The resources in this section primarily focus on the transition from high school to postsecondary opportunities, but some resources on the transition from college graduation to employment are also included.

Access to postsecondary education: Planning for education after high school. (n.d.). Lexington, KY: Division of Exceptional Children Services Kentucky Department of Education. Retrieved from:

This handbook has been designed as a guide to help students with disabilities who have decided to continue their education after high school graduation in the state of Kentucky.

Adelman, C. (2005, Fall). Executive summary: The Toolbox Revisited: Paths to degree completion from high school through college. Journal for Vocational Special Needs Education, 28(1), 23-30. Retrieved from

“The Toolbox Revisited is a data essay that follows a nationally representative cohort of students from high school into postsecondary education, and asks what aspects of their formal schooling contribute to completing a bachelor’s degree by their mid-20s. The universe of students is confined to those who attended a four-year college at any time, thus including students who started out in other types of institutions, particularly community colleges” (p. 23).

This executive summary is reprinted from the full report available online at

Adreon, D., & Durocher, J. S. (2007). Evaluating the college transition needs of individuals with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders. Intervention in School and Clinic, 42(5), 271-279.

Increased attention has been given recently to the needs of students with learning and developmental disabilities who are transitioning from high school to college. This is especially important for students with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders (ASD), who are likely to experience significant and unique challenges in adjusting to postsecondary educational settings. After an overview of diagnostic criteria, symptom presentation, and treatment approaches for high-functioning students with ASD, this article discusses the type of difficulties students may encounter across various domains, including socialization, communication, independent daily living skills, academic functioning, and self-advocacy. The article concludes with recommendations for areas to be evaluated and addressed when determining the supports students with high-functioning ASD need to succeed in meeting the organizational, academic, and social demands of college life.

Ankeny, E. M., & Lehmann, J. P. (2011, July/August). Journey toward self-determination: Voices of students with disabilities who participated in a secondary transition program on a community college campus. Remedial and Special Education, 32(4), 279-289.

Four students with disabilities enrolled in a secondary transition program located at a community college were interviewed to learn more about their transition experiences. One of the issues they touched on was self-determination. This study is a part of the larger qualitative narrative effort but with a specific focus on exploring participants’ perceptions regarding their journey toward self-determination. Field and Hoffman’s model of self-determination (i.e., know yourself, value yourself, plan, act and experience outcomes, and learn) guided the data re-examination. Themes found in students’ stories were (a) personal factors associated with the construct of self-determination, (b) environments and experiences that foster self-determination, and (c) the individualized education program meeting as a significant tool for supporting students’ building of skills leading to self-determination. The journey toward self-determination for the four narrators was formative and complex and highlights the need to promote its practice. The authors conclude that the study’s methodology promoting joint recollection and reflection about significant life events can enhance students’ understanding and appreciation of their acquisition of self-determination skills.

Ankeny, E., & Lehmann, J. P. (2010). The transition lynchpin: The voices of individuals with disabilities who attended a community college transition program. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 34(6), 477-496.

Nearly 60% of students with disabilities who attend postsecondary institutions attend community colleges. Individuals with disabilities paralleling their peers without disabilities need the postsecondary education opportunity to develop vocational skills, the time to mature, and the experience of living with others. A transition program, a K-12 and community college partnership, was developed to support students in this mission. A narrative inquiry methodology was utilized to understand the community college experience of students with disabilities in a transition program. Findings indicate that the program benefited the individuals. It did this by supporting completion of a vocational program leading to gainful employment and as a transition into adult roles and status. The program also provided opportunities that enhanced the individuals’ self-esteem, and it facilitated the individuals becoming more independent and responsible.

The Board of Regents and the State Education Department et al. (2000, March). Postsecondary education and individuals with disabilities: Recommendations to New York State for strategies to increase access and opportunity. Albany, NY: The Office of Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities (VESID). Retrieved from:

This report of the Task Force on Postsecondary Education and Disabilities focuses on equal educational access and opportunity for all New York state postsecondary students. The task force stresses the preparation of high school students for transition planning to postsecondary education and the active recruitment of students with disabilities by education institutions. The report outlines nine goals (preparation for postsecondary education opportunities, institutional commitment within postsecondary education, capacity of all campus personnel and students to work with and teach students with disabilities, universal design and access through assistive technology, career development and full employment opportunity, regional coordination and partnerships, accreditation and review, funding and financial mechanisms to enhance the educational opportunity for students with disabilities, and management structure for continued collaboration and implementation) and provides a discussion of the goal, specific strategies to meet the goals, and expected outcomes. The report also includes appendices on background/rationale of the importance of postsecondary education for students with disabilities (including the fiscal benefits, both for the student and the state) and characteristics and enrollment statistics of students with disabilities.

Burgstahler, S., & Lamb, P. (Eds.). (2003, Fall). Empowering Students with Disabilities as They Transition to College and Careers [Special Issue]. Journal of Special Education Technology, 18(4). Retrieved from:

This issue of JSET is devoted to papers presented at the Technology Capacity Building Institute, Empowering Students with Disabilities as They Transition to College and Careers, which was held in Seattle on April 7 and 8, 2003. The event was sponsored by the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET), the National Center for the Study of Postsecondary Educational Supports (NCSPES), and Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking and Technology (DO-IT). The purpose of the Institute was to discuss how stakeholders, students with disabilities and their families, K-12 educators, college disabilities support staff, vocational rehabilitation counselors, local, state, and federal policy makers, textbook and technology publishers, and employers can assure that:

  • all individuals with disabilities have access to technology that promotes positive academic and career outcomes.
  • all people with disabilities use technology in ways that contribute to positive postsecondary academic and career outcomes and self-determined lives.
  • there is a seamless transition of availability of technology for all people with disabilities as they move from K-12 to postsecondary to career environments.

