All Tuesday Tips

Indigenous Peoples’ Day, celebrated on the second Monday of October, is a way of celebrating the resiliency, contributions, and culture of Indigenous peoples. As a transition educator, it is important that you recognize that different cultures can require different approaches to transition.

According to the Understanding Disabilities in American Indians & Alaska Native Communities Toolkit:

  • In 2018, 18% of American Indian/Alaskan Native (AI/AN) students aged 3–21 received special education services, the highest of any racial/ethnic group.
  • There is a 67% AI/AN graduation rate compared to a national average of 80%.
  • In Indiana, .23% of children with disabilities identify as American Indian / Alaska Native (Office of Special Education Programs).

Informed transition educators strive to understand the diverse cultural backgrounds of their students, and then remain open to differences that may be necessary for individual transition success. For example, see this article from Achola and Greene about how to plan for a positive transition experience for the culturally and linguistically diverse in your classrooms.

Check out the resources below to find out how you can help students with disabilities who identify as native celebrate their heritage—and at the same time educate all your students about native history and contributions.


Are you looking for ways to help students become active participants in the decision-making process? Maybe they need coaching on how not to become a silent bystander while others chart their path. If so, the I’m Determined project, sponsored by the Virginia Department of Education, has the educational supports you are seeking.

I’m Determined is an excellent source for youth, educators, and families needing direct instruction and skill-development in self-determination practices. Find out more about the project’s history here.

I’m Determined Quick Links:

Tools for adapting existing lesson plans, supporting, and encouraging self-determined behavior in your classroom. 

Includes 10 short videos covering topics such as the importance of student voice and instructional design. For all grade levels.

A video series to get your students actively involved in the IEP process. Watch the video and use the site's one-pagers to increase student engagement.

Section with amazing resources for practicing self-determination skills. 

150 different tools on self-determination, sortable by tool type, grade level, audience, and topic.

As educators, we play a vital role in motivating students. Encouraging them to actively participate in the planning for their employment, education and training, and community living goals increases their chances for success.

Reading provides a unique lens to view characters whose circumstances and life experiences mirror our own or bring to light perspectives very different from our own.

In Harper Lee’s renowned novel To Kill a Mockingbird, the wise and respected character, Atticus Finch, teaches his daughter Scout that judging someone (Boo Radley) before knowing them is not a fair assessment of their character.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” 

What better way to teach this valuable life lesson than through reading novels? By including novels that depict characters impacted by disability in your classroom or school library, you open the door to self-discovery, awareness, and acceptance.

Attention Deficit Disorder

Cerebral Palsy

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Deaf/Hard of Hearing


Down Syndrome

Tourette’s Syndrome



Find more book options on these websites:

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, a time to reflect on the unsettling realities that face the nation’s youth, particularly those with disabilities.

Recent sobering statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness reveal that suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 10–14. For youth ages 15–24, it stands as the third leading cause. These are more than just numbers—these are the youth walking the halls in our schools.

The good news is that your role as a special education professional grants you a unique vantage point and opportunity to identify and support students at risk of suicide. Recognizing exactly which students is the important first step, and guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics (2022) points to the risk categories you should heed:

  • Individual factors. A history of attempts, mental health condition, social isolation, or substance abuse.
  • Relational factors. Exposure to bullying, adverse childhood experiences, conflict with peers, and a family history of suicide.

Stay alert for the typical warning signs, which might include:

  • expressions about a lack of self-worth or a desire for self-harm;
  • mood changes, accompanied by agitated or depressive states; and
  • behavioral changes such as social withdrawal, disrupted sleep patterns, irritability, or giving away valued possessions.

The topic of suicide is complex and requires a comprehensive approach. We encourage you to acquaint yourself with the diverse set of resources available on the subject.

Most importantly, remember that your proactive communication might just be the pivotal step in the early intervention and support for the student displaying suicidal tendencies.


Bonus Tip

Indiana Vocational Rehabilitation is partnering with PCG-Indiana, Inc. to host online listening sessions. They want to hear from Pre-ETS providers, advocates, students, families, and teachers to learn what's working well and what needs to improve for Pre-ETS and the transition system.

Join one of these online chats to share your thoughts on how to make job training better in Indiana and offer more support to everyone involved. Visit the Level Up Pre-ETS website for registration details.

Do you have students excited and curious about the workforce and accommodations? Before they dive into employment, it is essential they grasp the concept of reasonable accommodations. Guide them through the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) and related resources and they will gain insight into disability rights, preparing for conversations, and securing the right accommodations.

The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act protects people with disabilities from discrimination in areas such as employment, transportation, and communication. After disclosing their disability to an employer, the next step might be a request for accommodations.

Accommodations are personalized, hinging on open dialogue between employee and employer. JAN is a free online resource offering expert counsel for those needing reasonable accommodations for employment or as employers seeking information on compliance and support.

Prepare your students for success.


“Thanks again for all that you do to support transitioning students and their families. Have a wonderful summer and we’ll see you in the fall!”

Those were the closing remarks from our last Tuesday’s Transition Tips before the summer break. By the time you read this, your break has ended and you are now deeply embedded in another school year. Let us learn together how to use your student’s summer experiences as content for the transition portfolio.

