Wadlington, C., DeOrnellas, K., & Scott, S. R. (2017). Developing effective transition reports for secondary students: A nationwide survey of college and university disability support personnel . Exceptionality , 25 (3), 207–215. https://doi.org/10.1080/09362835.2017.1283623

Journal Article

Wadlington, C., DeOrnellas, K., & Scott, S. R. (2017). Developing effective transition reports for secondary students: A nationwide survey of college and university disability support personnel. Exceptionality, 25(3), 207–215. https://doi.org/10.1080/09362835.2017.1283623


No age; Teacher survey; U.S. context





Specific accommodations were not the focus of the study; instead, perspectives and experiences of postsecondary educators—specifically disability support service personnel—about accommodations selection and use were described. These practices were investigated in the scope of a larger project examining the transition process betweeen the secondary education (high school) context and the postsecondary setting.


Disability support service (DSS) professionals from 408 postsecondary institutions across the United States responded to the survey, with one professional reporting on their experiences at each institution. Additional descriptive information was reported on the respondents' postsecondary education programs. Regions across the U.S. were represented in the responses: South, 26%; Midwest, 21%; Northeast, 19%; and West, 14%. Both two-year (33% of responses) and four-year (67%) postsecondary institutions were represented. DSS professionals responded with perspectives on invisible disabilities— such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), learning disabilities (LD), and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Dependent Variable

The researchers developed the questionnaire, called the Postsecondary Experience Working with Disability Support Questionnaire (PEWDSQ), comprising several items for describing their institutions, as well as 49 items measuring DSS personnel attitudes, DSS practices for students with disabilities, and available supportive services. Attitudinal items pertained to DSS professionals' perspectives on invisible disabilities—such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), learning disabilities (LD), and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Data comprising responses to the PEWDSQ were collected for multiple studies within the project; the current study involved analyzing response frequencies across Likert-type ratings and other data from the open-response items inquiring about the use of transition reports for determining eligibility and selecting accommodations for secondary students with disabilities who have enrolled in postsecondary education.


The current study described survey results addressing coordination between secondary and postsecondary education to facilitate students' transition between education systems, and communication of high school records to postsecondary institutions for eligibility determinations and selection of accommodations. Current practices were described, and recommendations for improvements were compiled. The researchers reported that there were no substantial differences in the survey response patterns based on postsecondary institutions' characteristics, such as two-year and four-year durations, geographical regions, or university enrollment sizes. Less than 10 percent of respondents indicated that they often or almost always work with high school personnel on transition planning; 'never' or 'rarely' comprised the majority (67%) of replies. Respondents indicated the frequency that reports from high schools are accepted at postsecondary institutions for determining students' eligibility for academic support services: 22 percent indicated almost always doing so, 29 percent endorsed 'often', and 25 percent, sometimes. Most (62%) respondents indicated that these reports from high schools were at least somewhat, or more, useful, for eligibility determination, and even more (71%) respondents indicated that the high school information was at least somewhat useful to inform accommodations selection for their students with disabilities in the postsecondary setting. Respondents (n=311) made about 457 comments that provided recommendations about what would improve the usefulness of the information coming from high schools to eligibility and accommodations processes; two researchers independently coded these comments into 10 themes. One of the two most frequent themes, endorsed by 18 percent of respondents, was the recency of the students' functioning or difficulties and capabilities or strengths—that is, data within the previous two years. The other highly endorsed theme, per 18 percent of respondents, was academic test scores that have common or familiar metric information, that can be independently evaluated by postsecondary professionals. About 13 percent of respondents indicated needing information about students' history of accommodations usage, including the rationale for the selection of the accommodations in high school, and their impacts on academic performance; an additional six percent noted needing recommendations for accommodations that would be applicable and feasible in the postsecondary setting. About 12 percent of respondents endorsed the theme of information describing students' academic skills such as specific reading and writing skills, and also degree of familiarity with specific assistive technology supports. Five other themes each were endorsed by less than 10 percent of respondents: formal diagnoses, rather than identification of symptoms; informed perspective on distinction between IDEA in K–12 and ADA in postsecondary education; credentialed diagnostician as informant; testing normed on adult population; and students' self-advocacy capacity. Limitations of the study were reported, and future research directions were suggested.