Articles include:

  • The Role of Technology in Preparing Youth with Disabilities for Postsecondary Education and Employment
  • The Interdependent Roles of All Players in Making Technology Accessible
  • Findings from the Study of Transition, Technology and Postsecondary Supports for Youth with Disabilities: Implications for Secondary School Educators
  • Assistive Technology, Universal Design, Universal Design for Learning: Improved Opportunities
  • The Role of the Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor in Procuring Technology to Facilitate Success in Postsecondary Education for Youth with Disabilities
  • Employer Perspectives on Hiring and Accommodating Youth in Transition


Chen, L. J. (in press). Transition needs identification of college students with disabilities in Taiwan. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals.

This research investigated the factors that motivated or caused college students with disabilities to identify transition needs compared with what they originally requested. The research began with a survey of transition needs conducted with 72 students who would graduate from college in 1 year, and the same survey was conducted with the same students a year later. The survey was followed by interviewing 11 students who made more than 10 transition need changes in the second survey. The research found that requiring different transition needs or concealing transition needs was determined by natural factors, external factors, personal condition factors, and environmental factors. Per analysis results, implications for improving students’ transition needs identification and transition services’ quality were given.

Collins, K., Hedrick, B., & Stumbo, N. (2007). Using comprehensive postsecondary transitional support services to enhance the health, independence, and employment success of persons with severe physical and/or psychiatric disabilities: The University of Illinois approach. Champaign, IL: Disability Services at the University of Illinois, College of Applied Health Sciences. Retrieved from:

“This report will: (1) describe the philosophical underpinning organizational structure and history of the Illinois Model from a general perspective, as well as the population specific perspective of students with severe physical disabilities and students with psychiatric disabilities; (2) describe the educational components of the Illinois program and the importance of these educational components in ameliorating the negative impact of severe disabilities upon their pursuit of a college education and access to gainful employment; and (3) describe the graduation and employment outcomes of students who have used these programs and services.”

Cook, B. G., Gerber, M. M., & Murphy, J. (2000). Backlash against the inclusion of students with learning disabilities in higher education: Implications for transition from post-secondary environments to work. Work, 14(1), 31-40.

Individuals with learning disabilities (LD), the largest group of people with disabilities in the United States, are attending college in greater numbers than ever before. Post-secondary training is critical for individuals with LD to make successful transitions into a changing and ever more demanding world of work. Research indicating that college faculty are willing to provide requested accommodations to students with LD suggests that they are increasingly likely to experience successful post-secondary outcomes, and therefore improve their vocational prospects. However, college students with LD and the accommodations they receive have recently garnered some highly critical press. These portrayals may portend problems in higher education for students with LD, who must self-identify and make specific accommodation requests to faculty in order to receive the instruction and testing environments that they require to succeed. Efforts to ensure that the LD label is not ubiquitously applied and that college faculty attempt to separate the idea of merit from achievement and implement instructional practices to better meet the educational needs of students with and without LD are recommended.

Corcoran, L. A. (2010). Factors influencing transition and persistence in the first year for community college students with disabilities [Open Access Dissertations Paper 276]. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Amherst, Massachusetts. Retrieved from:

Community colleges have always played a crucial role in providing access to college, especially for students with disabilities. At the same time the rate of completion is exceptionally low for this particular population (Belch, 2004). In order to improve persistence and achievement measurably, colleges may seek clues in successful transitions by students with disabilities. This project presents a qualitative research study to illuminate factors that contribute to semester-by-semester success of community college students with disabilities during their first year. A conceptual model of successful transitional processes was developed from theoretical constructs reported in the literature and was expanded by data from individual case studies. Seven very strong stages emerged as a result of the research. These stages were: 1) pre-college experiences that influence academic involvement, 2) initial encounters that created first impressions, 3) transition shock, 4) support-seeking and strategic adjustment 5) prioritizing and balancing of college and non-college commitments, 6) recognizing success, and 7) a sense of belonging to the college community. These results indicated a successful transition into college is an important first step in persistence for students with disabilities. Persistence of students with disabilities requires further attention and research in order to improve graduation rates of these students at community colleges.

deFur, S. H., & Korinek, L. (2008, October). The evolution toward lifelong learning as a critical transition outcome for the 21st century. In S. H. deFur (Ed.), Transition to Postsecondary Education [Feature Issue]. Exceptionality, 16(4), 178-191.

Forces including legislation, policy, standards-based educational reforms, and changing economic and social conditions have dramatically altered the conversation and practices around postsecondary transition. This article traces the development of postsecondary transition as it is reflected in the professional literature and federal legislation since 1975. Over time, increasing expectations, access, and outcomes for students with disabilities are moving the goals for transition toward postsecondary education and lifelong learning to help graduates achieve continuing success in employment and adult life.

Dutta, A., Kundu, M. M., & Schiro-Geist, C. (2009). Coordination of postsecondary transition services for students with disabilities. Journal of Rehabilitation, 75(1), 10-17.

