Perspectives of professionals, parents, and young adults with severe disabilities on the transition from school to adult life

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Leadership


Steven J. Taylor


Professionals, Parents, Disabilities, Transition to adulthood, School

Subject Categories

Education | Special Education and Teaching


A two year study examined the perspectives of professionals, parents, and young adult children with severe disabilities during their final year of school. The purpose of the study was to gain a better understanding of the transition process by examining these perspectives.

Parents and young adult children from nine families were principal respondents in the study. Young adults were in their final year of school. Professional participants were selected based upon their involvement during the transition of the young adults and represented both educational and adult agency organizations.

During semistructured, in-depth interviews, young adults and parents were asked to discuss experiences and views on transition. They were guided through a range of topics which included: goals for the future, plans for realizing goals, adult living, social relations, major concerns, and general impressions of the transition process. Professionals interviewed discussed the transition process and attitudes regarding young adults and families. Participant observations provided additional data in understanding the meanings held by participants.

Findings revealed the following major themes: professionals pass judgment on young adults with disabilities and their parents choose programming options based on perceptions of limitation or potential; parents view children in a positive light, seek normalized options, and, for the most part, face a transition process which holds the possibility of never ending; young adults with disabilities desire autonomy in establishing adult status and seek further participation in their transition to adulthood.

Implications of the findings are discussed and recommendations made for policies and practices. Recommendations address parent/professional relations and suggest creating relations characterized by mutual respect, shared information, and openness. The importance of professional recognition of the familial, cultural, and organizational processes experienced by young adults and families are also discussed. Recommendations also include a discussion on young adults acting as primary causal agents in effecting self-determination and friendship as an essential component of the process.


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