Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder after high school.


Dear Ms. Harvell,

I teach high school special day class for students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and a few others with cognitive challenges. Their ages range from 15 to 18 years of age with a broad range of cognitive abilities (inclusion classes to more restrictive educational environment). One of the concerns I have along with their families is life after high school or aging out of special education. Could you provide a list of books, articles, and web sites that focus on this area?


Anna Marie


Hi Anna Marie,

The Diagnostic Center Northern CA offers a training titled “Transition Planning for Adolescents with ASD”. Some of the resources listed below are ones we include for workshop participants. These resources cover information to increase your knowledge and develop interventions/strategies to prepare your students (and their families) for the future. Specific areas of Transition covered in these books and web sites include

  • social skills
  • self-awareness
  • self-advocacy
  • educational options
  • independent living
  • employment possibilities
  • agency involvement
  • community living
  • adult living options
  • other pertinent information

Included in the list are books by Paul Wehman who is a well-known author in the area of Transition. He focuses on how considerations for transition are different for young adults with autism and presents proven strategies for successful planning. Many of these resources offer practical suggestions for the parents/families of your student.

Transition Resource list:


Web sites

Let me know how your class evolves.

Priscilla Harvell

  • Long term studies about students with disabilities after high school.


I am new to the world of Transition and have been looking at various resources. I am looking for long term studies about students with disabilities specifically how they fair after high school. Do they go on to college, work, live on their own, use adult services, etc.? One name that keeps coming up is the National Longitudinal Transition Study of Special Education Students (NLTS). Can you give me some information about this group?

Thanks for your help, Lyn.


Hi Lyn,

Here is what I know through my research. The NLTS was mandated by the United States Congress in 1983 to provide information to those who make policy, teachers, and others in the special education realm. The primary focus was the transition of youth with disabilities from high school to early adulthood. SRI International conducted the first NLTS under contract with the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), U. S. Department of Education. It was actually the first nationally and comprehensiverepresentative database on students with disabilities, and provided the best picture available about young adults with disabilities and their experiences while they were in high school and the first few years afterward.

Past and current literature reviews widely recite the findings of the NLTS and can be reviewed in detail at, or you may contact the Office of Special Education Programs at 202-205-9864.

In 1999, SRI International again was contracted to conduct its second longitudinal transition study of high school aged students with disabilities and their post secondary activities. This study is known by NTLTS-2, began in 2001, and took place over a 10 year period. Results can be viewed at See web site for related links for youth, educators, parents, and to ALL disabilities.

Here are a few longitudinal studies conducted by other states. These studies reflect less years then the NTLS2, but still provide an idea of where and what students with disabilities are doing two years or more out of high school.

The following resources may offer useful information in your search:

  • Explore the Career Development for Exceptional Individual journals for articles on longitudinal studies of students with disabilities after high school (enter longitudinal studies… in the search box).

Thanks you for your question,

Priscilla Harvell

  • Resources on disclosure of a disability.


I am a high school Transition Coordinator. Some of the special education teachers are teaching their students about disability awareness and the issue of disclosure. The issue of when or if they should disclose their disability in future school and/or work environments is generating lots of student discussion. Do you have any suggestions and resources I can share with the staff? Any assistance is appreciated.

Thanks, Janet.


Hi Janet,

This is a good question and one I have dealt with many times. Students with learning disabilities do not want to be different from their non-disabled peers, so whether or not to disclose a disability puts them in a quandary. If a teacher can approach the subject so that the students can make an informed decision about disclosure, this may be the best way.

Consider this a lesson in self-advocacy and self-awareness in which the student does the leg work leading to self-actualization of disclosure or non-disclosure. In the process, they learn that when making a choice, positive/negative consequences can occur. Remember that any approach your staff decides to use will depend on their students’ ability, program setting, and the necessary accommodations they may/may not need to function independently.

With that said, 411 DISABILITY DISCLOSURE: A workbook for Youth with Disabilities is a great resource to share with your special education staff that includes discussion suggestions, pertinent vocabulary, lessons and activities for each unit, and so on. This publication, part of The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth), was funded under a grant supported by the Office of Disability Employment Policy of the US Department of Labor, grant # E-9-4-1-0070.