There are 6,500 postsecondary institutions in the U.S. that enroll about 16 million full- and part-time students, i.e., 14 million undergraduates and 2 million graduates. Only 9% of these students have a documented disability, i.e., the participation of the target population is low. The current study was an effort to identify alterable issues (for example, empowerment, advocacy, accessibility, faculty awareness, and quality of services) affecting university-based service delivery rather than unalterable status or demographic variables from the perspective of students with disabilities and administrators of Office of Disability Services (ODS). The participants were 445 students with disabilities and four ODS Directors/Coordinators at two universities in a southern and two universities in a mid-western state. The respondents reported that there existed a crucial need for collaborative service provision to eliminate duplication of efforts, campus-wide assistive technology laboratories, and assistance to minimize employment barriers. The findings, if implemented with the existing financial resources, hold promise to: (1) change the trajectory leading to low enrollment and high dropout rates and (2) generate a more inclusive provision of transition services and accessible campus ambiance.

Elliott, T., & Wilson, C. (2008). The perceptions of students with hidden disabilities of their experience during transition to higher education. Ipswich, UK: Aimhigher of East England.

“This study was commissioned by Aimhigher East of England to investigate the perceptions of students with hidden impairments regarding their experience during transition to, and within, their first year of higher education (HE). The proposal requested a focus on students with three different hidden impairments: dyslexia, mental health difficulties and Asperger’s Syndrome. For the purpose of ease the term ‘disabled students’ is used interchangeably with ‘students with hidden disabilities’ in this report to refer to the 18 students with hidden disabilities participating in the study. The research has been conducted within the context of a legislative and policy framework which stresses the importance of ensuring equality for disabled people and which recognises their continued under-representation in HE” (p. 3).

An electronic version of this report can be found on the Aimhigher East of England website:,

Fite, D., & Sannes, J. (2003). Mapping your future: Transition planning for students with disabilities preparing for post-secondary education in North Dakota. Bismarck: North Dakota Department of Public Instruction. Retrieved from:

This booklet is designed for students with disabilities as they prepare for post-secondary education in North Dakota. The goal of this document is to inform students of the changes in laws and services as they transition from high school to college. The booklet is written to speak directly to students; as well, there is a brief section for parents regarding their changing role.

Flexer, R. W., Daviso, A. W., Baer, R. M. McMahan Queen, R., & Meindl, R. S. (2011, August). An epidemiological model of transition and postschool outcomes. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 34(2), 83-94.

This longitudinal transition study was conducted in collaboration with teachers who interviewed students who graduated from 177 school districts in a Great Lakes state. Special education students were interviewed at exit and 1 year following graduation using a survey based on the National Longitudinal Transition Study. The data were analyzed using logistic regression models that controlled for gender, minority status, and level of disability. The authors developed and tested three regression models: two to predict full-time employment and one to predict college enrollment. Students who graduated from career and technical education and work study programs were more likely to enter full-time employment after graduation, but this relationship was influenced by gender, minority status, and disability. Students who participated in mainstream academics were much more likely to be enrolled in full-time college after graduation, but this relationship was influenced by level of disability.

Foley, N. E. (2006, September). Preparing for college: Improving the odds for students with learning disabilities. College Student Journal, 40(3), 641-655.

Increasing numbers of students with learning disabilities are enrolling in colleges. Although, they may have met academic prerequisites, they still may find that they are unprepared. In addition to the many adjustments that all students must make, students with disabilities are faced with a major shift in the advocacy role. As K-12 students in special education, teachers, parents, counselors may have monitored their academic progress. Upon graduation from high school, however, the student must assume responsibility for getting their academic needs met. They must demonstrate an array of nonintellectual skills and attributes in the process of self-identifying as having a disability, describing the nature of their disability and its impact on their learning, and suggesting effective accommodations.

Garrison-Wade, D. F., & Lehmann, J. P. (2009, May). A conceptual framework for understanding students’ with disabilities transition to community college. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 33(5), 417-445.

Students with disabilities are significantly underrepresented in the nation’s community college population for multiple reasons. These include low expectations, poor high school preparation and transition planning, lack of communication or support services, and ineffective or poor support from school services personnel and faculty. This paper presents a literature synthesis. Its purpose is to inform an initial framework for building towards a conceptual framework for understanding the transition to community college by students with disabilities. The framework was developed from an earlier mixed methods study involving 100 college students with disabilities and 10 disability resource counselors in eight universities and colleges, six of which were community colleges. The framework was examined by comparing six reviews from the What Works in Transition: Systematic Review Project (meta-analyses of previous studies) and five meta-syntheses (rigorous evaluations). Based on these analyses, elements of the framework were confirmed and redefined to show what was needed for (a) high quality preparation in secondary education (self advocacy development and peer/teacher awareness and sensitivity to foster maximizing postsecondary options, focused training on self-advocacy, and college visits and orientation activities); (b) planning (ongoing communication between high school and postsecondary school); and (c) access and accommodations in community colleges (instructor awareness and sensitivity, financial aid opportunities in order to foster social support networks, mentoring support, and formulation of goals for future employment). Five recommendations are provided suggesting how community college leaders, policymakers, and practitioners could use the framework to enhance the transition to community college by students with disabilities.

Gellera, L. L., & Greenberg, M. (2010). Managing the transition process from high school to college and beyond: Challenges for individuals, families, and society. Social Work in Mental Health, 8(1), 92–116.

Transition to adulthood represents a significant challenge for individuals on the autism spectrum and their families. With the increase in diagnosis and appropriate treatment at younger ages, more adolescents on the spectrum have the potential for independent adult lives, including work and college. Yet our support systems have been slow to respond to the needs of individuals with typical dreams and aspirations but atypical development. This article addresses the challenges of the transition to adulthood from multiple perspectives and provides a framework for individuals, families, and supporting professionals to anticipate challenges and develop positive solutions.

