Presumption of incompetence: The systematic assignment of guardianship within the transition process

Carrie E. Rood, Arlene Kanter, Julie Causton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


This article describes the potential impact that state guardianship laws may have on the transition planning process for students identified with intellectual and developmental disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Improvement Act. The authors utilize a disability studies framework to describe how the goals of transition planning under the IDEIA -which promote autonomy and independence- Appear to be in direct conflict with the goal of guardianship laws -which is to remove from young adults all or some decision making authority over their own lives. The appointment of guardians for students at the age of majority necessarily limits opportunities for students to develop decision making skills, just at the time in their lives when they should be supported by teachers and school staff to become self-determined adults. The presumption of competency as an underlying approach to all students with disabilities is discussed, and which, if used, will assist teachers, family members, and students themselves in better preparing for and successfully meeting the goals of the IDEIA. The authors suggest that parents, families and educational professionals need to be made aware of alternatives to guardianship that position the student at the center of the decision-making process in order to ensure that the goals of the IDEIA are realized for each student.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)319-328
Number of pages10
JournalResearch and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2014


  • Guardianship
  • Human rights
  • Person-centered planning
  • Transition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Social Psychology
  • General Health Professions


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