Date of Graduation


Document Type



The literature indicates that a lack of participation in their own decision-making process has contributed to a diminished quality of life for people with disabilities (Sands, Kozleski, & Goodwin, 1991; Sands & Doll, 1996). Classroom and living situations often foster learned dependence, resulting in over-reliance on others to find problem solutions. To improve students' influence over their transition outcomes, educators and community persons need to provide students with appropriate instruction and opportunities to participate fully in their own life planning. This exploratory, comparative study utilized individual interviews, focus groups, and Individual Transition-Education Plan (ITEP) document reviews to explore and compare perceptions about how secondary students with mild intellectual disabilities are participating in their planning process. Students, graduates, educators, and parents from five northern counties in West Virginia took part in the study. Interpretive Analysis gave an overview of responses. Through Constant Comparative Analysis, emergent themes and linkages were ordered and explored participants perspectives were then compared for uniqueness and common features. Information was triagulated by reviewing fifteen participating students' and graduates' most recent ITEP documents for the incorporation of self-determination goals and objectives. Such concerns as the following emerged: (1) informal preparation of students for their roles as planning team members, (2) insufficient planning time for educators, (3) differing expectations of student performance between and among parents and educators, (4) communication among parents and educators, (5) assessment issues, (6) earlier career exploration, (7) providing opportunities for the exercise of informed choices, (8) the necessity of system supports, and (9) role fulfilment of interdisciplinary team members. In addition, perceived needs were identified, and newly implemented system changes were described. This project has potential to increase our understanding of policy in relation to practice in West Virginia as perceived by key stakeholders in the ITEP process, to strengthen inservice teacher training efforts initiated by the Regional Education Service Agencies, and to contribute to the current literature regarding the development of self-determination by people with disabilities. It is also hoped that participating young persons may benefit in terms of their own career planning through having involved themselves in these interactive and reflective processes. This project was completed with partial support from the West Virginia University, Office of Academic Affairs and Research.