Grigal, M., Dwyre, A., & Davis, H. (2006, December). Transition services for students aged 18-21 with intellectual disabilities in college and community settings: Models and implications of success. Information Brief, 5(5). Minneapolis: National Center on Secondary Education and Transition, University of Minnesota. Retrieved from:

“This brief provides an overview of some successful models of transition services being implemented in postsecondary settings, describes one such model implemented by the Baltimore City Public School System in three local colleges, and presents some of the implications and strategies for success of this model” (p. 1).

Grigal, M., Hart, D., & Migliore, A. (2011, May). Comparing the transition planning, postsecondary education, and employment outcomes of students with intellectual and other disabilities. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 34(1), 4-17.

This article describes a secondary analysis of variables from the National Longitudinal Transition Survey 2 (NLTS-2) database. Specifically, students with intellectual disability (ID) were compared to students with other disabilities regarding post-school transition goals listed on their IEPs/Transition Plans, contacts/referrals made to outside agencies during transition planning, participation of other agencies/organizations in transition planning (e.g., vocational rehabilitation and higher education representatives), and students’ postsecondary education and employment outcomes. Students with ID were less likely to have postsecondary education or competitive employment goals and outcomes and more likely to have sheltered and supported employment goals and outcomes compared to students with other disabilities. Contacts with and participation of external professionals in IEP/Transition Plan meetings also differed between the two groups of students.

Hendricks, D. R., & Wehman, P. (2009, June).Transition from school to adulthood for youth with autism spectrum disorders. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 24(2), 77-88.

The transition from school services to adulthood can be particularly difficult for many adolescents with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Although some individuals with ASD are able to successfully transition, most are faced with significant obstacles in multiple areas as they attempt to negotiate their way into college, work, community participation, and independent living. This article contains a review of research related to the transition from school to adulthood for youth with ASD in the areas of education, employment, community living, and community integration. These key areas of the transition process are crucial for success in adulthood. A summary of principal conclusions drawn from the current literature and suggestions for future research are provided.

Hitchings, W. E., Retish, P., & Horvath, M. (2005). Academic preparation of adolescents with disabilities for postsecondary education. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 28(1), 26-35.

This study assesses the preparation of high school students with disabilities for postsecondary education. Transition planning information for 110 students from Grades 10 through 12 was reviewed. We found that (a) interest in attending postsecondary education declined from 77% to 47% over a 3-year period, (b) only four students had 4-year plans leading to postsecondary education, and (c) students were not enrolled in college preparatory classes or were transferred from college preparatory classes despite the students’ expressed interest in postsecondary education. Recommendations are presented to address the continuing problem of preparing students with disabilities for postsecondary education.

Janiga, S. J., & Costenbader, V. (2002, September/October). The transition from high school to postsecondary education for students with learning disabilities: A survey of college service coordinators. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 35(5), 463-470.

Federal legislation requires that students with disabilities receive services to assist them in the transition from high school to postsecondary life. Transition services must address students’ understanding of their disability, learning strengths and weaknesses, career decision—making skills, and preparation for the increased demands of postsecondary education. This study surveyed coordinators of special services for students with disabilities at 74 colleges and universities in New York State. Respondents provided their perceptions of how well the students they served had been prepared by the transition services they had received in high school. Overall, little satisfaction with transition services was expressed. Respondents were most satisfied with high schools’ provision of updated evaluations for students prior to enrollment in college, and they rated students’ preparation for self-advocacy as the greatest weakness of current transition services.

Kallio, A., & Owens, L. (2004, Fall). Opening doors to postsecondary education and training: Planning for life after high school: A handbook for students, school counselors, teachers, & parents. The Journal for Vocational Special Needs Education, 26(3), 23-41. Retrieved January 15, 2009 from

This is a reprint of a handbook designed as a guide to help students with disabilities preparing for postsecondary education in Wisconsin.

Kato, M. M., Nulty, B., Olszewski, B. T., Doolittle, J., & Flannery, K. B. (2006, September/October). Postsecondary academies: Helping students with disabilities transition to college. Teaching Exceptional Children, 39(1), 18-23.

Despite many barriers, a group of Oregon educators began to discuss ideas about how they could provide information that would build skills to improve the entry and success rate for high school students with disabilities in postsecondary education. These educators included high school, community college, and university staff. Nulty et al detail the Postsecondary Academies, which serve as a program support repositories of information and where high school students gain the knowledge and experience necessary for student success in a postsecondary environment.

Kirkendall, A., Doueck, H. J., & Saladino, A. (2008). Transitional services for youth with developmental disabilities: Living in college dorms. Research on Social Work Practice OnLine First.

This study evaluates the impact of a college-based dormitory program on transitioning youth with intellectual disabilities. A qualitative study, with interviews at pre and post, was conducted to evaluate the program’s impact. Data were collected with semistructured interviews from young adults with intellectual disabilities who participated in a college-based residential program and their parents or guardians. Three general themes emerged from the data: Participants reported experiences that were (a) typical of normative life transitions, (b) typical of growing pains associated with significant life transitions and learning new skills, and (c) one step forward. Results indicate that the experience of living away from home for the first time was in some ways comparable to that of a typical college student. Improvement in life skills, including increased awareness of personal goals, enhanced vocational goals, increased maturity or assertiveness, was reported. Respondents were generally satisfied with the program.

