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Adult adjustment among high school graduates with mild disabilities.

* In the past few years, a number of studies have focused on the adult adjustment of former special education students (e.g., Fardig, Algozzine, Schwartz, Hensel, & Westling, 1985; Hasazi, Gordon, & Roe, 1985; Mithaug, Horiuchi, & Fanning, 1985). Of central concern in these investigations was the employment status of these young adults after they leave high school. Participants in these studies were, for the most part, people with mild disabilities (learning disabilities, mild behavioral disorders, and mild mental retardation); and results were reported for them as a group rather than by disability. Edgar (1988) stated that follow-up research is unlikely to provide an accurate picture of adult adjustment when results are analyzed by combining the three mild disabilities together because of differing findings for the three groups relative to some adult adjustment variables. Therefore, only investigations that have reported on the postsecondary adjustment of individuals for a specific disability area are reviewed below.


Individuals with Learning Disabilities

Employment among people with learning disabilities ranged from 72% to 80% (deBettencourt, Zigmond, & Thornton, 1989; Schalock, Wolzen, Ross, Elliott, Werbel, & Peterson, 1986; Sitlington & Frank, 1990). The proportion of employed persons who were working full time differed between studies, with some (Sitlington & Frank) reporting over half employed full time and others (Fafard & Haubrich, 1981; Schalock et al., 1986) reporting less than half working full time. Of those employed, most were working in unskilled or semiskilled jobs (Humes & Brammer, 1985; Sitlington & Frank; White, Schumaker, Warner, Alley, & Deshler, 1980).

Recently, Okolo and Sitlington (1988) summarized the findings of follow-up studies that focused on adults with learning disabilities or included them in their sample. They pointed out that, despite methodological concerns about these studies, there were some consistent results. The individuals studied appeared to be employed at approximately the same rate as peers without disabilities. However, their employment was often part time and at entry level or minimum wage. Moreover, these individuals frequently received little vocational counseling in high school.

Individuals with Behavioral Disorders

A major limitation of follow-up research is the small number of studies that have included individuals with behavioral disorders and analyzed data separately for this group.

Neel, Meadows, Levine, and Edgar (1988) followed subjects who had been graduated from or aged out of school. They found that (a) less than one-fifth of the behaviorally disordered cohort had been involved in postsecondary training programs in comparison to almost one-half of the sample without disabilities; (b) people with behavioral disorders were earning higher wages than the group without disabilities, in part because a large number of the latter worked only part time while attending school; (c) people with behavioral disorders were far more likely to be unemployed than the national average for people their age; (d) twice as many people with behavioral disorders earned less than $50 per week as did peers without disabilities; (e) individuals with behavioral disorders were not using social service agencies; and (f) almost one-third of the people with behavioral disorders were not involved in any job or training program at the time of the study.

Edgar and Levine (1987) reported data from a follow-up study of a cohort of 52 students with behavioral disorders that were included in the Neel et al. (1988) study. Fifty-five percent were employed 6 months after graduation; that proportion dropped to 49% by the second year after graduation. Twenty percent were earning minimum wage 6 months after graduation; none earned minimum wage 2 years after graduation. The number of people who were not engaged in meaningful activities rose from 10% at 6 months after leaving school to 30% for those out of school for 2 years.

In a more recent study, Frank, Sitlington, and Carson (1991) reported that 58% of graduates were employed full or part time 1 year after graduation. The majority of these individuals were employed as laborers or in service occupations, with graduates earning an average of $3.94 per hour. Males were faring better than females in terms of employment rate and mean wage per hour.

Individuals with Mental Retardation

Recent studies reported that between one-third and one-half of the people with mental disabilities were employed full time, with females working fewer hours per week than males (Frank, Sitlington, Cooper, & Cool, 1990; Hasazi, Gordon, Roe, Rull, Finck, & Salembier, 1985). Most individuals in these studies worked in low-status occupations as service workers or laborers. Hasazi et al. found a marginal association between vocational education and employment status, whereas Frank et al. (1990) found little support for vocational education as a predictor variable--although it should be noted that almost all individuals had some type of vocational training in high school, and the content and amount of training was not known. Hasazi et al. reported higher employment rates among those who had paid jobs while in high school; Frank et al. (I 990) found no such association between high school employment and current employment status. Neither study found a statistically significant association between participation in high school work experience programs and current employment status.

