Unrealistic goals?

It is all well and good to encourage a young person to begin thinking about his future and to begin to set goals. Person Centered Planning, IEP planning, Transition Planning and other avenues are all opportunities for the young person to express his dreams and desires. What should team members do when the person with disabilities expresses a desire that is known (by everyone else) to be unrealistic?

No one has a greater stake in the outcome of transition planning than the student with a disability. The student should be an active, participating member of the transition team, as well as the focus of all activities. For a young person with a disability, decision making is complicated by limited choices and the tendency for others to tell the individual what to do.

Too often students are thought that dependence, passivity, and reliance on unseen forces will take care of them. Throughout transition planning, students should be encouraged to express concerns, preferences, and conclusions about their options and to give facts and reasons. They may need to learn how to express their thoughts in a way that others listen to them and respect their views. In order to learn these skills, students need to practice them within a supportive environment. The transition process is a good place to start.
Transition planning should be an ongoing opportunity for students to learn and practice responsibility and self-knowledge. Transition is an ever-changing process, and students need to be skillful enough to adapt to the challenge of those changes.

The team must determine its own comfort level with the goals of the individual. However, how the team feels about the goals and how the young person feels may be two very different things. Supporting young people to learn about and further explore their dreams for the future is the proactive solution to this situation.

Developing self-knowledge is the first step in self-advocacy skills. Learning about one's self involves the identification of learning styles, strengths and weakness, interests, and preferences. For students with mild disabilities, developing an awareness of the accommodations they need will help them ask for necessary accommodations on a job and in postsecondary education. Students can also help identify alternative ways they can learn.

Self-advocacy refers to an individual's ability to effectively communicate, convey, negotiate or assert his or her own interests, desires, needs, and rights. It involves making informed decisions and taking responsibility for those decisions.

Self-advocacy is not a new concept in disability services. Enabling and empowering students to direct their own lives has been an underpinning of federal legislation for some time. For example, the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, Title 1, Vocational Rehabilitation Program, describes the philosophy of independent living as including consumer control, peer support, self-help, self-determination, equal access, and individual and system advocacy, in order to maximize the leadership empowerment, independence, and productivity of persons with disabilities.

As a result of self exploration, a young person may decide that his or her goal is not necessarily a good match. However, the exploration process can be a memorable learning experience, a valuable way of learning about one