MAIER Transition to Adulthood Training Modules: Part 3 - Family-School Partnerships

As we learned in the last section, self-determination is very important to the success of students in the transition process–taking control and agency over the decisions and choices in their lives. However, one of the big misconceptions in the transition process is that this emphasis on student self-determination and independence should come at the expense of family involvement. Quite the contrary! Although educators, family members, and other members of an individual’s support network should be person-centered in transition planning and oriented around the individual’s vision for their own future, family has a critical role to play in transition planning. As with any of us as adults, no one is completely self-reliant. Instead, our independence is expressed in terms of what we do for a living and where we work, what we do in our free time and where we live. Often, we use our families, friends, and broader network to find jobs, roommates, and places to live. Teaching students about their interdependence is key to equipping them with the mindset to succeed after they leave school, and family is one of the most important pieces of this interdependent support.

Expert Interview

How can we best make those connections between families and schools in the transition process? What do families need to know about transition to be full partners in supporting that process? To answer these questions, we talked to Yetta Myrick–a parent of a teenager with autism and a national expert on parent advocacy–about some of these issues.


You may have noticed in the first section on predictors of post-school success that family expectations are one of the predictors of improved employment outcomes for transition-age youth. This means that research has shown that if family members hold high expectations for their teens to get a job and have a career, they are much more likely to do so. Unfortunately, research also shows that too often, schools dismiss the perspectives of families in IEP and transition planning, especially when students and families are from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Instead, educators should engage families in the transition process as partners and allies, valuing the contributions made by families to the transition process. In fact, during the transition process, it can be especially helpful to have even more extensive conversations with family about their preferences, concerns, values, and goals for their teen. Families provide critical and foundational support to individuals throughout their lives, and can support transition goals related to employment, postsecondary education, and independent living when provided with an opportunity and the resources to collaborate as equal partners.

One of the most challenging things for individuals and families in the transition process is understanding the shift from school-based to community-based services. While school-based services are coordinated through the student’s case manager, adult services are provided by several separate agencies, which each have their own eligibility requirements and can be tricky to navigate. In the next activity, check out some useful resources designed to help facilitate the family school partnership and consider how these might be useful tools for your student or child.

Exploration Activity

For families, navigating the shift from special education to adult-based services can be complicated, might feel overwhelming, and requires collaborating with not only school staff, but also community agencies. Charting the LifeCourse Nexus is a website dedicated to providing training, tools, and resources to facilitate this collaboration between families, schools, and other agencies. Take a moment to check out their tool the “Integrated Supports for a Good Life” tool and consider the following reflection questions.


Consider the following questions:

  • How does this tool build on some of the information collected in the “One Pager” we explored in the last section?
  • In thinking about using this tool with your student/child, what are key relationships that you might include as assets in the transition process?
  • Do you currently know what services and/or agencies might provide support for your student/child after graduation?
  • If so, what services and community resources would support your student’s/child’s goals?
  • If not, could you use this tool to prompt a conversation with the transition team about exploring those options?

In the next section, we’ll start to get into the heart of transition planning and instruction, using what we’ve learned so far, and starting to build toward some of the outcomes we want to see for our students. Click here to go to Part 4.