Preparing Youth for the Future: Essentials of Transition Programs

NTACT: the Collaborative
6 min readJul 8, 2020


Josh Taylor, Lynn Roper, Ph.D., and the NTACT Knowledge Development Team

Virginia Commonwealth University, Cedarville University, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Transition programming was introduced and refined in reauthorizations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA; 2004) during the 1990s, thus refocusing the purpose of special education in secondary grades to prepare students for work, post-secondary education, and living in the community (Yell et al., 2006).

According to Rowe et al. (2015), “a transition program prepares students to move from secondary settings (e.g., middle school/high school) to adult life, utilizing comprehensive transition planning and education that creates individualized opportunities, services, and supports to help students achieve their post-school goals in education/training, employment, and independent living” (p.123).

Effective transition programming integrates many specific practices and considerations, thus incorporating many of the other predictors of post-school success (e.g., interagency collaboration, work experiences, inclusion in general education). The full list of these predictors of post-school success are listed in the NTACT Practices and Predictors below.

Studies found students achieve better outcomes when they receive career-related work experience and student-centered transition programming that incorporates instruction in the general education curriculum and vocational education (Benz et al., 2000; Halpern et al., 1995).

Transition programming aligned with students’ individualized goals increases students’ self-awareness and self-confidence (Benz et al., 2000). Additionally, interagency collaboration between schools, adult agencies, and other community stakeholders during transition programming is vital to ensure that students receive appropriate support and services needed to experience a seamless transition to adulthood (Benz et al, 2000; Repetto et al., 2002; Taylor et al., 2019).

With effective, individualized, high-quality transition programming, individuals with disabilities can use their secondary experiences to launch them on a trajectory toward accomplishing their dreams. Accounting all of these factors of quality transition programming, there are a few specific considerations practitioners should take into account to ensure that students are provided instruction and supports to achieve their post-school goals (Rowe, et al., 2015):

● Ensure that students are monitored and guided to achieve their post-school goals by highly qualified staff and administrators with defined roles and responsibilities.

● Ensure that students receive instruction in all aspects of independent living in natural, community integrated settings to practice skills like self-determination, transportation use, recreation, and leisure.

● Ensure that the transition-focused instruction and curriculum students receive in employment, post-secondary education, and independent living is individualized to their strengths, preferences, interests, and needs, as well as aligning with their vision for their own future.

● Ensure that students have opportunities to meaningfully participate in activities in the home and community that facilitate engagement with peers without disabilities.

● Ensure that interagency collaboration between school and adult service providers (e.g., Vocational Rehabilitation, Mental Health) each have clearly defined roles and support students in achieving post-secondary goals.

● Ensure that students make steady progress toward accomplishing goals in academics and transition areas through strength-based assessment across multiple domains at multiple time points.

● Ensure that family members have information, resources, and training needed to participate in transition planning as equal partners, and connect with relevant adult agencies and community supports.

State & Local Examples — Arkansas

Greenwood Transition Program

Greenwood Transition Program is designed for students to learn about themselves, their disability, and their strengths, and weaknesses. It provides services that prepare students to transition from school to adult life and reach positive post-school outcomes. This program also assists students to look at possible career choices and opportunities, job applications, resumes, interviewing skills. Greenwood Transition program begins in the 10th grade with Transition I, followed by Transition II, and III.

Foci of Transition I, II, and III

· Transition I:

o Self-exploration and self-advocacy, as well as job preparation skills

o Resume building and interview preparation

o Guest speakers will provide information that will focus on functional and vocational topics and work place skills

o Students will participate in fundamental on-campus job skills practices

· Transition II:

o Participate in a variety of job training experiences to help determine career interest and student ability levels

o Expand on skills that were introduced in Transitions I

o Receive hands-on supervised work experience to prepare them for post-secondary careers

· Transition III:

o Participate in a community based work program where the students will spend time receiving work experiences

o Apply the skill they learned from Transition I and II classes to their job assignments

o Students will work during a portion of the school day in the local community job placement

o Job evaluation from job coach and supervisor

o Get hands-on, real-world experience to help prepare them for their post-secondary careers

NTACT Resources

NTACT Transition Planning Resources — This section of NTACT’s website provides resources and tools to guide the process of transition planning — encompassing assessment and skill development to plan for success beyond school.

NTACT Fact Sheet: “Transition Program Correlated with Improved Education, Employment, and Independent Living Outcomes” -This NTACT fact sheet provides important information about what transition programs are, the level of research evidence supporting their use, and how they predict post-school success.

DCDT Fast Facts: Transition Programs — These fast facts give the essential characteristics of transition programs and what that means for teachers, administrators, and family members.

NTACT Effective Practices and Predictors Matrix — This resource describes various practices and predictors organized by the strength of evidence for promoting their use in improving post-school outcomes in the areas of employment, post-secondary education, and independent living.


Benz, M. R., Lindstrom, L., & Yovanoff, P. (2000). Improving graduation and employment outcomes of students with disabilities: Predictive factors and student perspectives. Exceptional Children, 66, 509–541.

Halpern, A.S., Yovanoff, P., Doren, B. & Benz, M.R. (1995) Predicting participation in postsecondary education for school leavers with disabilities. Exceptional Children, 62, 151–164.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. (2004). Pub. L. 108–446, §1.

Mazzotti, V. L., Rowe, D. A., Sinclair, J., Poppen, M., Woods, W. E., & Shearer, M. L. (2016). Predictors of Post-School Success: A Systematic Review of NLTS2 Secondary Analyses. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, 39(4), 196–215.

Newman, L., Wagner, M., Huang, T., Shaver, D., Knokey, A., Yu, J., . . . Cameto, R. (2011). Secondary school programs and performance of students with disabilities. A special topic report of findings from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2) (NCSER 2012–3000). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Special Education Research.

Prince, A. M. T., Hodge, J., Bridges, W. C., & Katsiyannis, A. (2018). Predictors of Postschool Education/Training and Employment Outcomes for Youth With Disabilities: Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals.

Repetto, J. B., Webb, K. W., Garvan, C. W., & Washington, T. (2002). Connecting student outcomes with transition practices in Florida. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 25, 123–139.

Rowe, D. A., Alverson, C. Y., Unruh, D. K., Fowler, C. H., Kellems, R., & Test, D. W. (2015). A Delphi study to operationalize evidence-based predictors in secondary transition. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, 38(2), 113–126.

Shattuck, P. T., Narendorf, S. C., Cooper, B., Sterzing, P. R., Wagner, M., & Taylor, J. L. (2012). Postsecondary education and employment among youth with autism spectrum disorder. Pediatrics, 129, 1042–1049.

Taylor, J., Whittenburg, H., Thoma, C., Gokita, T., & Pickover, G. (2019). Collaboration to Improve Employment Outcomes for Youth with Disabilities: Implications of the Pre-ETS components of WIOA on IDEA transition requirements. Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities Online Journal.

Test, D. W., Mazzotti, V. L., Mustian, A. L., Fowler, C. H., Kortering, L., & Kohler, P. (2009). Evidence-based secondary transition predictors for improving postschool outcomes for students with disabilities. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 32(3), 160–181.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2020, February 26). Persons with a disability: Labor force characteristics summary.

Yell, M., Shriner, J., & Katsiyannis, A. (2006). Individuals with disabilities education improvement act of 2004 and IDEA regulations of 2006: Implications for educators, administrators, and teacher trainers. Focus on Exceptional Children, 39(1), 1–24.



NTACT: the Collaborative

NTACT:C is a Technical Assistance and Dissemination project, funded by the OSEP and the RSA, Cooperative Agreement Number H326E140004.