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Do Youth with Disabilities and their Parents Have the Same Postsecondary Expectations?

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Research Summary


One of the goals of vocational rehabilitation is to assist youth with disabilities during their transition from school to adult life. Research has shown that high parental expectations of youth with disabilities increases their success and achievement when pursuing education, employment, financial independence, and independent living goals. This research study set out to examine similarities and differences between parent and youth expectations, expectations by disability category, and whether expectations can predict outcomes.

Key Findings

  • Parents consistently had lower expectations than did the youth themselves.
  • Higher youth expectations positively affected postsecondary education and independent living outcomes.
  • Parental expectations about financial independence were lower than youths - and were a more accurate predictor of outcomes.
  • Agreement on expectations were most common between parents and youth when the students had learning disabilities or speech impairments.
  • Youth with intellectual or emotional disabilities were less likely to be in agreement with their parents about probable outcomes.
  • The higher the parent and youth expectations, the better the outcome in all three categories: pursuit of postsecondary education, financial independence, and independent living goals.

Put It Into Practice


Tips and tools to help you apply best practices at work.

  • Encourage parents to have high expectations for their youth.
  • Leverage youths’ positive expectations to support them in pursuing postsecondary, employment, financial independence, and independent living goals.
  • Emphasize the positive outcomes that result in youth participating in their own transition planning.
  • Prevent confusion during transition planning by discovering the degree to which youth, parent, and educator expectations are similar.
  • Work toward helping parents and youth agree about their expectations.
  • Help parents focus on supporting youth expectations and aspirations, rather than emphasizing their own goals for their children.
  • Work with parents to engage youth in activities that promote self-determination as early in their development as possible.

More About the Research

Opportunities for further research include finding out more about the causes of gaps between youth and parent expectations, exploring the importance of self-determination in predicting outcomes, and whether parent and youth expectations change over time. Another area to consider is whether direct interventions can help youth and parents achieve the same high levels of expectation.

Learn More

Kirby, A.V., Dell’Armo, K., & Persch, A.C. (2019). Differences in youth and parent postsecondary expectations for youth with disabilities. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 51, 77-86.