Minnesota ABE Disabilities Portal

Minnesota Adult Basic Education Disability Specialists

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Many students with diagnosed, and likely undiagnosed, disabilities pass through adult basic education programs.  They work on foundational academic skills, complete their secondary education, and engage in other postsecondary and work activities.  Adult students with disabilities may not consider transitioning to college or career as a viable option.  The information here intends to explore and expand the concepts of transition as it relates to adult basic education students with disabilities.

Definition of Transition - Throughout the Ages

Transition is defined as:  “A change in status from behaving primarily as a student to assuming emergent adult roles in the community. These roles include employment, participating in postsecondary education, maintaining a home, becoming appropriately involved in the community, and experiencing satisfactory personal participation and coordination of school programs, adult agency services, and natural supports within the community.”

Transition has two parts:  transition planning and transition services.  While the two activities jointly prepare students disabilities for success in “living, learning and earning,” each part has unique distinctions. 

Transition Planning

Transition planning consists of a managed group of activities specific to the needs of a student with disabilities.  These activities support and aid in the student's successful movement from an adult basic education environment to a postsecondary or workplace opportunity.  This may include but not be limited to higher education, occupational/technical training, coordinated employment (such as work study, internships, and others), continuing adult education, adult services, independent living and community involvement. 

Transition Services

Transition services is still being defined. The secondary education system refers to transition services as a three-pronged, coordinated set of activities for an adolescent student with a disability.   Part A is a results oriented process that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the adolescent with a disability. The goal is to facilitate movement from school to post-school activities such as post secondary or vocational education, integrated employment, continuing adult education, adult services, independent living, and community participation.  Part B takes into account the strengths, preferences, and individual needs and interests of the adolescent.  Part C includes instruction, related services, community experiences, and the development of employment and other post-school living objectives.  Also, when appropriate, this part addresses the student's daily living skills and functional vocational evaluations.

Transition can be thought of as an ongoing, lifelong process that emerges as a student's knowledge, skills and abilities evolve. 

Based on these definitions, transition planning and services for students with disabilities commonly refers to a pre-developed, student-centered anchor plan with goals, objectives, and the associated services and activities to achieve the goals and objectives within a specified timeline.  For adult students, this complex anchor plan can include postsecondary education, occupational or technical training, coordinated employment, continuing adult education, independent living, community involvement, and self-determination.

Researchers note that secondary students with disabilities who have access to transition planning and transition services demonstrate better outcomes than students who do not receive such services.  While there is little research directly addressing the merits of transition planning and services for adult students with disabilities, there is every reason to believe that adult students would reap similar benefits. 

Transition Planning and Services Delivery

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) of 2004 transition planning is mandated for all students who have disabilities enrolled in secondary education programs. There are no such regulations for transition planning and transition services at the adult basic education program level.  As a result, adult students who with disabilities may lack these important services. 

The number of adult basic education students, (excluding English Language Learners [ELL] students) enrolled in programs nationwide in 2010-2011 was 1,172,764, or almost 1.2 million.  Considering the percentage of secondary students with disabilities, it is likely that between 68,392 and 938,211 adult students also have some type of disability.  These numbers are staggering.   Given what is known about the transition success of students with disabilities transition planning and services for adults with disabilities in adult basic education programs should also be routinely offered.

Students with disabilities who enter adult basic education programs are already engaged as parents, workers and community members.  These adult students are self-directed in their learning.  have accrued multiple levels of knowledge and understanding, creating a strong source for learning.  Such students have meaningful aspirations and relationships which support the advancement of knowledge, skills and abilities.

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