Lukose, S. (2000). The transition to college for students with disabilities in New York State. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 23(2), 223-235.

This study assesses the services provided to students with disabilities in 30 postsecondary education institutions across New York State. The study determines the type and degree of assistance offered, and gauges how high school counselors could better serve college-bound students. Results indicated that while respondents urged high schools to encourage college-bound students to advocate for themselves, the most frequent types of service provided by colleges did not promote autonomy. Reasons for these findings are discussed and strategies for improving the school-to-college transition are suggested.

Madaus, J. W. (2005, January/February). Navigating the college transition maze: A guide for students with learning disabilities. Teaching Exceptional Children, 37(3), 32-38.

Madaus describes the multiple challenges that go beyond those faced in high school when a student with learning disability goes to a postsecondary setting. The differences between high school and postsecondary settings are described along with several common misconceptions. Details of the discussion are presented.

Madaus, J. W., & Shaw, S. F. (2006, November). The impact of the IDEA 2004 on transition to college for students with learning disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 21(4), 273-281.

The newly reauthorized Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 contains several significant changes that will directly impact students with learning disabilities (LD) who are preparing for transition to postsecondary education. These modifications include transition planning, reevaluations, new criteria for the diagnosis of LD, and the summary of performance requirement. This article presents an overview of pertinent changes in each of these key areas, as well as discussion of how these modifications will impact students in transition. Recommendations are offered for secondary and postsecondary personnel regarding these changes.

Miller, E. (2004, July). Autism: Challenges relating to secondary transition. Alexandria, VA: Project Forum at NASDSE. Retrieved from:

“The purpose of this document is to describe the efforts of several state education agencies (SEAs) to address the needs of transition-aged students with autism, describe the major barriers to providing effective secondary transition services to this population and generate policy recommendations” (p. 1).

Milsom, A., & Hartley, M. T. (2005, June). Assisting students with learning disabilities transitioning to college: What school counselors should know. Professional School Counseling, 8(5), 436.

Learning disability is an umbrella term providing a common language for a wide range of professionals, including teachers and counselors (Thomas & Woods, 2003). Neurologically based learning disabilities manifest themselves in different ways (Brinckerhoff, 1994). According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1990, students with learning disabilities may have weaknesses in one or more areas including reading, writing, spelling, listening, speaking, thinking, and mathematics. All students are unique in terms of which of these characteristics they possess. Students with learning disabilities can benefit from developing specific knowledge and skills that may increase their chances of successfully completing postsecondary degrees. School counselors can play important roles as advocates, collaborators, and direct service providers. This article is a review of critical student knowledge and skill areas as well as school counselor roles in the implementation of postsecondary transition planning services for students with learning disabilities.

Morningstar, M. E., Frey, B. B., Noonan, P. M., Ng, J., Clavenna-Deane, B., Graves, P., Kellems, R., McCall, Z., Pearson, M., Bjorkman Wade, D., & Williams-Diehm, K. (2010, August). A preliminary investigation of the relationship of transition preparation and self-determination for students with disabilities in postsecondary educational settings. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 33(2), 80-94.

This study examined the relationship between high school transition preparation (school and family based) and self-determination among postsecondary students with disabilities. Seventy-six participants from 4-year universities completed a two-part online survey. The first part of the survey measured three dependent variables: psychological empowerment, hope, and locus of control. The second part measured the independent variable quality of high school transition preparation. Correlational analyses were conducted between the quality of a student’s high school transition preparation and perceived self-determination (i.e., psychological empowerment, hope, and locus of control). Although significant correlations existed among the scales used to measure self-determination, the relationships between high school preparation and the role of families and self-determination was of interest.

National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities. (2007, Fall). The documentation disconnect for students with learning disabilities: Improving access to postsecondary disability services. Learning Disability Quarterly, 30(4), 265-274.

This report by the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (NJCLD) outlines important concerns about documentation issues related to students with disabilities as they transition from high school to postsecondary settings. These issues center on the “disconnect” between the nature and extent of disability documentation generated during a student’s public school career and the documentation required to access services at the postsecondary education level. There is no easy answer to this problem given the legal, practical, and philosophical differences between these two educational settings, and it is clear that new ways of thinking about the documentation for accessing services in post secondary education for students with learning disabilities (LD) need to occur. One of the main tenets of this paper is that all persons involved in the successful and equitable transition of individuals with LD to postsecondary institutions need to understand each other’s constraints and perspectives. This understanding will be greatly enhanced when there is a shared goal of helping all students receive services to which they are entitled and when educators from each level commit to communicating with each other. The purpose of this report is to outline the issues affecting documentation for postsecondary disability services and to suggest ways to bridge the gap between secondary and postsecondary settings.

Neubert, D. A., & Moon, M. S. (2006). Postsecondary settings and transition services for students with intellectual disabilities: Models and research. Focus on Exceptional Children, 39(4), 1-8.

