Teamwork in Transition

by Tracy English, Project Specialist

The Community Transition Council (CTC) holds significant promise as a vehicle for establishing working relationships among students, families, teachers, and other educators participating in the transition planning process. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), in fact, mandates cooperation among these groups. Authentic collaboration, however, is the essential component of truly effective interagency transition service delivery.

When people meet to share ideas and do not have a clear mission or structure in mind, they are cooperative partners. As relationships become more formal and efforts concentrate on long-term objectives, the focus becomes one of coordination. Coordination requires assigning roles and planning to achieve a specific goal. When a group begins to collaborate, they have made a commitment to share responsibilities, jointly develop a mission, and work together to achieve common goals (Benz, Lindstrom & Halpern, 1992).

"Collaboration is a mutually beneficial and well-defined relationship entered into by two or more organizations (or people) to achieve results they are more likely to achieve together than alone." (Winer & Ray, 1994, p.32)

The CTC is a powerful tool for improving capacity for delivering effective transition programs and services in local communities. A thoughtfully developed and well run transition council contributes to increased understanding of how services are provided, promotes the facilitation of coordinated services, and plans advocacy efforts to create needed services. Additional benefits to students, families, and the community as a whole achieved by the development of Community Transition Councils include:

  1. Local, regional, and statewide organizations share service information.

  2. Gaps, duplication, and overlaps in services are identified.

  3. Stakeholders identify strategies to improve transition services.

  4. Community awareness of the needs and potential of all students is increased.

  5. Agency roles and responsibilities are clarified.

Although the benefits of an authentic collaborative effort can be considerable, developing and sustaining a truly productive transition council represents a significant challenge. Those involved in the process must continually evaluate the complexities of group interaction and guide the council through the stages of team development. A smoothly-running team is easy to recognize. There is frequent agreement on goals, roles, and norms, and members are devoted to producing results. They deal with conflicts as they arise, challenge ideas without getting personal, and take collective pride in team successes. Creative confrontation and innovative problem solving are the hallmarks of the effective team (Hanwit & English, 1997).

Maintaining this healthy team is a continual and dynamic process. The CTC should be an action-oriented group whose identity is established by its targeted activities. Members should avoid the trap of teaming for teaming's sake. The direction that projects and activities take should be determined within the local community in order to obtain outcomes that reflect local needs. A thoughtful analysis of your own community will assist you in determining the activities that will be most appropriate for your council.

The following is a list of activities designed to promote successful transition outcomes. It is offered here to provide you with examples of effective CTC goals.

  1. Become an informed source on transition, identifying exemplary projects and efforts that enhance school-to-adult life outcomes.

  2. Facilitate family and student training and support efforts.

  3. Encourage person-centered planning as an essential component of the transition process.

  4. Identify existing community and school resources and services that are available for individuals involved in transition efforts.

  5. Expand and develop programs and services that emphasize the inclusion of people with disabilities in their communities.

  6. Recommend and support functional, community-based curricula in schools.

  7. Establish a system to facilitate regular and routine communication among consumers, students, parents, educators, consumer advocacy groups, service providers, and local community leaders (Hanwit & English 1997).

The Community Transition Council is a local group of people representing many agencies and organizations as well as parents and students who meet to improve transition services and support at the community level. To learn more about developing or sustaining such a forum for sharing, planning, and advocacy, please contact the T/TAC William & Mary office at (757) 221-1708.

References

Benz, M. R., Lindstrom, L. E., & Halpern, A.S. (1991). Community transition team model: A facilitator's manual. Eugene, Oregon: University of Oregon Press.

Winer, M., & Ray, K. (1994). Collaboration handbook: Creating, sustaining and enjoying the journey. Saint Paul, MN: Amherst H. Wilder Foundation.