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Quality of life as a conceptual framework for evaluating transition outcomes.

The transition from adolescence into adulthood can be a difficult time for any young person, with or without a disability. We are all aware of the possibilities. Some may move on to postsecondary education. Some will begin their vocational careers with an entry-level job. Some may choose a period of "time-out" for recreation or to reassess their values and commitments. And unfortunately, some may drift into less adaptive endeavors, such as a period of "purposeless unengagement" or, even worse, a period of self-denigrating or antisocial behavior that can include such unhappy consequences as drug or alcohol abuse, criminal behaviors, and possibly eventual incarceration.

Even at its best, this period of transition is usually accompanied by a strong sense of floundering as young people attempt to sort out the lessons of their childhood and move into effective adult roles in their communities. Many influences appear to affect this transition, for better or worse, including family background, the quality and impact of the student's high school program, the nature and quality of transition services that are provided to the student and his or her family, opportunities in the community that are actually available for the young person, and the readiness and motivation exhibited by the young person to move forward with his or her life.

As complex as this transition period would seem to be, we are all aware of the early attempt by the U.S. Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) to focus on employment as the primary, if not the sole, desired outcome of the transition process. In a transition position paper (Will, 1984), OSERS defined the transition movement in the following unidimensional way:

Transition is an outcome-oriented process encompassing a broad array of services and experiences that lead to employment. (p. 1)

Many people, myself included (Halpern, 1985), took issue with this narrowly defined goal of transition. With the passage of Public Law 101-476 in 1990, the federal sentiment also clearly moved in the direction of a much broader conceptualization of transition outcomes. In the words of this new legislation:

Transition services means a coordinated set of activities for a student, designed within an outcome oriented process, which promotes movement from school to post-school activities, including post-secondary education, vocational training, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living or community participation. (Section 300.18)

Although the federal legislation is obviously still quite concerned with employment as an outcome of the transition process, the language is clearly framed in a broader way to acknowledge the relevance and importance of other needs and other outcomes. The term quality of life is not used explicitly in the legislation, and yet the multidimensional expression and validity of a variety of life goals are clearly implied.

If we are to respond to this broader mandate in an effective manner, we will need to accomplish several interrelated tasks, which include a careful definition of multidimensional transition outcomes; an exploration of the programs and services that are needed to accomplish such outcomes; and the development of measurement, research, and evaluation strategies for documenting the attainment of such outcomes. The concept of quality of life provides a useful and powerful framework for conducting such an inquiry, which I have organized around three topics:

1. Theoretical issues that pertain to the definition

and conceptualization of quality of life. 2. Findings from our own research that provide

support for quality of life as an outcome

framework for evaluating transition programs

and services. 3. A few suggestions about issues we should address

as we move through the 1990s.



The literature on quality of life that has emerged during the past few years within the field of disability shows that the issues are much broader and more complex than is reflected in simply questioning the adequacy of employment as an indicator. Consider the following four recent definitions of quality of life:

Quality of life is a matter of subjective experience. That is to say, the concept has no meaning apart from what a person feels and experiences. As a corollary to the first proposition, people may experience the same circumstances differently. What enhances one person's quality of life may detract from another's. (Taylor & Bogdan, 1990, pp. 34-35)

Quality of life can be viewed as the discrepancy between a person's achieved and their unmet needs and desires.... Quality of life can also be viewed as the degree to which an individual has control over his or her environment. (Brown, Bayer, & MacFarlane, 1988, pp. 111-112)

Quality of life represents the degree to which an individual has met his/her needs to create their own meanings so that they can establish and sustain a viable self in the social world. (Parmenter, 1988, p. 9)

When an individual, with or without disabilities, is able to meet important needs in major life settings (work, school, home, community) while also satisfying the normative expectations that others hold for him or her in those settings, he or she is more likely to experience a high quality of life. (Goode, 1990, p. 46)

These definitions obviously are similar, but we must examine their differences if we are to develop a conceptual framework for using the concept quality of life as a framework for evaluating transition outcomes. Several conceptual dichotomies provide a way of thinking about the underlying assumptions in a quality-of-life model. These dichotomies include:

* Subjective versus objective perspectives. * Personal choice versus universal entitlements. * Personal needs versus social expectations. * Personal intervention versus social policy development.

