SA Journal of Education, Volume 40, Supplement 2, December 2020

Transition from special school to post-school life in youths with severe intellectual disability: Parents’ experiences

Emalda Ellman, Amshuda Sonday, Helen Buchanan


Transitions are important landmarks in the educational career of youths, as successful transitions prepare them for adult life. When youths with disabilities leave school, the transition to post-school life is accompanied by several challenges. To our knowledge, there is currently limited information about how parents of youths with severe intellectual disabilities in South Africa experience this transition process. The study reported on here aimed to describe parents’ experiences of the transition of their child with severe intellectual disability from special school to post-school in a small town in the Western Cape, South Africa. A qualitative descriptive study using in-depth semi-structured interviews was conducted with 5 parents of youths with severe intellectual disability. Inductive analysis of the transcripts yielded 2 themes: “It really hit us hard”, and “adjustment to post-transition life.” The findings indicate that the meanings that parents attribute to their experience of transition are influenced by their personal responses and coping strategies within the context in which they find themselves during the transition period. Occupational therapists can assist in providing smoother transitions for youths with disabilities. Recommendations include addressing transition services on policy level.

ORCiD iDs of authors:
Emalda Ellman -
Amshuda Sonday -
Helen Buchanan -

Full Text: PDF