Although data exist on people with mild disabilities, very little information is available that compares the adult adjustment of individuals across disability areas and that examines a concept of adult adjustment broader than employment. The purpose of this study was to compare the adult adjustment of high school graduates viewed as mildly disabled across the disability areas of learning disabilities, behavioral disorders, and mental disabilities. Differences based on gender also were examined. For the purposes of this study, individuals were viewed as mildly disabled if they were served in resource teacher programs in high school. The target group was restricted to people labeled learning disabled (LD), behaviorally disordered (BD), or mentally disabled (MD) to provide numbers sufficient to allow for analysis across disability areas.



The present investigation was a component of the Iowa Statewide Follow-up Study, a 5-year project designed to study a random sample of special education students of all disabilities and program models. The participants included in this investigation were drawn from two separate high school classes (classes of 1985 and 1986), each surveyed 1 year after their class was graduated. Each of the 15 Area Education Agencies (AEAs) in the state of Iowa prepared a list of special education students (all exceptionalities) who were graduated from, or aged out of, high school at the end of the target year; a similar list was prepared of all special education dropouts who would have completed high school at the end of the target year. For each AEA, 50% of the students on each list (graduates and dropouts) were randomly selected for inclusion in the sample each target year.

Of the total sample of 2,476 former special education students, 1,249 had been identified as LD, 292 as BD, and 840 as MD. Of this group 995 individuals with learning disabilities were high school graduates from resource programs, along with 75 individuals with behavioral disorders, and 173 with mental disabilities. The resource program graduates actually interviewed included 737 (83%) individuals with LD, 59 (79%) individuals with BD, and 142 (82%) individuals with MD. Resource programs were those in which students were placed for a minimum of 30 min per day; students in these programs attended regular classes for the remainder of each school day. Only data collected for resource program graduates are reported here.

Iowa Department of Education rules require that students labeled MD must have an IQ of at least 1 standard deviation below the mean (i.e., approximately 85 or below) on an individually administered intelligence test and exhibit an adaptive behavior deficit. This definition encompasses a higher functioning population than does the more common definition, which uses a minus-2-standard-deviation cutoff point on intelligence tests.

The mean full-scale IQ scores for persons with LD, BD, and MD, respectively, were 95.2 (SD = 8.8),96.4 (SD = 12.3), and 77.7 (SD = 5.7). Mean reading grade-equivalent scores for these three groups were 6.9 (SD = 2.4), 8.6 (SD = 2.3), and 6.0 (SD = 2.2), respectively; mean math grade-equivalent scores were 7.7 (SD = 2.5), 7.8 (SD = 2.6), and 6.2 (SD = 1.7). The most commonly used test for assessment of reading and math was the Woodcock-Johnson Psychoeducational Battery (Woodcock, 1978). The reading and math portions of this test were administered to the majority of participants within 3 years of the time they exited high school.


Representatives from the 15 AEAs and selected schools in the state of Iowa participated in the development of the survey instrument, which was field-tested on a random sample of 878 participants from throughout the state.

Information sought from school records and interviews included the following: background information (e.g., test scores from high school, disability label, program model); information pertaining to high school program (e.g., number of regular and special vocational education courses taken, extracurricular activities); information about current life circumstances (e.g., marital status, living arrangements, leisure activities); and information on past and current employment (e.g., job experiences during high school, location of job, salary, and hours worked).


Interviews were conducted by professionals such as work experience coordinators, consultants, school psychologists, and teachers from the student's school district or AEA. Interviewers were supervised by the follow-up project task force member from their respective AEA. In addition, project staff developed an in-depth interviewer handbook and sample interview forms and conducted training sessions to ensure consistency across interviewees. The project director was on call to answer any questions arising from actual interviews. Where possible, interviews were conducted face-to-face with the former student. When an individual could not be contacted either in person or by telephone, a parent or guardian was interviewed. Of the interviews analyzed in this study, 45% were face-to-face with the former student, 30% were by telephone with the former student, 10% were face-to-face with a parent or guardian, and 15% were through a telephone interview with a parent or guardian. Data analyses were conducted using routines described in the SPSS-X User's Guide (1986).

