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Transition Parent Briefs

The parent briefs below, which were authored by PACER staff, were created in partnership with other transition-related technical assistance centers.

September 2019

Consider the Alternatives: Decision-Making Options for Young Adults with Intellectual Disabilities

This brief, written by Think College partners at the Pacer Center, focuses on alternatives to guardianship. It explains the different options available to families, and what the ramifications are for those options. In particular, this publication explains details and possible outcomes for power of attorney, supported decision-making, and guardianship. Examples are shared, as well as many additional resources.

December 2016

How We Made It Happen: Interviews with Parent Leaders about their Kids Going to College

PACER Center, a partner of the Think College National Coordinating Center, conducted interviews with parents of youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). These parents had played key leadership roles in establishing postsecondary education (PSE) programs for students with IDD. The Brief summarizes the lessons learned by these parents and outlines steps towards change that other parent leaders can follow.

December 2015

Supporting Families of Students with Disabilities in Postsecondary Education: Learning from the Voices of Families

Supporting Families of Students with Disabilities in Postsecondary Education: Learning from the Voices of Families highlights findings from a national online dialogue conducted in 2015. It was written to help postsecondary education faculty, staff and administrators better understand the value of engaging families of students with disabilities at the postsecondary level.

March 2014

Understanding the New Vision for Career Development: The Role of Family

This Info Brief introduces families, including families of youth with disabilities, to a new way of looking at career development for youth. This brief discusses the three phases of career development, highlights Individualized Learning Plans as a tool for facilitating the career development process, and offers strategies on how families can be involved.

January 2014

Engaging Families of Youth with Intellectual Disabilities in Systems Change Efforts

This brief highlights the reasons why parents and families are essential partners in any systems change effort. It describes the importance of the family’s perspective, and how their experiences should be used to shape policy recommendations. It offers strategies on how to engage parents and families in systems change efforts, and how to promote family involvement to state-level partners.

February 2013

Helping Youth Build Work Skills for Job Success: Tips for Parents and Families
This InfoBrief addresses the need for youth to acquire work skills and offers strategies parents and families can use to work with their youth to develop skills that lead to success on the job. This InfoBrief also includes information on how to incorporate work skill development into school documents, such as the Individualized Education Program and the Summary of Performance.

September 2012

The Guideposts for Success: A Framework for Families Preparing Youth for Adulthood
This InfoBrief examines how the Guideposts for Success can be used as a framework from which families of youth with disabilities can consider the support needs of their youth during the transition planning process. It is based on information presented in the Family Guideposts, a National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth) publication that looks at the original Guideposts from the perspective of families, highlighting proactive roles families can play in the five Guidepost areas and offering examples of how families can become informed, supportive, and engaged in their youth’s transition. This information will also be helpful to professionals seeking strategies to effectively partner with families, and to advocates looking to empower families in the transition process.

September 2011

Bullying and Disability Harassment in the Workplace: What Youth Should Know
This InfoBrief is designed to help youth, including youth with disabilities, recognize signs of bullying in the workplace, and to recognize how bullying differs from disability harassment. The brief offers examples of bullying situations at work and offers strategies to help address the issue. Much is understood about the negative consequences of bullying at school, but youth should also be made aware that bullying does not end at school. It is often encountered at work as well.

May 2011

Helping Youth Develop Soft Skills for Job Success: Tips for Parents and Families
This InfoBrief discusses the importance of soft skills and offers strategies parents and families can use to help their child develop skills for employment success.

April 2011

Tapping into the Power of Families: How Families of Youth with Disabilities Can Assist in Job Search and Retention
This InfoBrief explores the important role families and other caring adults play in the career planning, job search, and job retention of youth with disabilities.

June 2009

Helping Youth with Mental Health Needs Avoid Transition Cliffs: Lessons from Pioneering Transition Programs
This InfoBrief discusses challenges faced by youth and young adults with mental health needs during their transition to adulthood and describes strategies used by youth service professionals to avoid age-related transition cliffs and prevent service interruptions during this critical stage of development. This InfoBrief is based on a rich body of research about transition-age youth with mental health needs published in four separate reports in the last two years, including two produced by the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth.

May 2009

Successful Transition Models for Youth with Mental Health Needs: A Guide for Workforce Professionals
Prepared by PACER Center in collaboration with the National Collaboration on Workforce Development for Youth, this brief describes the systems’ service barriers faced by youth with mental health needs as they reach adulthood, while highlighting new models and strategies designed to break down those barriers and help them to transition successfully into the workplace.