“Preparing high school students for college and employment that leads to adult self-sufficiency is a daunting task for educators (Lerner & Brand, 2006; Spence, 2007). This task becomes more complicated as technology changes rapidly, as policy makers mandate standards that all students must meet, and as schools evolve to serve more students with linguistic, academic, and social challenges. For students with intellectual disabilities (ID), their families, and the educators who provide services in the public schools, the complexity of this task increases further. We use the term students with intellectual disabilities to include students with mental retardation, autism, traumatic brain injury, and multiple disabilities who are likely to need ongoing, individualized supports in order to participate in inclusive communities (U.S. Department of Education, 2004; U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2004). In some states these students receive an alternative diploma or certificate rather than a high school diploma (Johnson & Thurlow, 2003). Obtaining adequate support to participate in educational opportunities, attaining long-term funding for post-school services, and locating employment sites for individual students with ID require creative collaborative ventures and changes in policy (Hart, Zimbrich, & Ghiloni, 2001; Neubert, Moon, & Grigal, 2004; Stodden & Whelley, 2004). Models are available allowing some students with ID to access college courses and to explore employment options that reach beyond sheltered work during their final years of public schooling (Doyle, 2003; Grigal, Neubert, & Moon, 2001; Hall, Kleinert, & Kearns, 2000; Hart, Zafft, & Zimbrich, 2001; Pearman, Elliott, & Aborn, 2004). These models can provide a blueprint for replicating similar services and for identifying issues to address through research and policy efforts” (p. 1).

Neubert, D. A., & Redd, V. A. (2008). Transition services for students with intellectual disabilities: A case study of a public school program on a community college campus. In S. H. deFur (Ed.), Transition to Postsecondary Education [Feature Issue]. Exceptionality, 16(4), 220-224.

Students with intellectual disabilities aged 18-21 are increasingly receiving transition services on college campuses during the last years of public schooling. These students may attend college courses, work in the community, access community recreational activities, and engage in age-appropriate experiences with peers without disabilities. However, there is little research that documents the types of practices included, the perspectives of consumers, or the outcomes of these transition services. Results from this case study depict how one public school program on a community college campus incorporated recommended transition practices and how students with intellectual disabilities and their families perceived these practices.

Newman, L. (2005, Winter). Changes in postsecondary education participation of youth with disabilities. The Journal for Vocational Special Needs Education, 27(2), 30-38. Retrieved from:

“This chapter examines changes between 1987 and 2003 in the postsecondary education enrollment of youth with disabilities who had been out of secondary school up to 2 years, as measured in the National Longitudinal Transition Study (NLTS) and the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2). It focuses on participation in three types of institutions—2-year/community colleges; 4-year colleges; and postsecondary vocational, technical, or business schools. The section begins with a discussion of change over time in youth’s experiences with programs designed to help those who dropped out of high school earn a high school diploma. It continues with an examination of changes in enrollment rates at postsecondary institutions for youth with disabilities as a whole and for youth who differed in their disability category, high-school-exit status, age, gender, household income, and race/ethnicity, when significant. It concludes with findings regarding changes in the extent to which students attended postsecondary school full- or part-time” (p. 30). This is a chapter excerpted from: Changes Over Time in the Early Postschool Outcomes of Youth with Disabilities. A Report of Findings from the National Longitudinal Transition Study (NLTS) and the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2).

Oesterreich, H. A., & Knight, M. G. (2008, May). Facilitating transitions to college for students with disabilities from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Intervention in School and Clinic, 43(5), 300-304.

“This article examines how the intersection of race, class, and disability informs the responsibilities of special educators. A diverse set of practices needs to be used with working-class African American, Latino/Latina, and Native American students with disabilities to increase their social and cultural capital and support their prospective college-going identities” (p. 300-301).

Rioux-Bailey, C. (2004, March). Students with disabilities and access to community college: Continuing issues and new directions. Washington, DC: The George Washington University HEATH Resource Center. Retrieved from:

“Much has been written for students with disabilities, their family members, and educators about community college as a postsecondary option. This information typically focuses on the differences between high school and community college, such as differences in legislative protections and various ways to access auxiliary aids and services. Yet many students, family members, and educators remain uninformed about the questions they should be asking about the transition from high school to community college programs; the policies that determine admittance to, and continued enrollment in, community college programs; and the strategies and resources that may impact successful outcomes” (p. 1)

Roberts, K .D. (2010). Topic areas to consider when planning transition from high school to postsecondary education for students with autism spectrum disorders. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 25(3), 158-162.

For many individuals with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attending and completing postsecondary education is a viable option. However, success in postsecondary education for these individuals may require more planning and ongoing support than students without an ASD. This article provides educators and transition support personnel with a range of topics to consider when working with students with ASD and their families to develop a comprehensive transition plan. These topic areas include career exploration, academic goal setting and preparation, assessing and knowing learning styles, self-advocacy skills, reasonable accommodations, academic supports, interagency collaboration, technology, and time management skills.

Sanderson, A. (2001, June). Disabled students in transition: A tale of two sectors’ failure to communicate. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 25(2), 227-240.

This article explores in particular the need for proactive communications between the Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE) sectors to ensure that disabled students in transition are appropriately supported. The need for two-way communication was identified along with other significant issues in a research project at the University of Nottingham. The project explored the provision for disabled students available in HE against that which disabled students in both FE and HE institutions stated they required. Issues relating to transition are explored within this short article.

Shaw, S. F., Madaus, J. W., & Dukes, L. L. (2010). Preparing students with disabilities for college success: A practical guide to transition planning. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

This is a comprehensive, accessible guide for making successful transitions to postsecondary education for students with high-incidence or hidden disabilities. Recent evidence has shown that college may be the most productive way to ‘level the playing field’ for students with disabilities, and this book provides the information teachers, related services personnel (e.g., counselors, school psychologists) and parents need to help students succeed. This book supports the efforts of parents and professionals to foster successful transition to college for students with mild – moderate, non-visible disabilities such as learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, and more. It not only fosters access to postsecondary education, but provides guidance for preparation so that students with disabilities have the skills to succeed and graduate. While outlining the complexities that students with disabilities face in the transition to college, this book also presents a variety of practical solutions and strategies to help students throughout the process. Through the use of vignettes, tips, and activities, each chapter translates the most up-to-date research in a user-friendly format that can be used to guide students with disabilities and their families.