Results are reported in four sections. The first addresses the general status of the former students. The second section further describes competitively employed individuals. The third section contains a comparison of competitively employed and unemployed individuals on selected variables. The fourth section provides a summary of the percentage of people who were judged to have made a "successful" adjustment to post-high school life. Because other adult adjustment studies (e.g., Edgar, Levine, Levine, & Dubey, 1988; Frank et al., 1990; Sitlington & Frank, 1990) have found gender differences, data are reported here by gender as well as disability area. Tests of significance that resulted in obtaining a statistic with a p value of .05 or less were viewed as being significant findings. The majority of statistical tests focused on employment variables.


Current Status

About 90% of the graduates in each disability area reported they were single; most of the remaining were married. The most common place of residence was with parents or relatives, with approximately two-thirds indicating this living arrangement (see Table 1). When place of residence was viewed by gender, females lived independently more frequently than males, particularly those labeled BD. Only a very small proportion said they were living in some type of residential facility or supervised housing. Most respondents were involved in from one to three leisure activities; a small proportion reported they participated in no leisure activities. [TABULAR DATA 1 OMITTED]

Participants were asked to describe the types of education or training experiences they had been involved in since leaving high school. The proportions of persons who had received no postsecondary education or training ranged from 49% (BD) to 70% (MD), with 54% of persons with LD not receiving any such training. When examined by gender, smaller proportions of males with LD and BD than females had no postsecondary training (52% vs. 58% for LD; 42% vs. 71 % for BD). The reverse was true for persons with MD, where 73% of the males and 68% of the females had no postsecondary training. Among those who had participated in such programs, the most frequently mentioned experience (named by between 10% and 22%) was in a community college program; more males with LD and BD than females attended these programs, whereas about twice as many females with MD as males received training in community college programs. The second most commonly mentioned option for males with LD, as well as males and females with BD, was military training. Fewer than 5% of the individuals in any category had attended a 4-year college.

Characteristics of Competitively Employed

The employment status of participants is presented in Table 1. The largest proportion of competitively employed persons was found within the LD group (77%); lower employment rates were reported by the BD and MD groups (58% and 62%, respectively). Less than 10% of the individuals in any of the disability groups indicated they worked in sheltered employment or in the community, but employed by a sheltered workshop. The unemployment rate was lowest for persons with LD (12%); about one-fourth of the individuals with BD and MD reported they were unemployed. A larger proportion of males than females within each disability group were employed; for persons with BD the difference approached 20%.

The proportion of those "otherwise engaged" (i.e., full-time student, homemaker, or in job training) ranged from 3% for males labeled mentally disabled to 21 % for females labeled behaviorally disordered.

Because less than 10% of any one group was in sheltered employment or in the community, but employed by a sheltered workshop, and since we felt that the employment goal for individuals with mild disabilities should be competitive employment, the employment data were further analyzed only for this group. For the purpose of this study, "competitive employment" was defined as working as an individual in the community with workers without disabilities.

Participants were asked during the interview to identify the type of job they currently held. Each interviewer categorized jobs according to a system developed by Reiss, Duncan, Hatt, and North (1961). The proportion of competitively employed persons in each job classification is summarized in Table 2. Approximately two thirds of the persons in each disability group were employed in low-status occupations as laborers or service workers. When job classification was examined by gender, males were far more likely to be working as laborers, whereas females most often were employed as service workers. [TABULAR DATA 2 OMITTED]