I have found this guide useful and often refer it to other teachers. The best part is there is no cost to you because you can download it for free at

Multiple copies of this guide can be purchased by contacting National Collaborative at Copies are limited.

Let me know what you think about this resource.

  • Subjective articles that include studies and data.


Hi Priscilla, thank you so much for the article. I have had such hard time finding information on the subject of transition from Middle school to High school. I found more objective articles, but what I am looking for are more subjective things that include studies and data. Any leads you can give me would be appreciated. Thank you very much, Teresa


Hi Teresa,

Here are a few resources that may assist in your research. The National Longitudinal
Transition Study-2 (NLTS2) is another resource involved in obtaining data on all disabilities 
and the impact on individuals' future adult lives. Fell free to contact me via email or phone.

Priscilla Harvell

1. Teaching Exceptional Children, Plus 
VOLUME 4 (2007), issue 2

Transitioning Students with Disabilities from Middle to High School 
Dr. James R. Frasier, University of Wisconsin-Madison

2. Transition Planning for the 21st Century Schools

See chapter on Middle Grades Transition to High School

3. Helping Your Middle School Child Make the Transition to High School by Nancy Firchow, M.L.S.; 
contains research based information 
(new name for Schwab Learning web site is Great Schools)

4. NMSA Research Summary: Transition from Middle School to High School (September 2006)
(Detailed information of research)

5. An Investigation of Transition Practices for Middle School Youth - Corinne Weidenthal;
Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, Vol. 30, No. 3, 147-157 (2007)

  • Can an LD student, who did not pass the exit exam, participate in graduation?


Dear Ms. Harvell,

If you are an LD student who did not pass the high school exit exam can you still walk? That is unclear because one of the goals would be to pass the high school exit exam. What about the severely handicapped (SH) student who cannot earn a diploma? Can you answer these questions?


Regarding the first part of your question, any student with disabilities must be allowed to participate in his/her graduation ceremonies or activities per Education Code 56391. The law clearly states that if a student with disabilities is not allowed to walk with their peers, the parent could file a complaint and the district would be found out of compliance. Visit this web site to read a document that might provide more clarification:

There are some students, e.g., those with severe handicaps, who can not meet all the graduation requirements, including the CAHSEE, even with accommodations/modifications, or supports and services. Mary Hudler, Director, Special Education Division says it is important that the transition plan for these students be well planned so that the student can become as independent as possible and self-sufficient. For more detailed information, please refer to Transition to Adult Living and Information and Resource Guide

Contact Jill Larson at or 916-323-7192 if you have any other questions regarding certificates of completion or diplomas for students with disabilities,

I hope you find this information helpful. Please contact me again if you have further questions.




  • Examples of measurable post-secondary goals.


Hi Priscilla,

I am a high school special education teacher who has to write measurable post-secondary goals for each of my students 16 and older. Could you give me some examples of what a measurable post-secondary goal might look like? I also need a resource for reference.

Sue (an overwhelmed teacher trying to do her best!)


Hi Sue,

The fact that you are reaching out for support and information tells me that you are a dedicated and concerned teacher. I will be brief and to the point with I hope some user friendly examples of measurable post-secondary goals (MPSGs). The law requires that MPSGs are written in the areas of 1) instruction, 2) employment, and if appropriate 3) daily living skills. Another requirement is that goals are based on age appropriate assessments.

In our Transition trainings, we talk about the approved language that must be used when writing these goals. An important point to remember is that a goal cannot say a student “plans on” anymore. The following examples may serve as a guideline for you:

  • Begin with

“After high school…” - “Upon graduation…”

  • Use results-oriented terms, such as:

“enrolled in” - “work” - “live independently”

  • Use descriptors such as:

“full time” - “part time”

Here are examples of goals using the approved language:

Instruction – “Upon completion of high school I/John will enroll in courses at a 4 year college”, or “After graduation, I/Gail will live at home and participate to the maximum extent in my daily routine (e.g. feeding, dressing, bathing, choice making)."

Employment – “ After graduation from high school I/Bob will intern in a vocational program for building and carpentry."

An important point to remember is that the annual goal must support the MPSG. It should state what the student will be able to do by the end of the year, guides instruction, and take the student from his/her present level of performance to the level expected by the end of the school year.