In the following sections, I explore these dichotomies, in the hope that such perspectives might help us use a quality-of-life model to evaluate transition programs and outcomes.

Subjective vs. Objective Perspectives

In the preceding definitions, a central theme is evident: the discrepancy between "subjective" and "objective" criteria for defining and describing quality of life. The term subjective refers to the individual's point of view, and the term objective refers to a societal point of view. The subjective dimensions of quality of life are idiosyncratic. The objective dimensions, on the other hand, are normative. The issue that has emerged is reflected in the definition presented by Taylor and Bogdan (1990). In essence, they assert that only the subjective dimensions, with their accompanying personal perspectives, are relevant. This same approach is illustrated well in the following anecdote provided by Edgerton (1990) about a 58-year-old man with an IQ of 54:

He lives in a single room occupancy hotel in a rundown and crime-ridden part of downtown Los Angeles. He has a dangerous yet personally rewarding job as the night manager of a laundromat frequented by homeless people, prostitutes, and

drug dealers. His sexual partners are drug-using prostitutes, one of whom recently contracted AIDS. There is no doubt that this man works very hard for the money he makes, that he is frequently in physical danger, and that his repeated exposure to AIDS could be life threatening. Yet he lives in a network of friends and acquaintances who value his friendship and help, and who do not know or care that he can neither read nor write. To many people, he is loved and respected. He is as satisfied with the quality of his life as anyone I know. (p. 151)

Edgerton's point, obviously, is that this man would be viewed as experiencing a very low quality of life, if the criteria used for evaluation represented a societal perspective, involving such categories as safety and healthy intimate relationships. Another way of considering this underlying issue is to examine the role of personal choice in determining the quality of life.

Personal Choice vs. Universal Entitlements

At one level of analysis, personal choice is presumed by any quality-of-life model that includes a subjective perspective as part or all of the underlying definition. The major point of Edgerton's (1990) anecdote was to illustrate the tension between an individual's choices and presumed societal norms. Edgar (1987) illustrated the same tension when he explored some possible consequences of implementing the normalization principle (Nirje, 1970; Wolfensberger, 1972). In this example, Edgar pointed out the discrepancy between a social principle, suggesting that people with and without disabilities should live their lives in "integrated" settings, and the reality that people with disabilities sometimes want to engage in segregated activities. The specific examples that he cited are Special Olympics and the People First organization, both of which involve the congregation of people with disabilities. Can these activities be wrong, he speculates, simply because they do not conform with the "principle of normalization," when there is fairly clear evidence that those who participate in these organizations do so with obvious enthusiasm and enjoyment?

If personal choice is, in fact, a necessary precondition for the subjective approach to determining quality of life, we must assume that the ability to choose is available to everyone. Rosen (1986) raised this question from the perspective of people with mental retardation who may have difficulty in conceptualizing alternatives as a precursor to making choices. He suggested that we resolve this dilemma by teaching people how to choose, but acknowledges that we may still be left with a problem if we believe that someone for whom we feel responsible may be making an "unwise" choice.

Even Edgerton (1990) acknowledged this dilemma with the following caveat:

It is clear that we cannot abdicate all responsibility for setting limits to an individual's freedom of choice. We cannot tolerate risks to the public health, nor can we ignore some kinds of self-injurious behavior, and we must obviously draw the line at behaviors that harm others. But few instances are as clear-cut as these. (p. 152)

Perhaps Edgerton is correct in identifying antisocial and self-injurious choices as being most clearly unacceptable. When thinking about "basic needs," however, where does one draw the line? Remembering Edgerton's earlier anecdote, is it proper to stand by silently and know that someone is being exposed to AIDS, especially if that person does not understand the consequences of his or her behavior? Even in less dangerous situations, are there certain "universal needs," such as food, clothing, and housing that everyone is entitled to, whether or not that person actively chooses to address such needs?