Hourly wages of participants are reported in Table 3. The mean wage for each disability group was above the current minimum wage of $3.35 per hour. t-tests were run to compare mean wages for males and females within each disability group. Significant findings were found in two comparisons: for persons with LD, t(479) = 6.54, p <.001, and for individuals with MD, t(66) = 4.90,p < .001. In both cases, males had the higher mean wage. A significant statistic was not obtained in the t-test comparing mean wages for males and females with BD; however, only 5 females and 20 males were involved in this analysis. In practical terms (i.e., buying power), males with BD had almost a $2-per-hour advantage over females. One-way analyses of variance (ANOVAs) were conducted across the three disability groups; one for males only, the other for females only. No significant differences were obtained in these two ANOVAs. [TABULAR DATA 3 OMITTED]

The amount of time people were working per week also was examined. Chi-square tests were conducted to study the relation between gender and hours worked per week. A significant statistic was obtained for persons with LD, X2 (2, n = 545) = 26.77, p < .001. Table 3 shows that a greater proportion of males than females were employed full time (three-fourths compared to one-half), whereas more females than males were employed between half and full time. Approximately equal numbers of males and females were employed less than half time. A significant statistic also was obtained for participants with MD, X2 (2, n = 84) = 7.48, p = 0.024. A pattern similar to that of persons with LD emerged, where a substantially greater proportion of males than females were employed full time. A comparison of the percentages for individuals with BD revealed that males once again were employed full time in a greater proportion than females; however, a chi-square test was not conducted because a sufficient number of subjects was not available. There was no significant difference in hours worked for either males or females across disability areas.

Length of time employed in present job was also of interest (see Table 3). Chi-square tests did not result in significant differences between males and females in any of the disability groups. At least two-thirds had been employed in their current job for less than 1 year, with 84% of the people with BD being employed for less than 1 year. Twenty percent of those labeled LD and MD had been employed for 1-2 years, whereas only 6% of those labeled BD had worked in the same job for this length of time. There was no significant difference related to length of time in the same job when examined across disability areas.

Participants were asked what proportion of their living expenses they paid themselves (see Table 3). Chi-square tests did not reveal any gender differences. Approximately one-half to two-thirds of the competitively employed individuals paid less than half of their living expenses, while one-fourth to one-third paid all their living expenses. Among the three disability groups, people with BD most often paid all their expenses (36%, compared to 29% and 27%, respectively, for people with LD and MD). [TABULAR DATA 3 OMITTED]

Data concerning the types of job benefits received were collected during interviews. The most frequently mentioned benefits were vacations and health insurance (by one-fourth to one-third of the respondents). A greater proportion of males than females in each disability area were receiving these benefits, with the exception of people with MD, where a greater percentage of females than males were given vacation time. Of particular concern was the fact that none of the females with BD was receiving health insurance benefits, whereas one-third of the males were covered by a health insurance plan.

Sources of help in finding work also were explored during the interview (see Table 4). Respondents were asked who was primarily responsible for helping them find their present job. Over 80% of the participants in each disability group said they used the "self/family/friend" network to find work. Chi-square tests did not suggest any gender or disability label differences concerning sources of assistance in finding work. Ten percent or fewer of the participants reported that school personnel or community agencies had been the primary source of help. Participants also were asked to list agencies they would go to for help if they were looking for work. The most frequently named source of help was Job Service of Iowa (61 % to 69%), with other agencies a distant second. Participants were asked to identify agencies (on a list read to them) they had talked to in the past concerning help in finding work. The agency most commonly talked to was Job Service of Iowa, with Job Training Partnership Act agencies second among individuals with LD and MD, and college personnel second among people with BD. [TABULAR DATA 4 OMITTED]