The number one resource for you to reference is titled Transition to Adult Living: An Information and Resource Guide (2007 revised edition). There are examples of MPSG and measurable annual goals for your review (see pages 32-39). Ask your program specialist or special education director for a copy if you do not one. A copy is available on line at

Good luck.

  • Resources listed from the TFAM training.


Hi Priscilla,

One of my jobs at my school district is as a WorkAbility coordinator. I recently attended your training, TFAM, and realized my own assessment resources are limited. The assessment process you and Renee presented is certainly worth a try. You also provided several books/resources that offered a number of informal and formal assessment options. Do you have a list of those resources you had at the training?

Thanks, Penny


Hi Penny,

I am glad to hear of your willingness to consider “assessment outside the box”. It is always important to think of Transition assessment in an ecological sense rather than one that consists of only a formal testing approach.

Your request for a list of our resources is timely because we just completed one for the last TFAM trainings. The complete title of this training is, the ABC’s of a Transition Functional Assessment Model (TFAM): Connecting Assessment to Transition Goals.

Feel free to peruse the assessment programs, books, and other resources on this list; however, understand that the Diagnostic Center Northern California (DCN) does not endorse any of these products for purchase.

Please introduce yourself if you attend any other secondary/transition training offered by the DCN.

Resource list for TFAM training 

  • Alper, Sandra, Ryndak, Diane Lee, Schloss, Cynthia N. (2001) Alternate Assessment of Sudents with Disabilities in Inclusive Settings. PRO-ED, Inc., Austin, TX 78757-6897, 800-897-3204, (
  • Arick, Joel R., Nave, Gary, Hoffman, Terra, Krug, David A. (2004) FACTER – Functional Assessment & Curriculum for Teaching Everyday Routines. PRO-ED, Inc., Austin, TX 78757-6897, 800-897-3204, (
  • Becker, Ralph L. (2001) Reading-Free Vocational Interest Inventory:2 Occupational Title Lists, 2 nd Edition. Elbern Publications, Columbus, OH, 43209
  • Becker, Ralph L., Ph.D. (2000) Reading-Free Vocational Interest Inventory:2 Manual, 2 nd Edition. Elbern Publications, Columbus, OH 43209
  • Browder, Diane M. (2001) Curriculum and Assessment for Students with Moderate and Severe Disabilities. The Guilford Press, New York, NY, 10012 (
  • Clark, Gary. (1998) Assessment for Transition Planning. PRO-ED, Inc., Austin, TX 78757-6897, 800-897-3204, (
  • Clark, Gary M., Patton, James R. (1997) TPI – Transition Planning Inventory. PRO-ED, Inc., Austin, TX 78757-6897, 800-897-3204, (
  • Clark, Gary M., Patton, James R., Moulton, L. Rozelle. (2000) Informal Assessments for Transition Planning. PRO-ED, Inc., Austin , TX 78757-6897 , 800-897-3204, 
    ( )
  • Cohen, Libby G., Spenciner, Loraine J. (2007) Assessment of Children and Youth With Special Needs, 3 rd Edition. Pearson A&B, (
  • Elksnin, Nick, Elksnin, Linda K. (2004) Teaching Occupational Social Skills PRO-ED, Inc., Austin, TX 78757-6897, 800-897-3204, (
  • Life Skills Appraisal – Test Administration Manual 2 nd Edition. 1991) Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment System (CASAS), San Diego, CA 92123, 858-292-2900
  • Loyd, Robert J., Brolin, Donn E. (1997) Life Centered Career Education Modified Curriculum for Individuals with Moderate Disabilities. The Council for Exceptional Children, Reston, VA 20191-1589, 703-620-3660, (

