School of Health in Social Science

Transition Voices – Navigating Change

Transitions from school to adult services for young people with additional support needs are an issue at the moment and high on the agenda, mostly because it does not always seem to be working very well.

By Paula Jacobs

There has been a lack of studies that focus on young people with severe or profound learning disabilities. In relation to those with severe or profound learning disability, the transition process poses questions about decision-making capacity and how others can choose on behalf of the individual themselves. In my Masters research, which explored the experiences of young adults with brothers or sisters in residential care, the transition to adulthood stood out as a time where the lives young people and their siblings with severe learning disabilities seemed to take very different directions. Both my previous research and my own experience of working within a residential school for young people with additional support needs highlighted for me how life paths towards adulthood often differ for these young people due to higher support needs and difficulties in accessing further education or achieving employment.

When I began my research I wanted to find answers to the following questions: Where do people go once school ends? How is this decision made? Who decides what happens to young people who might be non-verbal and who are deemed as having no capacity to make complex decisions? How do families and professionals work together? And how are young people involved in the transition process? Where is their voice?

To find answers to my questions I followed three young people on their transition from school to adult services. I spend time with young people at their school and/or new adult service and I interviewed those that were involved in making decisions. Those included: parents, social workers, teachers, adult service staff, health professionals and local authority management. I tried to map out what exactly happened when, who was involved and how did different people reflect on their involvement and experience. I soon realized that through a focus on narrative my data could be presented in the form of a play, with different people involved reflecting on the unfolding transition. To highlight the different voices, including my own, I decided to write and record an audio play based on a composite case. The audio play will tell the story of James. Interview extracts from parents and professionals across the three cases are used to tell his story. At times minor changes needed to be made to fit James’s story but most extracts are direct quotes from my interviews.  



The audio play was recorded with the support of actors from the Bedlam society and the music was taken from artist Circus Marcus from the album 16/9 (track intro_outro and petite pice minime no 2). Available at freemucisarchive under the Attribution NonCommercial 3.0 International License.