Comparison of Competitively Employed/Unemployed

Competitively employed participants were compared with unemployed participants in two areas related to high school experiences: vocational training and part-time jobs. People who were "otherwise engaged" (i.e., homemakers, full-time students, or in job training) were not included in this comparison. Three categories of vocational training were investigated. A chi-square test was conducted to examine the relation between the first category, regular vocational training, and current employment status (competitively employed vs. unemployed) for each disability group. Regular vocational training was divided into two subcategories, general and specific. General vocational training included industrial arts and home economics, while specific vocational training involved office education, health occupations education, distributive education, agricultural education, and trades and industry. Significant results were not obtained in this analysis. Of those participants labeled LD who had general vocational training while in high school, 84% were employed in competitive jobs; a similar pattern held true for those with specific vocational training experiences, as well as those with no regular vocational training (see Table 5). Eighty-five percent of the individuals labeled BD with general vocational training were competitively employed, whereas 68% with specific training and 60% with no training held competitive jobs. Among individuals labeled MD with general vocational training, 79% had competitive jobs, and 71% of those with specific training held such jobs; only 50% of those with no regular vocational training were competitively employed. These results should be viewed with caution because the number of participants with no regular vocational training was quite small. [TABULAR DATA 5 OMITTED]

The second category of vocational education examined was specially designed vocational training, which included such experiences as school-based simulated work, experimental exploration, and work experience. Chi-square tests revealed no significant statistics concerning the relation between specially designed vocational training and employment status. Eighty-five percent of the participants with LD who had experience in at least one type of specially designed vocational training program had competitive jobs (see Table 5). Three-fourths of the people labeled BD and MD with at least one type of specially designed vocational training were employed in competitive jobs.

A third category of vocational training, work experience, also was examined (this is actually a subcategory of specially designed vocational training). Chi-square tests revealed no significant associations between work experience and employment status. Of those people labeled LD with work experience training, 82% were in competitive jobs, whereas three-fourths of the participants labeled BD and MD with work experience training were employed in the competitive job market.

The relation between part-time jobs in high school and current employment status was examined using chi-square tests. Paid employment was defined as at least one paying job (subsidized or unsubsidized) during high school. A significant statistic was obtained for participants with LD, [X.sup.2] (1, n, = 607) = 13.30, p < .001. Among those with a paid job while in high school, 87% were competitively employed, whereas 71% of those without a paid job while in high school held a job in competitive employment at the time of the interview. A significant chi-square statistic was also obtained for people with MD, [X.sup.2] (1, n = 99) = 5.11, p = .024. Seventy-seven percent of those with at least one paying job in high school were competitively employed, versus 50% of those with no paid employment in high school. A significant chi-square statistic was not obtained for the BD group concerning this variable. For individuals labeled BD with a paid job experience in high school, 77% were employed, and 63% of those with no such experience were employed at the time of the interview.

"Successful" Graduates

A composite of the "successful" graduate was formulated using several variables in the data set. Halpern (1985) proposed that measures of successful community adjustment involve not only employment, but include a residential and social/interpersonal component as well. Thus, successful graduates were defined in the present study as: (a) employed (full or part-time) in a competitive job, a homemaker, a full-time student, or in a job training program; (b) buying a home, living independently, or living with a friend; (c) paying at least a portion of their living expenses; and (d) involved in more than three leisure activities. Among the participants with LD in this study, 22 (4%) of the males and 21 (10%) of the females met these criteria. None of the males with BD and 1 (7%) of the females with BD were judged to be successful. Among participants with MD, 2 (3%) of the males and 3 (4%) of the females were viewed as having made a successful adult adjustment.

Because the participants in this study had been out of high school for only 1 year, these criteria were perhaps too high in some areas. Therefore, a second set of criteria was used to assess the adult adjustment of the graduates. This set categorized individuals as successful if they were: (a) employed (full or part-time) in a competitive job, a homemaker, a student, or in a job training program; (b) buying a home, living independently, living with a friend, or living with a parent or relative; (c) not necessarily paying any of their living expenses; and (d) involved in at least one leisure activity. Using this second set of criteria, an additional 345 (65%) of the males with LD and 132 (65%) of the females with LD were classified as successful. An additional 23 (51%) of the males with BD and 8 (57%) of the females with BD were viewed as successful. Among the people with MD, another 36 (61%) of the males and 47 (57%) of the females were judged to be successful.


The purpose of this investigation was to measure the adult adjustment of people with mild disabilities from the three major groups (learning disabilities, behavioral disorders, and mental disabilities) and to compare these findings across the disability groups and across gender.