  • Martin, James E., Mithaug, Dennis E., Oliphint, John H., Husch, Frazier, Eva S. (2002) Self-Directed Employment – A Handbook for Transition Teachers and Employment Specialists. Paul H. Brooks Publishing Co., Baltimore, MD 21285-0624, (
  • Miller, Robert J., Lombard, Richard C., Corbey, Stephanie A. (2007) Transition Assessment – Planning Transition and IEP Development for Youth with Mild to Moderate Disabilities. Pearson A&B, (
  • Sands, Deanna J., Wehmeyer, Michael L. (1996) Self-Determination Across the Life Span- Independence and Choice for People with Disabilities. Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., Baltimore, MD 21285-0624
  • Sitlington, Patricia L., Neubert, Debra A., Begun, Wynne H., Lombard, Richard C., Leconte, Pamela J. (2007) Assess for Success, 2 nd Edition. Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, CA 91320 (, SAGE Publications Ltd. London, UK
  • Synatschk, Katherine O., Clark, Gary M., Patton, James R. (2007) Independent Living and Community Participation. PRO-ED, Inc., Austin, TX 78757-6897, 800-897-3204, (
  • Trainor, Audrey A., Patton, James R., Clark, Gary M. (2005) Case Studies in Assessment for Transition Planning. PRO-ED, Inc., Austin, TX 78757-6897, 800-897-3204, (
  • Trainor, Audrey A., Patton, James R., Clark, Gary M. (2005) Case Studies in Assessment for Transition Planning. PRO-ED, Inc., Austin, TX 78757-6897, 800-897-3204, (
  • Wehman, P., & Kregel, P. (1997). Functional Curriculum for Elementary, Middle, and Secondary Age Students with Special Needs. PRO-ED, Inc., Austin, TX78757-6897, 800-897-3202, (
  • Wehman, Paul. (1995) Individual Transition Plans, 2 nd Edition. PRO-ED, Inc., Austin, TX 78757-6897, 800-897-3204, (

  • What services are available for students with ASD when they leave the K-12 system?


What services are available for students with ASD when they leave the K-12 system?


This is an excellent question and is one parents of children with ASD tend to address MUCH later in their adolescent’s educational program.

Transitioning to adulthood can be a stressful time for young adults with autism and their families. Becoming informed and starting early are the best ways to increase the likelihood of a successful transition. Often times, parents expectations are unrealistic, e.g., get a high school diploma, go to college, or live at home. However, before discussing services with you, it is important that I share the following information. Share these with parents way before your students with ASD leave high school with a diploma or age out of the special education program.

  • First, special education for adolescent is an entitlement program, meaning no cost to parents. The adolescent receives services based on their specific needs. Cost cannot be used as a reason to deny special education services for adolescents with ASD or other disabilities. However, a student can receive a diploma if they pass the high school exit exam and other requirements at which time special education services/funding cease (read specifics at http://www.) . Another option is for the adolescent to remain in an 18-22 Transition program where services are provided by the school district and students receive a certificate of completion.

This is also the time that long-term legal and financial planning discussions should begin. Parents should consider whether full or partial guardianship/conservatorship is appropriate for their son or daughter.

  • Adult services are based on funding that is allocated by state/federal guidelines. Services are not automatically available as in an adolescent’s IEP. Although many individuals request services, selection depends on eligibility and funding availability.
  • Finally, adult agencies place less focus on instructional activities. Whereas, many adolescents may have up to 30 objectives in their IEPs, adult objectives may only have 10 or less and focus on the individual's quality of life, including meaningful participation in the community, employment, the development and maintenance of personal relationships, and personal well-being.

This last point offers insight into what agencies desire of high schools: prepare students to be as independent as possible and ready to participate in community activities or the workforce.

When a student approaches adulthood (earlier for some agencies), he/she can apply to the following agencies for services/benefits (federal/state) if appropriate:

  • Social Security Income (SSSI) – refer to Understanding Supplemental Security Income/SSI for Children This agency operates the federally funded program that provides benefits for people of any age who are unable to do substantial work and have a severe mental or physical disability. Their other programs include Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), PASS (Plans to Achieve Self-Support), Medicaid and Medicare.
  • Department of Rehabilitation – provides services and advocacy resulting in employment, independent living and equality for individuals with disabilities. Visit for specific information regarding services, requirements, and agency locations.
  • Regional Center (RC) – Regional Centers are nonprofit private corporations that have offices throughout California. This state operated agency provides resources to help find and access services available to individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. Visit
  • Community colleges and adult education programs may offer coursework for students with ASD. Visit the California Department of Education (CDE) website to locate a program and/or activities near you. Another CDE website with information for students is
  • Local parks and recreation department offer a variety of activities that may benefit your student

On a final note, those students who do pass the high school exit exam and wish to attend college may qualify for a 504 plan. Visit for general information regarding understanding 504.

Additional resources to check out and link you to other related information include: