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'The John Jones Show': How one teacher facilitated self-determined transition planning for a young man with autism

by Held, M.F., Thoma, C.A., & Thomas, K. (2004)

Held, M.F., Thoma, C.A., & Thomas, K. (2004). "The John Jones Show": How one teacher facilitated self-determined transition planning for a young man with autism. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 19(3), 177-188.

Article Summary

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), P.L. 101-476, mandated self-determination as part of the transition process for students with disabilities. Prior studies to define best practices in fostering self-determination have largely fallen into one of the following three categories: teaching a specific core skill, using a specific curriculum, or enhancing self-determination in designated meetings and assessment. However, little research has focused on facilitating self-determination among students with disabilities throughout the entire educational process. The current study focuses on the efforts of special educator Karen Thomas to incorporate self-determination into her day-to-day instructional practices and ultimately the transition planning process for her student with autism, John Jones.

Thomas approached a local doctoral student, Mary Held, to get assistance to improve transition planning. Together they developed the participatory action research project that would answer the question: "How can self-determination be used as a framework for curriculum and instruction, and be infused into everything students do throughout the day?"

The authors provide an overview of participatory action research used in this study. This process works very well for teachers who can research, apply, and systematically analyze data regarding methodology in the classroom setting. They utilized the Next S.T.E.P. curriculum along with the Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction to help John learn more about himself, make decisions, solve problems, set goals, and make adjustments in the process in order to reach goals.

Peer tutors from the general education program helped John and his classmates work through the two instructional models. In fact, one of the peer tutors had the idea to build on John's love of television game shows to take the role master of ceremonies for the "John Jones Show" at his transition meeting. He entered his voice into a PowerPoint presentation, practiced questions that members of the transition team might ask, and ran the computer at the meeting. As a result of Johns full participation in the meeting, team members got a chance to see him "in action" and gave his transition goals and plans much more credence than might have otherwise been the case.

In the aftermath of this study, John and his classmates have begun to take a more active role in their education as well as their plans for the future. The class itself grew from being community-based to that of a "classroom without walls." As he has taken a more active role in his future, John has been successfully employed in a bookstore for three years, begun sharing an apartment with a roommate, and taken advantage of community resources to enhance his computer skills, and nurture his love of music in many ways.