The transition portfolio includes four domains:

  • Student Information
  • Student Learning Characteristics
  • Academic Skills
  • Employability Skills

Summer experiences may well fit into any of these domains as an artifact. For example, a summer job could represent Employability Skills, a camping trip might apply to the Student Information domain (hobbies, interests). Volunteer work, and even unstructured volunteer work, could be an artifact in the Employability Skills domain.

You can develop an artifact in various ways, such as through a narrative document, a captioned photo, or a video with a spoken explanation.

Consider having a post-summer topical conversation with any student requiring a transition portfolio. That conversation might provide additional insight into student interests, additional career pathways exposures that may have occurred through the summer, or interests/hobbies the student may have engaged in during the summer.

Topical question prompts might include:

  • What was new for you this summer?
  • What did you want to do this summer but couldn’t?
  • What surprised you about your summer activities?
  • What was the best or not-so-great thing about your summer break?

If you have any questions, join us during our FREE open Transition Office Hours every Thursday from 2:30–4:30 p.m. Eastern. We encourage you to take advantage of this resource.

According to Merriam-Webster, empathy is understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and encounters of another. Teaching students empathy prepares them for life after high school.  For example, dealing with a coworker, understanding the reasons why a boss changed the work schedule, and connecting with a job coach require empathy. 

There are three types of empathy:

  • Emotional empathy happens when we physically feel what another is feeling. For example, we might cry when someone close to us is crying.
  • Compassionate empathy involves offering supportive action such as a listening ear.
  • Cognitive empathy occurs when we know and understand what someone is thinking or feeling. For instance, attending a webinar on a new corporate policy, we practice cognitive empathy.

Communicating the importance and practice of empathy prepares students for success in many settings. So how can we teach empathy?

  • Model and practice active listening. Quiet your thoughts, face the student, maintain eye contact, and listen to learn. Ask questions to ensure understanding. For example, “From what I hear, this is a very difficult time for you.”
  • Consistently discuss perspective. After reading an article, discuss the individuals involved and how the experience affects them.
  • Practice postponing judgement. Teach students to ask questions. When resolving a conflict between two students, encourage them to ask, “What information am I missing? How can I learn more about this before forming an opinion?”
  • Participate in community or schoolwide projects. Identify areas in your school or community where people need help. Plan the process together. Afterwards, reflect on how the experience made everyone feel.


As you return from a well-deserved summer break, remember that your health and wellbeing are vital to having a successful school year. Taking care of yourself daily alleviates stress, avoids burnout, and will have you feeling rejuvenated.

What’s more, by modeling healthy behaviors, students see your efforts and learn by example. When you feel good, your students do too!

Here are some ways to incorporate wellness into your school day:

  • Meditation—Dedicate the first five minutes of the school day to meditation. Dim the lights, create a quiet space, and have students close their eyes. These practices will foster self-awareness, better focus, less stress, and improved sleep. Free apps such as Smiling Mind or UCLA Mindful offer a range of meditations in different languages.
  • Journaling—Introduce journaling into daily classroom routines. It only takes five minutes and allows students to document what they have learned, express their thoughts, wishes, and affirmations. Journaling promotes emotional processing, self-discovery, and helps ward off negativity. Canva provides free templates, and standard notebooks work just as well.
  • Walking and Physical Movement—Take weekly outdoor walks with your students, exploring the school grounds or nearby park. Integrate walking into lessons on history, science, or health. Physical movement helps clear the mind, reduce stress, and improve sleep. Be creative in including movement into daily classroom routines.
  • Gratitude List—Create a classroom gratitude board, listing things you and your students are thankful for in and outside of school. Consider using gratitude jars for anonymous participation, where students contribute daily gratitudes and read them together at the end of the week or during challenging times.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to making a gratitude jar for your classroom.

Incorporating wellness activities into your daily classroom routines equips students with lifelong skills—What a gift!

Take care, teachers.


With the days of summer growing shorter and the school year upon us, the Indiana Secondary Transition Resource Center extends a warm “Welcome back!” to all transition education professionals as you prepare to dive into another academic adventure.

Starting a new school year can be daunting, but a little preparation can ease the anxiety. Check out the resources below to help you ease back into “teacher mode” and get ready for the coming semester.

INSTRC supports you: We are still here and eager to assist with your secondary transition needs! Here are three easy ways to connect with us:

Have a great school year and keep an eye out for more Transition Tips every Tuesday.


This is the final edition of Tuesday's Transition Tips for the 2022-2023 school year—how time has flown!

As the school year comes to a close, the team behind these weekly tips would like to express our gratitude for your dedication and hard work. Despite the never-ending list of challenges and the need to adapt to new processes, tools, and strategies for your students’ planning and growth, you have persevered!

Tuesday's Transition Tips will be on hiatus for a few months, so we encourage special educators to use the transition resources we have collected over the years: 

Most of all, we urge you to take this summer as an opportunity to focus on the four R’s: Rest, Relax, Reflect, and Recharge. You deserve some well-earned rejuvenation (that’s a fifth R!)

Thanks again for all that you do to support transitioning students and their families. Have a wonderful summer and we’ll see you in the fall! 

Bonus Tip

Two upcoming opportunities to learn how to create quality and compliant transition documents?

  • June 5–Excellence for Everyone: The Transition IEP 
  • June 6–Excellence for Everyone: The Transition Portfolio

Sessions run 9–11:30 a.m. and 1–3:30 p.m. Eastern on each date.  Cost is $35 per session. 

Tell your friends and colleagues! 

Register Today!