A New Way of Thinking


This guide was created to provide teachers with a tool to assist students with disabilities to: learn about themselves, including how to accept themselves and their disability; understand how to combat Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) and change what students think about themselves; learn how to have a voice through self-advocacy and personal empowerment; and to create a vision for their future goals.

We asked Wisconsin youth in high schools and colleges how they felt about themselves and their disabilities when they were in middle and high school. These are the results we received:

  1. I’m stupid
  2. I’m not normal
  3. I won’t have friends because of my disability
  4. I’ll never be popular and no one will ever like me
  5. Everyone is looking at me because of my disability
  6. I will never go to college
  7. My teachers do not understand me
  8. Life is not fair, it’s hard
  9. I will never amount to anything
  10. I am not as important as my peers
  11. I wish I was smart
  12. Everyone thinks I’m dumb anyways, why try
  13. I can’t do anything right, I’m stupid
  14. I read too slow to be smart
  15. There is no point
  16. I am a loser
  17. I am a disappointment
  18. I am not meant for school
  19. Life sucks, why me
  20. Just let me be

Many of the surveyed students reported they still have high anxieties and continue to have these feelings in their lives past high school. We realized there needs to be a new way of thinking. Youth reported if we can get students with disabilities in middle school to understand their disability and abilities while their transition is beginning, then change can begin. This is why the guide has been developed. Middle school students and teachers must begin to understand the importance of transition by age 14 (or younger).

We hope you will find the guide easy to use. Remember, this is only a guide. Please change it to meet the needs of your students, school, and community! Our hope is also that you will share your thoughts and ideas with us to continually build a document usable for all middle school educators.

We appreciate your time and effort to continually make transition a priority in your students’ lives!


We would like to thank the following people and organizations for their ideas and input into this project. Much information for this guide was created by the Pennsylvania Youth Leadership Network.

Michael Stoehr, Educational Consultant, The Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PATTaN), Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Youth Leadership Network: Secondary Transition Toolkit (developed by youth for youth) http://pyln.org/Files/PYLN2ndTransitionToolkit.pdf

Daniel G. Amen MD, Resources ANTS, “Change Your Brain ChangeYour Life,” http://www.amenclinics.com/, 888-564-2700

We would like to thank the following people for their review and insights into this guide:

Nicole Spang – Edgerton School District, Wisconsin Michelle Uetz – River Falls School District, Wisconsin Paula Dabel – CESA 2, Whitewater, Wisconsin

Peggy Strong – CESA 2, Whitewater, Wisconsin Wendi Dawson – Department of Public Instruction

The Teacher Insight was developed by: Tessa Nelson – Independent Consultant

This guide was developed using the above resources by:

Steve Gilles, Consultant 608-335-8363 gilles4@sbcglobal.net

Pam Jenson, CESA 2 Transition Consultant 608-921-1400 pam.jenson@cesa2.org

This document was produced under U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs Grant No. H323A070022-11 and the Wisconsin Statewide Transition Initiative (CFDA #84.027). WSTI acknowledges the support of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction in the development of this guide and for the continued support of this federally-funded grant program. There are no copyright restrictions on this document; however, please credit the Wisconsin DPI and support of federal funds when copying all or part of this material. The contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government. (34 CFR Sec. 75.620)