Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

P. Jeannie Kleinhammer-Tramill, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Ann Cranston-Gingras, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Leonard Burrello, Ed.D.

Committee Member

William Black, Ph.D.


university based transition programs, intellectual disabilities, case study research


The purpose of this study was to explore the transition experience of three individuals with intellectual disabilities, members of their family, their former transition program coordinator, and members of their support network including current employers or support service providers. This qualitative study used Bronfenbrenner’s (1977) ecological model and Kohler’s (1996) Taxonomy for Transition to frame three case studies designed to capture the transition experience of young adults with disabilities who exited a university-based, school district funded, transition program.

Using Bronfenbrenner’s (1977) ecological perspective, which focused on a behavior or interaction of people across multiple environments, the aim was to interview individuals from the micro, meso, and exo levels within the individuals’ systems of support. The transition experience took place outside the bounds of a school and involved a broad network of support that ranged from close nuclear ties between the individual with disabilities and their family members to broader social ties between the individual with disabilities and their employer or support service provider.

A total of nineteen interviews were conducted for this study. Each interview lasted between twenty to ninety minutes in length. Individuals were asked to participate in an interview to respond to pre-scripted, open-ended questions based around Kohler’s (1996) five domains of transition within the Transition Taxonomy. The nineteen interviews were transcribed, coded and organized around themes linked to the five domains of transition: student-focused planning, student development, program structure, family involvement and interagency collaboration. In addition to the five domains of transition, five additional themes were common across members of the three case studies. These additional themes included:

• It Takes a Strong Interconnected Network

• Recognizing Narrative is Critical

• Inclusion is Important to the Community

• A Knowledgeable Transition Coordinator is Integral

• Life is Comprised of a Series of Transitions

The transition from high school to post-school life includes a focus on employment and independent living. That transition is unique and personal, but regardless of the person, a network of support is required to ensure success. The three young adults who were interviewed and around whom the case studies were developed exemplify the importance of maintaining a strong support network as you plan for and implement the transition from school to post-secondary life. Each young adult has utilized ties with family and members of their community to secure paid employment, maintain their social circles, and expand their level of independence.