Shields, B. A., Saladino, A., Proctor-Szilgvi, A. F., & Doueck, H. J. (2008). An integrative model for developing transition-based dormitory experiences for individuals with developmental disabilities on college campuses. Journal of Transformative Education, 6(1), 82-94.

This article explores the efficacy of placing individuals with developmental disabilities into college campus dormitories in the interest of facilitating transition into adulthood. Developmental challenges for participants and families are addressed, in addition to concerns for normalization, self-determination, and the broader concepts of social inclusion and community integration. An interactive model that incorporates the perspectives of participants, parents, local agency providers, and the hosting college is recommended.

Stodden, R. A., & Zucker, S. H. (Eds.). (2004). Transition of Youth with Disabilities to Postsecondary Education [Special Topical Issue]. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 39(1).

For the past decade, educators, parents, and others have shown a sustained interest in developing viable postsecondary education and other life-long learning opportunities for young persons with intellectual disabilities after they leave high school settings. These efforts are reflected through a number endeavors, such as collaborative high school-community college partnerships, 18-21 postsecondary programs supported under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and parent developed programs focused upon providing the least restrictive and most age appropriate learning setting for young persons with intellectual disabilities. These activities have received little exposure or attention in the disability or learning literature. Further, little attention has been focused upon documentation of these efforts or toward generating data that provide evidence of the value or impact of such programs upon the quality of post-school life for persons with intellectual disabilities. This special topical issue of ETDD is one of the first attempts to compile peer-reviewed articles in this area of study and present them to the field. The purpose of this issue of ETDD is to present an organized collection of peer-reviewed articles focused upon issues faced by young persons with intellectual disabilities and those who support them as they prepare for and transition to postsecondary education and other life-long learning activities.

Articles in this special topical issue include:

  • Postsecondary Education and Persons with Intellectual Disabilities: An Introduction
  • Activities of Students with Significant Disabilities Receiving Services in Postsecondary Settings
  • Transition Services Model: Partnership for Student Success
  • Changing Systems for Transition: Students, Families, and Professionals Working Together
  • College Career Connection: A Study of Youth with Intellectual Disabilities and the Impact of Postsecondary Education
  • Community College: A Pathway to Success for Youth with Learning, Cognitive, and Intellectual Disabilities in Secondary Settings
  • Person-Centered and Collaborative Supports for College Success

Stodden, R. A., Galloway, L. M., & Stodden, N. J. (2003, Fall). Secondary school curricula issues: Impact on postsecondary students with disabilities. Exceptional Children, 70(1), 9-25.

Supporting and teaching students with disabilities to learn rigorous, standards-based curriculum in secondary school is a complex and difficult issue for educators. This article presents an overview of issues surrounding standards-based curricula and individualized education for youth with disabilities in secondary school settings. Specifically examined are (a) the complex needs of students with disabilities in learning rigorous standards-based curricula, (b) the needs of educators to effectively teach this population standards-based curricula, and (c) the contextual factors that impact teaching and learning standards-based curricula in secondary schools. Also, some exemplary and promising practices that enable students and schools to meet the goals set out by current legislation are described, and recommendations are made for practitioners.

Trainor, A. A. (2008, November). Using cultural and social capital to improve postsecondary outcomes and expand transition models for youth with disabilities. Journal of Special Education, 42(3), 148-162.

The terms cultural and social capital, conceptualized by education philosopher and researcher Pierre Bourdieu, play an important role in the lives of youth with disabilities during transition into adulthood. Although research, legislation, and practice acknowledge the importance of resources that are established via social networks, insufficient attention has been dedicated to the forms of capital possessed by young adults with disabilities or to teachers’ expectations of the role of capital in achieving postsecondary outcomes. Studies of capital inform postsecondary transition research and practice in key areas including self-determination, parent participation, access to appropriate curriculum, and linkages to adult services. Expanding the foci of postsecondary transition to include the study of capital may increase the efficacy of transition planning and instruction for youth with disabilities from other marginalized groups.

Vreeburg Izzo, M., Simmons‐Reed, E., McArrell, B., Murray, A. J., Harris, L. B., & Short, A. (2011, January). Promoting transition through learning communities for students with disabilities: A how‐to guide. Columbus, OH: Nisonger Center, Ohio State University for Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission and Ohio Board of Regents. Retrieved from

“Learning communities are as diverse as their participants. They are designed to serve a variety of purposes and can be coupled with other transition services delivered by school and agency personnel. They can be large or small in number and can range in format from a type of academic class offered weekly in a semester to a residential experience where students are housed together for one week. Regardless of its shape, size, or function, the ultimate goal of a student learning community (SLC) is to deliver transition services through a structured and highly interactive forum that prepares students for their transition to college and careers. …In this guide, we suggest using the SLC model as a means of delivering seamless transition services to enhance students’ movement to college and careers” (pp. 4-5).

Waldegrave Leake, D., Burgstahler, S., & Vreeberg Izzo, M. (2011). Promoting transition success for culturally and linguistically diverse students with disabilities: The value of mentoring. Creative Education, 2(2), 121-129.