The question of entitlement was examined directly by both Rosen (1986) and Edgar (1987), who asserted that everyone is entitled to some minimum quality of life. To the extent that this involves the acquisition of resources, entitlement is obviously a political issue, as well as an issue surrounding the definition of quality of life. At the political level, only governments can guarantee such basic necessities as food, clothing, and shelter to an entire population. Edgar was actually fairly cynical about the possibility of securing such entitlements for all people in a capitalist society such as ours.

At the conceptual level, as it pertains to a definition of quality of life, the definition of entitlement can become somewhat difficult to ascertain. Perhaps few would argue with the most basic of human needs. But when does one person's nomination of an entitlement become another person's nomination of a personal option? Edgar's (1987) own list of what he regards as entitlements makes the issue clear. He suggested that everyone is entitled to a quality of life that includes the following seven components: safety, pleasantness, friends and companions, self-esteem, fun, accomplishments/productivity (in whatever we do), and excitement. This is a very intriguing list, but it is not likely that everyone's list of entitlements would be identical to Edgar's.

Personal Needs vs. Social Expectations

Another dichotomy that has emerged in the quality-of-life literature is the difference between personal needs and social expectations (Goode, 1990; Parmenter, 1988). Parmenter (in press) has described this potential conflict as follows:

From a philosophical point of view there is a conflict between the existential nature of the person and the social nature of human experience..... On the one hand, the person can live a cocoon-like existence built on socially unvalidated meanings or, on the other hand, he or she can conform to the patterns of behavior expected of him or her by society generally.

Parmenter suggested that neither of these approaches leads to a satisfactory resolution to the issue of how personal needs and social expectations might intersect. The solution, he suggested, requires that people must somehow recognize both personal needs and social expectations, and then use this information "to create their own meanings so they can establish and sustain a viable self in the social world."

Personal Intervention vs. Social Policy


A final dichotomy in the quality-of-life literature is the distinction between personal intervention and social policy development as potential uses for quality-of-life information. In essence, such information can be used for very different purposes:

1. To help individuals articulate and develop

their own transition goals as part of the transition

planning process. 2. To help agencies and organizations develop

programs and policies that address the perceived

transition needs of the people whom

they serve or should be serving.

The first purpose requires presenting information to a single individual to help that person make important transition decisions. The second purpose requires presenting information about many individuals to help program and policy developers make decisions that will enhance the overall capacity of a community, state, or nation to provide good transition programs and services.

Strategy for Conceptual Integration

How then can we integrate these four conceptual dichotomies into a coherent model for using quality-of-life information to structure our thinking about transition outcomes? I propose the following strategy as a step in this direction.

Let us begin by assuming that there is value in discriminating between personal and societal perspectives on quality of life. From an individual perspective, personal choice is the underlying principle. If someone in transition chooses any particular outcome, such as employment, then the measurement of that outcome is relevant for that person. Such measurement can be both objective (e.g., Is the person employed?) and subjective (e.g., Is the person satisfied with the job?). The purpose of measuring quality of life, from either an objective or a subjective perspective, is to help that person to establish as high a quality of life as possible. This may require teaching the person how to choose, since personal choice is the underlying requirement for addressing quality-of-life issues from a personal perspective. In some cases (we hope, not many), it may also be necessary to make some choices for a person or restrict some choices if that person is totally unable to deliberate, or is antisocial or self-injurious. The quality-of-life information that is collected should be used for several purposes, including (a) individualized planning, (b) monitoring individual outcomes, and (c) modifying interventions until successful outcomes are achieved.

From a societal perspective, on the other hand, social norms are the most meaningful frame of reference. The purpose is to identify socially desirable goals for groups of people, as a whole, acknowledging that conformity with such norms may not be appropriate for any given individual within the norms group. The starting point for a taxonomy of norms would be the identification of presumed indicators that seem to represent quality-of-life values that are embedded within our social structure. The social validity of such a taxonomy (Romer & Heller, 1983; Walker & Calkins, 1986) would be evaluated by examining the extent to which each indicator is frequently selected as an important quality-of-life dimension by people with disabilities and their families. As this type of knowledge is accumulated through social validation research, appropriate recommendations should emerge concerning desirable changes in public policy and program development.

