Whose decision? : a longitudinal study of influences on the decision-making process during the transition from school of twelve young people with special educational needs
This study explores the experiences of twelve young people with a range of special educational needs and their families during the transition from school, and the influences upon them. Despite a growing mainstream literature on the processes of career decision-making, little attention has been paid to the experiences of young people with learning difficulties and/or disabilities at this point in their lives. An interpretative, longitudinal approach to the research design was adopted and data were collected through a combination of interviews, questionnaires and observations. The author argues that rather than the logical model of decision-making assumed by much national policy, the process is often messy, complex and unpredictable. A typology of decision-making processes is proposed. The study goes on to explore both the influences on and influence of the main participants directly involved in the decisionmaking process: the young people, their parents or carers, the professionals. Of all those involved, young people with learning difficulties were least likely to have their views heard or responded to. Equally, the coping mechanisms of parents, who were often central to the decision-making process, were not well recognised or understood by the professionals charged with providing support. It appears that where young people or parents found difficulty in asserting their preferences, serendipitous or chance events provided the vehicles through which they could exercise their wills, so that decisions were made despite rather than because of the formal decision-making procedures. Overall, the influences on young people with learning difficulties and/or disabilities are similar to those that influence non-disabled young people, but insufficient account is taken of these in providing support and guidance.