Elements in Effective Transition Plans
The quality and long-term value of transition plans depend on a number of key factors, whether school-based tools or other approaches are used.
“Person-Centered Planning” is the norm today. This means that the student is at the centre and his or her desires, goals, hopes and dreams, as well as whatever needs the student has for support to attain these, are the focus. Even if the student’s verbal communication is not strong, there are ways to uncover your student’s preferences and dreams. Remember not to underestimate any student. Before and during the meeting someone who knows the student well—often the classroom or special ed teacher– should help ensure the student’s input and maintain this focus. It is easy for the student’s wishes to get lost when a number of articulate professionals begin discussing a plan! Help the group to be creative in brainstorming about how your student might attain his goals.
This document provides more resources and information for learning about and using Person-Centered Planning.
2. Good Facilitation
If the plan is school-based, often a school administrator or the principal chairs the planning meeting. They are chosen because they are familiar with the student’s progress over some years and because they offer an outside eye, likely having a little more distance than the classroom teacher. If the family is choosing the facilitator, they are often wise to choose someone who is a little distant from the immediate family life, so that they can help bring a broader perspective.
Good facilitation skills are essential. The facilitator needs to be a good listener but also able to keep the meeting on track. He or she should have met with the young person and should have a sense of their desires and hopes and needs and a genuine interest in their well-being, but the facilitator does not have to be a part of their network. The facilitator should ensure that participants have received preparatory materials and come ready to contribute.
Well before closing the meeting, the facilitator allows time for those present to give input on the emerging plan and express how they can commit to the various aspects of the plan’s implementation. The role of the facilitator includes drawing out any reservations about aspects of the plan that participants may have, so that the group can problem-solve or make revisions together. There then needs to be a plan of action made with means for accountability and follow up. A leader needs to be chosen to do ensure this. Minutes of the meeting should be kept.
3. The Right People in the Planning Meeting
People who can commit to carrying forward the plan need to be in the meeting. This may mean that the planning meeting must be scheduled outside regular school hours. These people usually include not only parents but perhaps a sibling or other family member, a close friend or neighbour and anyone else who has a particular commitment to the young person. A meeting of only busy educators and professionals who will have no time to ensure implementation is an utter waste of time.
4. Flexibility and Openness
Do not follow programs or try to use planning tools when they are not a good fit. Change parts or stages of the transition planning process if it makes sense for the student. Be open to creative ideas and possibilities.
5. Remember whose project this is.
Ensure that the young person has a voice throughout. Make sure that the goals being set are what your student wants or is open to trying and not just what you or other educators or agency representatives or parents envision for the young person.
When asked how they would improve transition planning tools, one family member suggested:
Ensure that the plan is known to the people who are around the student and that they take the goals seriously. Parents often find themselves left too much in charge and the youth often participates better with people from outside the family or with other youth who represent a model for them to follow.
Céline, Family member, QC