Specific Content Domains

As I mentioned earlier, the definition of quality of life for special education students in transition began in the narrowest possible way, with a focus entirely on employment (Will, 1984). In 1985, I suggested an expansion of this focus to include residential and personal/social domains, in addition to employment, and also to examine personal satisfaction as part of the mix (Halpern, 1985, 1989). Although a step in the right direction, these early efforts were insufficient in identifying the complexity of quality of life. The new special education legislation (P.L. 101-476), however, sets the stage for a much broader interpretation. After reviewing an extensive amount of follow-along literature and thinking about possible taxonomies over the years with my colleagues, we have developed a proposed list of content domains that we believe people should consider when attempting to understand quality of life for special education students in transition. The taxonomy that has emerged also has certain similarities with Maslow's "hierarchy of needs" (Maslow, 1970), although his content areas are distinctly different from ours. Our list may still be incomplete, but it represents a set of outcomes that might be used to structure and evaluate transition programs.

When one examines the various taxonomies that have been proposed for classifying quality-of-life outcomes, three basic domains of outcome are almost always represented. These include:

1. Physical and material well-being. 2. Performance of a variety of adult roles. 3. A sense of personal fulfillment.

We have identified 15 outcomes that fall into these three domains and seem to capture much of the content that is often mentioned in the quality-of-life literature. Figure I shows these outcomes.

Physical and Material Well-Being. The outcomes represented in this domain include basic entitlements that should be available to all people. Unless these outcomes are achieved, at least to some reasonable extent, achieving the outcomes in the other domains would probably be difficult. Four such "basic" outcomes have been identified:

1. Physical and mental health. 2. Food, clothing, and lodging. 3. Financial security. 4. Safety from harm.

If these outcomes are to be viewed as basic entitlements, the primary conceptual and measurement issue is probably the identification and specification of "minimal conditions" that should be available to everyone as a foundation for experiencing an acceptable quality of life. Such conditions will include preventing or coping with health problems, freedom from severe hunger or homelessness, a regular income of sufficient size to avoid total impoverishment, and a living environment that does not place a person in constant jeopardy of physical or emotional harm.

Performance of Adult Roles. The next level of outcome includes the many ways in which a person can interact with his or her environment. These interactions are often called community adjustment, community integration, independent living, and interdependent living. We have identified eight outcomes that seem to fit well into this domain:

1. Mobility and community access (e.g., uses

some form of transportation effectively). 2. Vocation, career, and employment (e.g., has a

job reflecting a career interest). 3. Leisure and recreation (e.g., uses free time to

pursue interests). 4. Personal relationships and social networks

(e.g., maintains positive involvement with

friends). 5. Educational attainment (e.g., earns a high

school diploma). 6. Spiritual fulfillment (e.g., participates in spiritual

activities of choice). 7. Citizenship (e.g., votes). 8. Social responsibility (e.g., doesn't break


Each of these adult roles presents opportunities for enhancing quality of life, and yet it is not essential that each person participate at similar levels of involvement within each role. People must choose the roles that they want to perform, based on their own needs, interests, and preferences. Social expectations and norms must also be considered, especially if an individual chooses to behave in a manner that is highly divergent from such expectations and norms in his or her community.

Personal Fulfillment. As argued eloquently by Taylor and Bogdan (1990) and Edgerton (1990), a sense of personal fulfillment does not always correspond to the achievement of success, as commonly defined, in the various adult roles previously listed. This third dimension of quality of life is entirely person centered, even though it is influenced by interactions with one's environment. Three outcomes, all presupposing the presence of personal choice, are included in this domain:

1. Happiness. 2. Satisfaction. 3. A sense of general well-being.

Edgerton (1990) discussed the differences between these three outcomes fairly succinctly. Happiness is a transient state of affect, usually governed by events that are happening at the moment. Satisfaction refers to behavior patterns and events over a longer period of time, but is often specific to a given adult role. For example, one can be very unsatisfied at work but highly satisfied with personal and social relationships. General well-being, the most durable of the outcomes, implies an enduring sense of satisfaction with the quality of one's life, almost irrespective of the events and conditions that lead to happiness or situation-specific satisfaction. Edgerton labeled this last outcome "temperament" and suggested that it has been highly influential in determining the quality of life for people whom he has studied over many years. The term temperament may be too restricting, however, implying that general well-being is primarily affective in nature. A broader conceptualization that includes cognitive and motivational dimensions of well-being is captured in the literature by other terms, such as self-concept and self-esteem (Coopersmith, 1967).