Adult Adjustment Status

The proportions of participants in this investigation who were employed in competitive jobs ranged from 58% (BD) to 77% (LD). These figures compare favorably with those reported by Hasazi, Gordon, and Roe (1985), who found that 62% of their participants who had attended resource programs were employed in unsubsidized jobs, and Mithaug et al. (1985) who reported a 69% employment rate. The participants with MD in the present study also were employed at a higher rate than the participants with mild mental retardation in the Hasazi, Gordon, Roe, Hull, Finck, and Salembier (1985) study (62% vs. 47%). Individuals with learning disabilities were employed at approximately the same rate (77%) as those in other studies (deBettencourt et al., 1989; Schalock et al., 1986). The 58% employment rate of people with behavioral disorders also was in line with statistics reported by Edgar and Levine (1987).

It is also important to compare the employment rate of individuals with disabilities to that of the general population of the same graduating class out of school 1 year. Two such groups were available in Iowa--the general population of graduates of Iowa schools (Ranney, 1987a, 1988) and vocational education students from a sample of approximately 20% of the districts offering vocational education programs (Ranney, 1987b). The unemployment rate for people with disabilities interviewed in this study ranged from 12% (LD) to 22% (BD), in contrast to the rate of about 4% for the general population of Iowa graduates and 11% for vocational education students. The average hourly wage for the individuals with disabilities surveyed ranged from $3.65 (MD) to $4.40 (LD), compared to $4.47 for vocational education students. Major differences also arose in the "otherwise engaged" categories. Sixty-two percent of the overall graduate group and 42% of the vocational education students were pursuing some type of postsecondary training, compared to from 6% (MD) to 15% (BD) of the people surveyed in the current study.

The quality of employment of people in this study is of concern because most were working in unskilled or semiskilled jobs. Related to this concern was the low level of participation in postsecondary training. Further study is needed to identify possible barriers to obtaining such training. Because the most frequently named programs were offered through community colleges, research efforts might best be focused on programs on these college campuses.

The fact that approximately 60% of each disability group still lived with parents or relatives is in keeping with other studies (Edgar et al., 1988; Mithaug et al., 1985). This, and the fact that over 20% of those interviewed stated that they paid none of their living expenses, indicates that the goal of independent living has not been met--even for these individuals with a mild disability. Although some of this is possibly related to the hours worked and wages earned, the lack of such independence indicates the need for emphasis on living arrangements as a major component of transition planning. If living at home proves to be the most efficient or desired arrangement for these individuals, then our high school programs need to include instruction in functioning as independently as possible in this environment.

The present study obtained no significant results in the analyses involving the two predictor variables of high school vocational education and work experience programs, and current employment status. This agrees with the findings of Hasazi, Gordon, and Roe (1985) for those who had attended special education resource programs in high school, although a marginal association was found for people with mild mental retardation (Hasazi, Gordon, Roe, Hull, Finck, & Salembier, 1985). It should be pointed out, however, that almost all individuals in this study had participated in some form of regular vocational education in high school; thus, an adequate comparison between those with and without such education could not be make. Hasazi, Gordon, and Roe found a significant association between paid employment while attending high school and current employment status, an association that also was found for people with mild mental retardation (Hasazi, Gordon, Roe, Hull, Finck, & Salembier). Similar results were obtained in the present study for individuals with LD or MD, but not for people with BD.

Gender Differences

Several differences were obtained relative to gender in the present study. These differences suggest that females have adjusted less well to adult life than males in terms of employment. First, a higher proportion of females than males were unemployed among individuals with BD (18% difference) and MD (6% difference). The disparity in the proportion of females to males (33%) reported by Hasazi, Gordon, and Roe (1985) was greater than that in the present study; our findings were similar to those of Edgar et al. (1988).

Second, females were employed in jobs that were less desirable than those held by males in several important ways. The mean wage per hour was substantially less for females than males in all three disability groups (statistically significant for LD and MD). Females also more often were employed part time than were males. These findings concerning amount of time employed were statistically significant for people with LD and MD (the trend for people with BD was also in this direction). A smaller proportion of females than males were receiving job benefits such as health insurance and vacation time; an exception was females with MD who more frequently received vacation time than males. Part of this difference may be related to the fact that males were more often in laborer jobs and females were in service jobs. The fact still remains, however, that a more concentrated effort needs to be made to train and place females in occupations that will allow them to live independently in terms of wages and job benefits earned.

