Self-determination and postsecondary transition planning for culturally and linguistically diverse students with learning disabilities

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Trainor, Audrey Ann

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Self-determination has become a popular topic in transition literature. Most transition models include components that support student choice, decision-making, goal setting, self-evaluation, and leadership in Individual Transition Plan (ITP) meetings. Researchers acknowledge that cultural identity may influence transition decisions, and student and family cultural identities may influence their decision to embrace self-determination models. Yet the appropriateness of these approaches for culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students with learning disabilities (LD) remains unknown. This study examines the self-determination perceptions and behaviors of European American, African American, and Latino adolescent males with LD. Research questions guiding this project were:

  1. What are the self-determination behaviors of CLD adolescents with LD?
  2. How do CLD students perceive their responsibilities in transition planning?
  3. How do CLD students perceive the influence of their parents and teachers on this process? Data were collected through focus group interviews, observations of ITP meetings, and ITP document reviews. Qualitative analysis of data was used to glean information regarding how CLD students with LD behaved and viewed their roles during postsecondary transition planning. Participants in this study did exhibit various levels of self-determination and involvement in transition planning activities. The extent to which students were able to use self-determination during transition planning activities was largely determined by school personnel. Findings also revealed that subtle differences existed between groups and that further examination of diverse students’ self-determination perceptions and practices is warranted. Common experiences across groups indicated that the process of transition planning as implemented in the participating schools was not conducive to student involvement or self-determination. Current special education self-determination models must address contextual/environmental demands within which students are expected to utilize self-determination skills and attitudes.