FYI, the Institute on Community Integration Staff Newsletter

March 2014

ICI Tells the History of Transition Planning for Minnesota’s Youth with Disabilities

Before 1980, an estimated 70% of adults with disabilities nationwide were unemployed. The employment opportunities that were available were most often related to arts, crafts, and cleaning. They also were most often gender based, that is, women could cook and clean and men could make bird houses, stools and other wooden crafts to be sold for funding to continue future programs, not for individual income. This began changing in Minnesota in 1980 when the Minnesota Department of Children, Families, and Learning, and the Minnesota Department of Economic Security, began addressing transition issues – those issues related to the movement of students with disabilities from high school into the workplace and postsecondary education. Because of transition-related policy initiatives implemented in Minnesota in 1984-87, the rate of employment of young adults with disabilities in the state greatly increased, surpassing the national average, and the type of employment options began to expand. Those changes, and the stories of some of the key people involved with them, are the subject of a new oral history project at the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) titled, “Transition from School to Work for Minnesota’s Youth with Disabilities.”

The 14-month project, which began in April 2013 with a $6,925 grant from the Minnesota Historical Society, will create an oral history sharing the experiences of eight leaders in special education, vocational education, and vocational rehabilitation who were instrumental in bringing about four successful policy and service initiatives supporting the transition of youth with disabilities from secondary education to postsecondary life. The initiatives, which were formalized into state legislation in 1984-87, were: (1) requiring that transition objectives be included in each student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) beginning at age 14; (2) creating the Interagency Office on Transition Services within the Minnesota Department of Children, Families, and Learning; (3) creating local Community Transition Interagency Committees statewide; and (4) formally creating the State Transition Interagency Committee. These initiatives not only changed expectations and opportunities for Minnesota youth with disabilities, they influenced policy and practice nationwide, for example when Minnesota’s requirement that transition objectives be included in each student’s IEP was also incorporated into the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

The project is led by David R. Johnson, ICI’s director, and consultant Norena Hale. ICI is also part of the story. In the 1980s, numerous ICI staff and others from the University of Minnesota were involved in leading and implementing Minnesota’s efforts in the transition from school to work. For example, ICI trained and evaluated local Community Transition Interagency Committees around the state, and also created a wide range of transition-related best practice resources for use by Minnesota schools and agencies.

“This project provides a remarkable opportunity to document and share with future educators the stories of those persons who, in the 1980s, changed the way schools plan for youth with disabilities to evolve into successful adult citizens,” Norena said.

When completed, the oral histories will be available to the public through the Minnesota Historical Society. FFI on this project, contact Norena at