Youth with disabilities are less likely to enroll in and complete postsecondary education programs and transition to employment than their non-disabled peers, and this is especially so for those from culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) backgrounds. To help provide insight into factors influencing the transition process, a multi-site study was conducted using survey interviews, focus groups, and case studies, with a focus on CLD youth with disabilities. The importance of mentoring emerged as a consistent theme. Most participants cited informal mentors as role models and key motivators for gaining the social, academic, and career supports needed for success. They identified the relationships of individuals who served as mentors and what they did that helped them gain fresh perspectives and take steps toward personal, academic, and career goals. The insights gained from the research participants support greater use of mentoring to help this population.

Webb, K. W., Patterson, K. B., Syverud, S. M., & Seabrooks-Blackmore, J. J. (2008, October). Evidenced based practices that promote transition to postsecondary education: Listening to a decade of expert voices. In S. H. deFur (Ed.), Transition to Postsecondary Education [Feature issue]. Exceptionality, 16(4), 192-206.

As increasing numbers of students with disabilities access postsecondary education, research studies and literature reviews have investigated the needs of these students who chose to pursue postsecondary education. These articles included studies that (a) asked students with disabilities to identify needs and (b) summarized needs in literature reviews about students with disabilities in postsecondary education. This article summarizes needs and recommendations from college students with disabilities and authors who reviewed related literature from 1995-2006. The summary includes needs in five areas: self-determination, social skills, academic preparation, accommodations, and assistive technology (AT). Each of these areas of need is described and recommendations for practice are discussed. The purpose of this article is to identify a set of evidence-based transition practices that will address these needs and increase the likelihood of success for students who enroll in postsecondary education institutions.

Webster, D. D. (2004). Giving voice to students with disabilities who have successfully transitioned to college. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 27(2), 151-175.

A qualitative study, using the journals of 22 university students with disabilities, was conducted in order to learn more about their transitioning process and success in college. Findings include identification of the skills, abilities, and knowledge that college students with disabilities perceived as contributing to their transition to and success in college. The following major themes were identified. College students with disabilities (a) are insightful and reflective regarding their transition and postsecondary needs, (b) are college students first and foremost, (c) want and need access to disability-related knowledge, (d) want opportunities to develop the skills necessary to become self-determined adults, and (e) need opportunities to explore boundaries. If students with disabilities are to receive the kinds of educational opportunities and supports they deem important, more emphasis must be placed on person-centered planning toward self-determination.

Weiss, M. P., Hutchins, B. C., & Meece, J. L. (in press). The postsecondary educational plans of rural youth with disabilities and their nondisabled peers. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals.

A national sample of students with disabilities and their nondisabled peers in rural high schools responded to a survey about their postsecondary plans and how they were preparing for them. The study included 3,318 11th- and 12th-grade students from 73 randomly selected schools. Findings indicate that 78.5% of students with disabilities and 90.7% of their nondisabled peers plan to continue their education after high school. Only 4.5% of students with disabilities were enrolled in a college preparatory program. A greater percentage of students with disabilities participated in career exploration activities such as job mentoring, internships, and cooperative education programs than expected, and they found teachers and school staff important sources of information. Implications of these findings are discussed.

Wills, J. (2008). Preparing all youth for academic and career readiness: Implications for high school policy and practice. Washington, D.C.: National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth, Institute for Educational Leadership. Retrieved from:

This paper identifies the challenges in practice and policy for successful post-school outcomes and it offers recommendations on how states, local school districts and individual high schools can prepare all youth, including youth with disabilities, with the academic and career readiness skills. Based on two symposia and a year-long research effort, this paper identifies five broad policy and practice areas: (1) Instruction, Curriculum and Structure; (2) Assessment Practices; (3) Graduation Requirements; (4) Community and Family Connections; and (5) Data Quality Challenges. The paper suggests that by addressing these areas, a range of high school policy makers at the national, state, and local levels can improve their approaches for meeting the multiple and complex challenges of all their students.

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, with Heffron, T. (2004, Fall). A Wisconsin Postsecondary Guide to Disability Documentation. The Journal for Vocational Special Needs Education, 27(1), 4-21. Retrieved from:

This is a reprint of a guide created to assist organizations in determine their role in understanding needed documentation for students with disabilities transitioning from PK-12 to Wisconsin postsecondary education.

Woods, L. L., Sylvester, L., & Martin, J. E. (2010, August). Student-directed transition planning: Increasing student knowledge and self-efficacy in the transition planning process. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 33, 106-114.

This study examined the effectiveness of a new school to adult life transition planning lesson package titled Student-Directed Transition Planning. The Student-Directed Transition Planning lessons teach transition terms and concepts to provide a means to increase self-determination skills and student participation in transition IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting discussions. An experimental pre–post design utilizing random assignment of secondary-aged students with IEPs determined differences between intervention and control groups in knowledge of transition terms and concepts, and self-efficacy perceptions of the transition planning process. Study results indicated that students receiving Student-Directed Transition Planning instruction experienced a statistically significant knowledge gain, and an increase in perceived self-efficacy in 7 out of 10 transition planning process indicators.

Zagar, D., & Alpern, C.S. (2010). College-based inclusion programming for transition-age students with autism. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 25(3), 151-157.

Considerations for college-based programming for transition-age students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are addressed in this article, with particular attention to social communication supports necessary to facilitate student success. An overview of current literature related to college-based programming and support for students with ASD in the area of social communication is presented, along with a preliminary survey of the perceptions of youth regarding their social communication competency. The need for support in this area is highlighted based on student evaluations of their ability and needs as well as on information gathered through an examination of current literature. Recommendations are offered for enhancing development of social communication skills for students with ASD in college-based programs.