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Honoring Values and Needs: Personalizing the Transition Planning Process

By Pam Stenhjem

The transition planning process for young adults with disabilities is based on federal legislation requiring the development of an Individual Education Program (IEP). Certain activities must take place and specific guidelines must be met in order to fulfill the legislative requirements. However, the rules and regulations can many times make the transition planning process generic and rigid, rather than flexible and customized to a particular individual and family. Despite this obligation to meet the letter of the law, there are many ways in which young adults and their families can work with school staff and service providers to personalize the transition planning process to reflect their unique family values, culture, and needs.

Below is a list of activities that take place within a typical transition planning process, as well as a list of suggestions about how families and young adults can help the transition team to respond to their values and needs. The success of these suggestions is in part dependent on how receptive the case manager, IEP team members, and school are to them. Parents and young adults may have to be assertive and persistent in advocating for these options, and unfortunately may not always be successful. Yet, these suggestions are intended to help the process fulfill its purpose of supporting the successful transition of the young adult by ensuring that it respects those things that are important to the individual and their family:

Transition planning can be a wonderful experience when the IEP team, the young adult, and their family work together to address each young adult’s goals for the future through attention to unique needs, family values, and cultural heritage. When we address the transition planning needs of youth in a creative and sensitive way, everybody wins!

Pam Stenhjem is Project Coordinator in the areas of transition and adult services with the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. She may be reached at 612/625-3863 or


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Retrieved from the Web site of the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota ( Citation: Gaylord, V., Agosta, J., Barclay, J., Melda, K. & Stenhjem, P. (Eds.). (2006). Impact: Feature Issue on Parenting Teens and Young Adults with Disabilities 19(2). [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration.]

The PDF version of this Impact, with photos and graphics, is also online at

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