Having presented these domains and content areas as a possible foundation for conceptualizing quality of life, I next examined the extent to which the follow-up and follow-along literature even addresses, let alone evaluates, these dimensions of outcome. Using this taxonomy as a frame of reference, we reviewed 41 follow-up and follow-along studies that examined postschool outcomes of students with disabilities. A list of these studies is available from the author. The selection criterion for review was that the study be published in a refereed journal between 1975 and 1990, which covers most of the P.L. 94-142 "era" of special education programs in the United States.

The purpose of this review was simply to determine which domains and content areas had been addressed within each study. We did not include "happiness" in this review because most researchers viewed this outcome as too transient and situation-specific to be properly included in the methodological designs of the follow-up and follow-along studies. We examined the remaining 14 content areas, and Table 1 shows the findings.


Not surprisingly, all the studies reported findings that pertained to career and employment. Three-quarters of the studies also reported financial security, perhaps because of its relationship to employment. Slightly more than half the studies reported educational attainment, most often from the singular perspective of graduating or dropping out. The only other areas that nearly half the studies addressed were personal relationships and social networks.

If we are to take seriously a quality-of-life model as a frame of reference for transition programs, we will obviously need to do a better job of attending to the various dimensions of quality of life. Given the theoretical concerns that I addressed earlier, stressing the importance of a subjective perspective, perhaps the most glaring omission from many of the studies is the "personal fulfillment" domain. Some researchers have argued that without this personal perspective, the other domains lose much of their significance.

Even if we are more careful about collecting information about personal fulfillment, the data in Table I suggest that we will still have to convince people that we must collect information in the underrepresented content areas if we want to examine quality of life in its most complete sense. For example, citizenship and spiritual fulfillment are not addressed in the existing follow-up and follow-along literature. Researchers should also be examining the social validity of all the domains and content areas to confirm or modify the taxonomy (Schwartz & Baer, 1991).

A General Model for Transition Programs

Outcome domains, as important as they are, comprise only one component of a general model of the transition experience. A more complete model must also encompass demographic antecedents and program procedures that are relevant to transition outcomes. The amount of time captured under the umbrella of "transition" is obviously somewhat arbitrary. Some researchers (e.g., Clark, 1979) have argued that "career education" should begin when children are very young. At the other end of the continuum, it is almost impossible to determine when postschool "transition" has ended and other conceptual frameworks become more meaningful for addressing quality of life. As a minimal effort in model development, we suggest that the transition period should encompass the legal requirements of P.L. 101-476, beginning no later than age 16 and continuing through age 23 or 24 when the person will have been out of school for several years.

If such a model were adopted, there are six types of information that would need to be gathered and analyzed to understand the model:

1. Student and family characteristics. 2. School services received. 3. School outcomes achieved. 4. Quality of life while in school. 5. Postschool services received. 6. Quality of life after leaving school.

Information within the first four domains should be gathered while the student is still in school. Information within the last two domains should be gathered (preferably at several time intervals) after the student has left school. A version of this generic model, originally proposed by SRI International (Wagner, Jay, Fairweather, & Stearns, 1986), has been modified several times, as these researchers have implemented the National Longitudinal Transition Study. We have also adopted a version of this model as a broad conceptual framework for follow-along research (Halpern, 1990).

These six domains serve two purposes within a research model. First, they simply describe the status of people from appropriate samples with respect to relevant variables within each domain.

Second, these six domains show the paths of influence between variables within each domain, focusing on quality of life as the ultimate outcome. For example, one might consider the type of a student's disability (Student and Family Characteristics Domain) and the vocational skills he or she has attained (School Achievement Domain) in determining whether the student had a well-paying job after school (Quality of Life in School Domain). The paths of influence that seem especially worthy of exploration are shown by the arrows in Figure 2.

Preliminary Findings Using This Model

The last section of this article presents some preliminary findings from our own follow-along research. These findings support using quality of life as a conceptual framework for evaluating transition programs and outcomes. The findings address both the relationships among some domains within the quality-of-life framework and the identification of variables that might predict success within the outcome domains.