Differences Across Disabilities

The differences across disabilities were mixed. The unemployment rate for participants with MD and BD was 10% higher than for those with LD. Individuals with LD and MD apparently also were helped by having part-time employment in high school, whereas individuals with BD were not. On the other hand, there were no significant differences among the three groups in hourly wages, hours worked per week, or length of time on present job; and the percentage of individuals still living at home was similar across the three groups. Perhaps what these data tell us is that we should return to what special education is all about-identifying the strengths and needs of each individual and designing instruction and experiences to fit these strengths and needs.


The results of this investigation should be viewed with the following limitations in mind. First, a considerable portion of the data were obtained through self-report of the people interviewed. In addition, all participants had attended high school special education programs in the state of Iowa; thus, results may not be generalizable to other geographic areas. Over time, too, economic conditions may change, which could affect the adult adjustment of persons with disabilities.

Even with these limitations, the composite of successful" adult adjustment does not yield a positive picture for any of the three categories of people with mild disabilities. Those judged "successful" by the stringent criteria ranged from 0 to 10%. Even when the criteria were lowered to what most would view as minimal adult adjustment, from 25% to 50% of the participants still failed to meet these criteria.

Many professionals feel that transition planning should be focused on those with more severe disabilities. Although this group certainly requires these services, data from the current study indicate that people with mild disabilities being served in resource programs also need to be involved in a systematic transition planning process as they move from school to adult life.

This planning process should involve three major phases (Halpern, 1985). First, the foundation should be laid, beginning in the elementary years. This foundation should involve the basic concepts of career and vocational education, in which students and their parents begin to examine potential living and working environments and the students' strengths, interests, and needs.

Second, the bridge between school and adult life should be built, beginning at least in the junior high school years. This involves acquainting students and parents with adult service providers and beginning to determine employment, living, and social/interpersonal options for students as adults. We need to train individuals to be more effective self-advocates, as well as provide the needed support as students cross this bridge. Over 80% of the competitively employed individuals in this study used the self-family-friend network to find their current job.

Finally, we need to provide the support needed to ensure each individual's continued adjustment after leaving school. This requires training students to access the support services of relevant adult service providers and involving these agencies early in the transition planning process. It also may require that school personnel "stay longer" with the individuals--that they continue to work as part of the transition planning team even after the individual leaves school.

Our data show that transition planning is a necessity--even for people with mild disabilities. Because these individuals will be served primarily or entirely in the regular classroom, we need to integrate transition planning into the Individualized Education Program process and into regular education. This means involving guidance counselors, at-risk coordinators, vocational educators, and other regular education personnel in the process. To do less may well result in an unsatisfactory adult adjustment for graduates of programs for students with mild disabilities.


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PATRICIA L. SITLINGTON (CEC IA Federation) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls. ALAN R. FRANK (CEC IA Federation) is a Professor in the Division of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Iowa, Iowa City. RORI CARSON (CEC IA Federation) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Special Education at Eastern Illinois University, Charleston.

This project was supported by the Iowa Department of Education, Bureau of Special Education, using EHA Part B discretionary funds. We gratefully acknowledge Merry Maitre, who originated the Iowa Statewide Follow-up Study; Timothy Z. Keith, who helped refine the data-gathering procedures; Valerie Cool and Linda Cooper, who served as research associates for the project; and the special education directors, Task Force members, and interviewers, who made the study a success. Correspondence concerning the Iowa Statewide Follow-up Study should be sent to Patricia L. Sitlington, Department of Special Education, Education Center-150, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls IA 50614-0601.

Manuscript received June 1990; revision accepted June 1991.
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Author:Sitlington, Patricia L.; Frank, Alan R.; Carson, Rori
Publication:Exceptional Children
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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