Adult Transition Series: Assessments

This is the second of a four part series on the Transition Plan for teens with special needs. If you missed Part 1, read it here.

This article, Part 2, will focus on the importance of ongoing, proper, and varied assessments.

Part 3 will cover writing goals and Part 4 will look at interagency collaboration. 

Getting Started

As mentioned in Part 1 of this transition series, the age of 14 or 16 is when teens with special needs officially begin the transition planning process.  Just as a neurotypical teen plans the future on strengths and interests, so it should be true for teens with special needs. 

Strengths now become very important as future potentials become clear.  The assessments performed will become the foundation goals are built upon (the focus of Part 3 of this series). 


Four Common Mistakes to Avoid as You Begin:

  1. Viewing transition assessment as a one time add-on to the IEP.

  2. Using only assessments pre-established by the school district rather than those geared toward the individual and unique needs of the student.

  3. Only focusing on career development and vocational interest while overlooking soft skills needed for success. Soft skills include appropriate community participation, social relationships, hygiene, fitness, transportation, asking for help, etc.

  4. Omitting functional assessment and the role behaviors factor into career and vocation success.

Two Terms to Know:

  1. Self-determination is the ability of individuals to set goals for themselves and is the major objective of transitional planning. However, self-determination can be difficult for many teens with special needs and may need to be taught. It is a topic beyond the scope of this article. Download the resource guide for more on this topic.

  2. Person Centered Planning is an effective way to support self determination. It involves those closest to the student creating a personal profile. Parents are often the biggest contributors but there may be others who can offer insightful feedback such as therapists, job coaches, case managers, friends, etc. The three areas to hit with person-centered planning are:

  • life story

  • quality of life

  • personal preferences


Types of Assessments

There are many types of assessments such as:

  • standardized tests

  • interviews

  • observation

  • curriculum based

  • functional

  • questionnaires

  • checklists

  • profiles

  • case files

  • rating scales

  • and on and on and on

Your child’s school district will most likely have a set of assessments used for most students. Get your hands on them.

As you dig into what is offered, you are looking for:

  • The areas your child will be assessed so you can cross check for any gaps mentioned above in the four common mistakes.

  • A variety of assessment methods

  • A variety of people who will be involved as mentioned in Part 1 of this series.

  • Accommodations necessary during the administration of the assessment.

Download the resource guide for links to dozens of informal assessments covering a variety of topics. Parents can even get the ball rolling and administer assessments to share for consideration with the transition planning team.

Ongoing Assessment

Mentioned above, one of the common mistakes in assessment is to treat it as a one-time event prior to the IEP. Rather than a one-time event, assessment information should be collected, evaluated, and applied continually.

Guiding questions to continually ask:

  • What do we already know about the student’s strengths, preferences and needs in employment, education, living?

  • What do we need to know about the student’s employment, education and living strengths, preferences, and needs?

  • What methods and sources will provide the information we need?

  • Who will gather the information and what role will the student play in the assessment process?

  • When will the assessment data be collected and used for transition planning?

  • Is the student making progress toward his/her specific post-secondary goals (employment, education, living)?

The answer to these questions will change as the student moves closer toward mastering transition goals. Revisit them often. Remember that assessment should never be a one time event but rather ongoing and individualized.