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Emily Meehan, ’18, G’19

Story Series
Bridgewater Magazine

Hometown: Worcester
Majors: Special Education, Teacher of Students with Severe Disabilities; Psychology
Project: The BIG Transition: An Analysis of Factors Impacting the Transition Process for Students with Severe Special Needs
Mentor: J. Edward Carter (Special Education)
Career: Special Education Teacher, David Prouty High School, Spencer

My project focused on the transition process from special education to adult life, which I believe is an integral part of building future successes for students with severe disabilities. The project explored factors related to the transition process through program observations and interviews with transition coordinators, administration and staff from five residential schools serving students with severe disabilities. The information obtained from the interviews contributed to the construction of my own transition model, highlighted by five essential factors of the transition process, all stemming from the concept of self-determination. The goal was to provide a realistic model for supporting future teachers of students with severe disabilities to help them navigate the complexities of the transition process.

When this research project was carried out in 2017, I was an undergraduate studying to become a teacher of special education for students with severe disabilities. Previously, I had experience working as an intern at the New England Center for Children in Southborough, where I worked with students, ages 15-22 with autism. My internship forced me to think critically about transition services and how the services and planning would directly affect the quality of life of students who are transitioning out of special education and into adult life. As an emerging educator, I wanted to create a way to streamline the transition process, in the form of a model, and use this model in my future classroom. Today, as a high school special education teacher, this research has helped me create curriculum and experiences that ensure that my students are developing the skills essential to successful adult life.

As for major takeaways from my research, I found there is no specific protocol for performing transition-planning procedures, rather it is a more individualized process tailored to a student’s specific needs. By formulating a model that addresses the major factors related to transition, it is a way for educators like myself to ensure that we are doing everything in our power to support students appropriately in the transition process.

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