May 2009

Graduation Requirements and Diploma Options for Students with Disabilities: What Families and Advocates Need to Know
This InfoBrief explores the importance of making informed decisions about diploma options, understanding the consequences of graduating with different types of diplomas as well as the need for youth, families, and Individual Education Program (IEP) teams to consider these issues early.

May 2008

Youth and Disability Disclosure: The Role of Families and Advocates
This InfoBrief highlights NCWD-Youth’s The 411 on Disability Disclosure, and explores the role families and advocates play in helping youth understand the importance of appropriate disability disclosure.

June 2007

Post-School Outcomes Surveys: Coming Soon to a Student Near You!
In 2007, states began surveying former special education students—high school graduates, recent dropouts, and young adults reaching the state’s maximum age to receive special education services—to find out whether they have pursued further education or found competitive employment. Prepared by PACER Center in collaboration with the National Post-School Outcomes Center, the purpose of this brief is to help families learn what to expect if they are contacted and asked to participate. It provides examples of survey questions and describes how information from the survey can be used to improve secondary education and transition programs.

July 2006

The Role of Parents in Dropout Prevention: Strategies that Promote Graduation and School Achievement
Students who drop out of school face a difficult future. For students with disabilities, the risks are intensified. Their dropout rate is about 40 percent - more than twice that of their peers without disabilities. However, families can play an important role in making sure their student with or without disabilities graduates. Staying involved in your teen's life during middle school and high school is critical.

June 2006

Measuring Transition Success: Focus on Youth & Family Participation
This brief was drafted by the PACER Center in collaboration with the National Post-School Outcomes Center. It describes the importance of engaging families, youth, disability advocates, and parent centers in the design of state post-school data collection systems.

May 2006

What does Health Have to Do with Transition? Everything!
This brief provides information on the benefits of and strategies for including health goals in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) Process.

March 2006

Preparing for Employment: On the Home Front
This brief describes ways in which youth and families can help youth effectively explore work-based learning outside of school settings.

April 2005

Universal Design for Learning and the Transition to a More Challenging Academic Curriculum: Making it in Middle School and Beyond
This brief describes universal design, a process for making the general education curriculum accessible to students with diverse abilities, styles, and needs. In universal design, versatility is built into the environment from the start. Further resources are also provided.

February 2004

Person-Centered Planning: A Tool for Transition

This brief provides a concise description of person-centered planning and an explanation of the benefits of this process. The brief also provides action steps for implementing person-centered planning, references within the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act that support the process, and a list of additional resources. See Spanish Version of this Parent Brief.

September 2003

Supplementary Security Income (Part 3 of 3): Your Right to Appeal
This is the third in a series of three Parent Briefs addressing Supplemental Security Income. It is written for young adults with disabilities and their parents or advocates and presents information about SSI appeals. It provides common reasons why applications are initially denied, presents case studies, and discusses four levels of the appeal process.

April 2003

Supplementary Security Income (Part 2 of 3): So You Have Decided to Apply
This brief is Part 2 of a three-part series on Supplemental Security Income. The brief is tailored for parents of youth with disabilities and provides a detailed description of the process for applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The brief outlines four elements, including a) the process of making an appointment with a Social Security Administration representative, b) the specific steps in applying for benefits, c) criteria that the Social Security Administration uses to determine an applicant’s eligibility, and d) information about the evaluation conducted if the Social Security Administration cannot initially make a decision about your child’s eligibility.

March 2003

Supplementary Security Income (Part 1 of 3): A Bridge to Work
This brief is Part 1 of a three-part series on Supplemental Security Income. This brief gives parents of youth with disabilities practical information about how youth can use Social Security work incentives to facilitate a gradual transition from dependence on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to partial or complete financial independence. Social Security work incentives allow a recipient of SSI to earn wages while maintaining SSI cash benefits and Medicaid. Background information, definitions, and specific financial criteria for using SSI work incentives are included.

May 2002

Age of Majority: Preparing Your Child for Making Good Choices
This brief stresses the importance of involving young people in setting their own high school goals and planning for their transition to adulthood. It outlines significant considerations parents face in helping their children reach the age of majority, including development of decision-making skills, understanding transfer of rights, and issues related to guardianship.

March 2002

Parenting Postsecondary Students with Disabilities: Becoming the Mentor, Advocate, and Guide for Your Young Adult

This brief focuses on the importance of involving parents in the transition from high school to the post-secondary environment, and provides concrete recommendations to help parents learn to mentor and advocate for their post-secondary youth. Includes parent resources and references. See Spanish Version of this Parent Brief.


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