Our most recent studies involve statewide samples of students in Oregon and Nevada who were in their last year of school during the 1989-90 school year. Using the general follow-along model as a framework, we collected information during the spring of 1990 on basic demographics, school services received, school outcomes, and quality of life while in school. All information collected was student specific, and the instruments included a teacher questionnaire and computer-assisted telephone interviews with the student and his or her parent. We have also collected 2 years of follow-along information during postschool years, during the spring and summer of 1991 and during the spring and summer of 1992. The information presented here is based on only the first round of data collection.

Our quality-of-life measures for the in-school period of time are somewhat restricted because the students had not yet had an opportunity to experience many of the adult roles that I presented earlier. Nevertheless, we were able to collect information in several areas that could be represented as quality-of-life subscales. These subscales address personal fulfillment as a subjective indicator, along with vocational adjustment and personal/social integration as objective indicators. The personal fulfillment subscale includes 13 items across three subdomains: making choices, satisfaction with life activities, and self-esteem. The vocational subscale considers whether the student held a job or had work experience, whether he or she was paid for it, and whether he or she was ever fired from a job or work experience. The personal/social integration subscale addresses relationships with family and friends, leisure activities, and whether the person experienced victimization.

Another set of measures we use include 68 behavioral indicators, embedded within our Teacher Questionnaire, that we informally call the Transition Skills Inventory. These indicators address many desirable student achievement outcomes of transition programs in four areas: academic, vocational, independent living, and personal/social. Each indicator is rated along two dimensions: whether the student performs the indicated behavior and whether he or she needs assistance in performing the behavior. These indicators can actually be used both as outcome measures of student success in school and as measures of continuing needs that should be addressed during transition planning. The question being asked of these indicators, in the context of this article, is whether they are related to quality-of-life outcomes. To the extent such relationships exist, the indicators achieve validation as desirable measures of school achievement, which, in turn, have direct implications for both structuring and evaluating the school curriculum.

Let's begin by looking at the relationships between the quality-of-life domains. The background issue for examining these relationships is whether success in one domain is generally accompanied by success in other domains. This issue was brought to the forefront in 1984, when the authors of the original OSERS transition initiative suggested that we should focus all our efforts on employment because success in this area was somehow presumed to "spill over" into success in other areas.

Our own research even then suggested that such a "bootstrap" philosophy might not work. During the early 1980s, we examined the quality of life being experienced by adults with mental retardation in four western states. These people were living in structured apartment settings known as semi-independent living programs (SILPs) (Halpern, Nave, Close, & Nelson, 1986). We developed measures for a four-dimensional model that included occupation, residential environment, social support, and personal satisfaction. We then looked at the relationships among the four domains, shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3 shows that the three so-called "objective" domains of occupation, residential environment, and social support were basically unrelated to one another. Success in any of these domains provided no indication of likely success in another. There were mixed relationships, however, between success in these objective domains and personal satisfaction. If a person experienced success in the social support domain, he or she was fairly likely to be generally satisfied with the quality of his or her life. Success in the residential environment was also somewhat predictive of satisfaction. Only occupational success was found to be basically unrelated to satisfaction.

A similar pattern has emerged within the three scales that we tentatively developed to examine quality of life during the last year of school for our follow-along samples in Oregon and Nevada. As Figure 4 shows, vocational adjustment and personal/social integration are still basically unrelated to one another. Personal/social integration and personal fulfillment are again moderately related to one another; and, in this case, vocational adjustment is also somewhat related to personal fulfillment.

Although we still have much more work to do in examining our current database, the similarities between our present findings and the findings of nearly a decade ago are intriguing. Both findings suggest that the subjective dimensions of quality of life are only somewhat related to the objective dimensions, and the strength or even presence of such relationships will vary, depending on the specific areas being examined. Could it be possible that the absence of such relationships between objective and subjective domains, when this occurs, implies the absence of personal choice in the transition plans that address the domains being examined? Perhaps stronger relationships will begin to emerge when we start paying more attention to student interests and preferences as we develop our transition plans.

