Everyone hopes for students in special education programs to have independent, productive, and fulfilling lives once they leave school. But for a transition specialist, the focus of the job is making that happen. Transition specialization is a growing field with a wide range of job opportunities for the highly qualified. That’s why the University of Kansas online MSE program in Secondary Special Education and Transition Program has worked with the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division on Career Development and Transition (DCDT) to develop the first (and, so far, only) DCDT-accredited master’s program.
“It is such an honor that we are the first and one of only two universities to be accredited by the International Division on Career Development on Transition,” said Stacie Dojonovic, PhD, Transition Program Associate for KU’s Special Education Department, as well as DCDT Past-President and current Associate Executive Director. “Our graduates now have the opportunity to obtain National Transition Certification from DCDT, which signifies that they have the knowledge and ability to implement best practices in transition planning and service delivery. Our graduates deserve this national recognition.”
For potential employers, DCDT certification will signal that an applicant has gone the extra mile to be the best in the field.
What are ‘Transition Services?’
Public schools are required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to provide students in special education with the support and services that will help them achieve their individual post-secondary goals, such as college or vocational education, independent living, or community participation.
No later than age 16 (younger in some states), a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) must include transition goals based on specialized transition assessments provided by the school district. The IEP team (which includes the student, family, school faculty, and possibly others) then decides on what services the student will need to achieve those goals. The school district then is responsible for providing and coordinating these services, which should include results-oriented activities that will facilitate the student’s movement to life after high school. Depending on the individual student’s goals, the services might include specialized instruction, community experiences, job training or shadowing, internships, or more.
Career as a Transition Specialist
Recognizing the need for specialized knowledge and skills, many school districts now hire dedicated transition coordinators to provide assessments and to craft and coordinate optimal transition programs for students. These professionals may also provide professional and community training related to transition and special education.
Secondary/Transition Special Education Teacher
In other school districts, transition assessment and program coordination are the purview of each high school’s special education teacher. Many special education teachers have received minimal training in transition services. KU’s MSE program prepares them to implement evidence-based transition practices that will promote their students’ success after high school.
Higher Education Transition or Disability Services Professional
Colleges and universities are not required to provide ‘special education’ services. However, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, any that accept federal funding must provide reasonable accommodations to students with documented disabilities—and many offer additional services that help facilitate student success. A growing number also offer specialized programs, such as the KU Transition to Postsecondary Education (KU TPE) program—an inclusive postsecondary education program for KU students with intellectual disabilities.
Schools and families don’t always agree on the transition services that should be provided to students. An education advocate who is trained and certified in transition will be equipped to advise on and lobby for students’ rights. In addition, some families may want to hire a consultant who can provide services above and beyond what’s required of the school. (This is a great opportunity for the entrepreneurially minded.)
Government or Community-Agency Transition Specialists
Successful transition is based on collaboration among a number of entities. Federal, state, or community agencies may hire transition professionals to develop, coordinate, or implement transition programs.
KU Special Education: Study with the Best
Accreditation by DCDT is new, but the University of Kansas has long been a leader in Special Education. U.S. News & World Report has consistently ranked KU the #1 or #2 Master’s Program in Special Education over the years, and now also ranks KU as #1 in the new category of Online Master’s Programs in Special Education.
KU’s Department of Special Education was the first to develop an online master's program in Secondary Special Education and Transition—designed by some of the country’s leading transition researchers and practitioners. Headed by Dr. Stacie Dojonovic, the 30-credit program is taught by PhD-level faculty with extensive experience in special education and transition.
Learn more about the KU Department of Special Education’s online graduate programs in Secondary Special Education and Transition, High Incidence Disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorder, or Leadership in Special and Inclusive Education.
Dr. Dojonovic also invites prospective Transition graduate students to contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.