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Secondary Transition for Latino SPED Students

Secondary transition– the movement from high school to adult life– is an important milestone in any teenager’s life.

Joanna Keel, a PhD Special Education student, is interested in exploring the aspects of this time period, specifically among 12th grade Latino students with high-incidence disabilities.

These common disabilities include speech and language impairments, learning disabilities and emotional disturbance.

“I’m looking at the students, but also the school movement from graduation to whatever it is that they’re going to do with their lives after high school,” said Keel. “In particular, I’m looking at how educators work with students and families with minority backgrounds– are they getting the right supports?”

Keel’s study, which will begin recruitment when school resumes in the Fall, will involve three distinct groups of participants, including Special Education teachers, Latino students with high-incidence disabilities and finally their parents. Each group will have a maximum of ten participants, who must be linked, meaning that each student participant must also have their teacher involved in the study, Keel explained.

Keel will then conduct focus groups, as well as individual follow-up interviews. Both will be oral and include between four and 10 questions, she said. Along with the interviews, Keel will be asking participating teachers for the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), as well as their transition plan documents.

Between the interview results– both group and individual– as well as the legal documents, Keel hopes to triangulate varying perspectives about desired components of adult life and the necessary supports available to the students.

“I’m interested in the differences and similarities of perceptions from the students and parents. What is their vision for these students and what types of supports do families need to meet that vision,” Keel said. “For teachers, I’m interested in how they describe the supports they’re giving to these families.”

Keel plans to have her research conducted and analyzed by Summer 2015.

The study is important for the Special Education field, particularly in the urban school system, Keel said.

“We see minority students with disabilities at a major disadvantage in urban areas and a lot of times what comes along with that is Special Education (instructors) that are under-qualified and might not have the skills needed to work with them.

“My goal is to inform the field of Special Education what it is that Latino students with learning disabilities are describing for themselves after high school…and is the field really listening?”