The lack of relationships among objective domains also implies that we must develop separate intervention programs for each of the different adult roles that are viewed as important, since it would appear that success in one area does not automatically predict success in other areas. Such a recommendation would almost seem vacuous, were it not for the fact that we lack both programs and commitment to address many of the outcome areas that are referenced within our quality-of-life model.

Assuming such commitment were there, what do we know about student and family characteristics, school programs, and school outcomes that might predict these three dimensions of quality of life? We examined the relationships between many variables (approximately 25) in our follow-along data sets and the three subscales in our present quality-of-life assessments, using a multiple-regression approach to data analysis. Only five of these potential predictor variables made significant contributions to the regressions on two of the three quality-of-life (QOL) subscales. These five variables were the behavioral-indicators scale that we created, primary disability category, student gender, the proportion of classes in relevant areas that were passed, and student satisfaction with his or her high school experiences.

Table 2 shows which predictor variables were associated with the two QOL subscales for which we obtained significant regressions. Separate regressions on the QOL subscales were run for each disability group. The order of entry into the regressions began with the behavioral-indicators scale and ended with student satisfaction with the school program, as indicated in Table 2. The cumulative impact of each regression model was estimated by changes in [R.sup.2] and the statistical significance associated with adding each new predictor is shown in the table. Finally, the last row of the table presents the overall Multiple R that is associated with each regression, along with its statistical significance.

Table 2 shows that the regressions were substantially stronger in the models predicting personal fulfillment (approximately 25% explained variance) than in the models predicting vocational behavior (approximately 10% explained variance). Within all six regression models, the behavioral indicators played a major role. This is particularly encouraging, since behavioral indicators are clearly amenable to change through careful planning and program interventions. The impact of disability label, on the other hand, was fairly minimal within the regression models that we examined. The labels added nothing at all to the regressions on vocational behavior, and being classified as seriously emotionally disturbed (SED) was also inconsequential as a predictor of personal fulfillment. Being classified as mentally retarded (MR) was found to detract from personal fulfillment, and being classified as specific learning disabled (SLD) was found to enhance personal fulfillment, in comparison to people with all other types of disabilities. These findings lend some support to the proposition that primary disability category, by itself, has very limited utility as a predictor of important outcomes.


Gender was also predictive of both personal fulfillment and vocational adjustment for all three disability groups; being female was associated with lower outcome scores. Passing classes, by contrast, contributed only to the prediction of vocational outcomes. Finally, student satisfaction with school contributed to students' sense of personal fulfillment after leaving school.

The most impressive finding, perhaps, is the complete lack of predictors with respect to personal/social integration, which is why this domain was not included in Table 2. With the variables that we have examined thus far, we have been unable to account for any of the outcome variance in this domain, using a multiple-regression model for analysis.




Considering these meager research findings, along with the theoretical considerations concerning quality of life presented earlier, it seems clear that we need to more carefully develop and evaluate transition programs in the future. Six recommendations seem to be particularly appropriate:

1. We must begin to attend more routinely to the

subjective dimensions of quality of life as important

criteria for evaluating the impact of

transition programs. 2. We must attend more regularly to the full

array of adult roles that comprise quality of

life and the instructional programs that are

needed to affect students' ability and motivation

to assume such roles. 3. We must explore the issue of social entitlements

and their possible cross-cultural validity

as uniform components of quality of life. 4. We must develop improved measurement

tools and procedures for structuring and implementing

the transition planning process. 5. We must develop ways of enhancing personal

choice and self-determination for students and

families involved in the transition planning

process. 6. We must develop and implement cost-efficient,

follow-along systems that can be used

by local and state education agencies to guide

program and policy development.

The quality-of-life issues that I have discussed here can and should provide at least part of the conceptual framework for addressing all these important activities. The general education reform movement (Halpern, 1992), introduced during the Bush administration (Bush, 1991) and stressed as a cornerstone of the Clinton presidential campaign, will also provide a powerful context for developing and evaluating transition programs for all Americans, with and without disabilities.


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ANDREW S. HALPERN (CEC #216), Professor, Department of Education, University of Oregon, Eugene.
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Author:Halpern, Andrew S.
Publication:Exceptional Children
Date:May 1, 1993
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