Transition and technology reliance: experiences of youth exiting high school
Objective. For students with special needs, the end of this century brings a long history of education-for-all practices, enthusiasm for uses of technology, and a focus on student's outcomes after graduation. However, disappointing results are observed with some students and particular experiences of those that rely on assistive technology (AT) are just starting to be considered. This study explored AT users' experiences with transition from high school to young adult life.Method. Eight students or recent graduates participated who had a reliance on AT to enhance mobility and communication. Transition experiences and perspectives were studied with a phenomenological approach wherein interviews, observations, and school records were used in thematic analysis.Findings. Participants were transitioning toward unclear or tentative outcomes regarding post-secondary education, employment, and independent living. The school's role in transition was acknowledged but not seen as pivotal to outcomes. Participants valued membership in school, but a sense of being a pioneer with disability in the school environment was exhausting and sometimes disappointing. Demands for self-advocacy seemed to generalize as a desire to support others with disability in school and community. Accommodations required deliberate planning, but authority and specificity about alterations were often unclear. Disability and reliance on AT created dilemmas because needs for human assistance continued and was broadened to require technical experts as part of a support network. A recurrent cycle of technology evaluation, selection, acquisition, training, and use inevitably lead to getting stranded because of changing needs, device failure, or new options and features of technology that necessitated re-training. Participants' had few expectations for technology, but were hoping to find greater access and acceptance in the community.Discussion. Person-centered planning and use of role models with disability are encouraged with transition practices. These suggestions will challenge students' advocacy skills and require them to have a better awareness of what to expect within other community settings. Planning and using accommodations that include technology reliance may be understood better by considering outcomes relative to participation, performance, and productivity. In schools, participation is emphasized, but performance and productivity appear to be critical to young adult life in the community.
- Education - Seattle