A Blueprint to Guide the Journey from High School to Adulthood

/ March 7, 2017


By Blake Shearer

About the Author

Blake Shearer headshot

Blake Shearer is the High School Intervention and Transition Coordinator for the Department of Education. In this role, he works with school districts and postsecondary partners to prepare students with disabilities for life after high school. Previously, he worked as a paraprofessional, special education teacher, and consulting teacher in Putnam County, where he lives with his wife and two children.

Our hope is that this weekly blog will offer information you want to know, so if you have a question you want answered about employment for people with disabilities or other mysteries of the world of work, please email janet.shouse@vumc.org.


What are you going to do after high school? That one simple question will most likely be heard by every student at some point during high school.

For many families of students with disabilities, this question can also be one that you have contemplated for a long while for your son or daughter. While it may seem like a simple question on the surface, the reality is it’s very complex and requires us to proactively plan so that a seamless transition to adulthood can exist.

As a special education teacher, I remember talking with parents and students during the transition planning process and hearing their concerns, and, at times, fear, as we planned for life after high school. At this point, a whirl of emotions arise and questions that you may not have given as much thought to start to consume how you view all the programs and services that are being provided. The reality is, that’s a good thing! There are so many partners involved in developing a strong transition plan for adulthood that it’s best to have our eyes set on the future, so that we can create the present.

So how do we create the present that proactively prepares students for the future? Below are three quick reminders of some key principles:

  1. Begin early: It is never too early to begin thinking about life after high school. Let that become a frame of reference.
  2. Involve your child: It’s his or her plan and life, so their voices matter!
  3. Collaborate, Collaborate, Collaborate: Don’t feel that you have to go on this journey alone. Reach out for guidance from those in your support system.

To better promote these principles, the Department of Education and TennesseeWorks have partnered to create Transition Tennessee: Blueprint for Student Success. This new website (www.transitiontn.org) is much more than just a website, it’s a free online professional development series that addresses the best of what we know works for promoting successful transitions for students with disabilities. It describes the steps educators can take — in partnership with families, communities, and adult service agencies—to help students identify, work toward, and achieve their goals for after high school.

So how can you as a parent benefit from Transition Tennessee? First, take a moment to visit www.transitiontn.org and complete the registration process. Again, it’s a free tool and open to anyone who creates an account. Once you have logged into the site, you will find the first five courses that have been developed. They are:

  • Guiding Principles
  • Age-Appropriate Transition Assessments
  • High-Quality Transition Planning
  • Pathways to Employment
  • Supports and Partnerships

Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the site and explore everything the site has to offer. Do you have questions about how certain service providers can be involved in the transition planning process? Then head over to the Support and Partnerships course where you will find more than 40 partners ranging from independent living providers to postsecondary education to community participation. If you are wondering about how to involve your child in the transition planning process and promote self-determination, then the High-Quality Transition Planning course has some excellent resources. In this course you will find videos of Tennessee students talking about leading their own IEP meetings, an example of 11 steps to a student-lead IEP meeting, as well as examples of the important “players of the game” that includes parents’ perspectives on their role in the transition plan. Maybe you’re interested in learning more about early work experiences and seeing those in action across our state. If so, the Pathways to Employment course will provide you with a guide to work experiences through written documents and video examples.

The intent of Transition Tennessee is to be a place where not only teachers can go to receive training and resources, but also a place for parents to become more familiar with the transition planning process. With a unified vision on building a bridge to postsecondary life, our students, communities, and state will reap the benefits. So please, take a moment to visit Transition Tennessee so that you can better understand how to start early, involve your child, and collaborate, collaborate, collaborate!

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