for Transition Components of the IEP
Barbara D. Bateman, Ph.D., J.D.
article is part of a longer article, Writing
IEPs for Success. Dr. Barbara Bateman is the author of Writing
Measurable IEP Goals and Objectives.
Developing Transition Component of the IEP
Joe's IEP Non-form
services must be included in all IEPs when the student reaches
age 16 and may be included for younger students if deemed appropriate
by the IEP team (OSEP Letter to Anonymous, 17 EFLR 842). Preventing
school drop-out is to be a major factor in determining when transition
services are needed (OSEP Letter to Bereuter 20 IDELR 536).
See also Appendix
A to IDEA 97
Transition services are a coordinated set of activities that promote
movement from school to such post-school activities as post-secondary
education, vocational training, employment, adult services, independent
living and community participation. They must be based on the individual
student's needs, taking into account his or her preferences and interests.
Transition services must include instruction, community experiences,
and development of employment and other post school adult living objectives.
If appropriate, daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation
may also be included.
If the IEP team determines an individual student does not need services
in one or more of these areas the IEP must contain a statement to
that effect and the basis upon which the determination is made (OSEP
Letter to Cernosia 19 IDELR 933).
See Joe's Non-Form IEP transition component for
an example of such a statement regarding employment. Before the student
leaves school the IEP must also contain, if appropriate, a statement
of each public agency's and each participating agency's responsibilities
or linkages (including financial) for the transition activities (34
CFR 300.346(d) and comment).
The IEP meeting must include a representative of the public agency
providing and supervising the transition activities and, if appropriate,
representatives of other participating agencies. In almost all situations
the familiar district representative required for all IEP meetings
would qualify as this representative. If appropriate, the student
should also be there to ensure her or his needs, preferences, and
interests are addressed. It is difficult to imagine circumstances
where it would not be appropriate for a student who has a learning
disability to be at the meeting. If the student cannot attend, other
methods of participating must be used (34 CFR 300.344(c)(3)).
The ultimate responsibility for providing transition services rests
with the school district (or state education agency if district fails)
and there is no provision for a waiver of this requirement.
Thus it applies to all public agencies to whom IDEA applies and, if
a participating agency defaults on service provision, it is the school
that must find an alternative way to provide the service. However,
nothing in IDEA relieves a participating agency of any of its responsibility
for serving or paying for services for that student.
Two 1994 due process hearings against an Iowa district resulted in
rulings that the district's failure to provide appropriate transition
planning and services precluded the district from graduating the student
and obligated it to provide further vocational programs (Mason
City Comm. Sch. Dist. 21 IDELR 241 and 21 IDELR 248).
the Transition Component of the IEP
The transition component of the IEP is just that, a part of
the student's regular IEP. It is not a parallel document, a separate
thing, or a "transition IEP." All the IEP development requirements
and procedures discussed earlier also apply to the transition component.
The legal significance of transition, being but one aspect of the
IEP process, is substantial. A student is entitled to those transition
services which for that student are either special education or related
services necessary to enable the student to benefit from special education.
The period of "benefit" to be considered has arguably been
lengthened beyond school and into adult life, but the substantive
entitlement is still to special education and related services, not
to those plus transition services.
One logical beginning point for the transition component is with the
team reaching agreement about the individual student's needs
with regard to the three mandated areas of:
(b) community experiences; and
(c) employment and other post-school living objectives.
If the team deems it inappropriate to address an area, presumably
because the student presents no unique needs, the IEP must include
the basis for that determination. The student's needs, taking into
account interests and preferences, can be explored prior to the meeting
and substantial input should also be sought from the parents. Questionnaires
Zigmond (1990) has studied extensively secondary programs for students
with learning disabilities and suggested four major areas of program
First, many of these students need, and too few receive, intensive
basic skills instruction. Too many programs slight basic skills
altogether, believing it is too late while others require students
to "do" basic skills activities, but provide next to no
real instruction. What Zigmond calls "Survival Skills"
includes explicit instruction needed by most LD students in behavior
control, teacher-pleasing and study skills including test taking.
The third need is for successful completion of courses required
for graduation. As schools suffer funding cut backs, so-called
basic level courses in math and English often disappear, leaving IEP
teams to struggle with issues of granting graduation credit for resource
room courses or for extensively modified regular courses. One legally
correct solution is for the district to establish what the essential,
minimum requirements are for credit toward graduation. Those may be
rigorously adhered to, as long as reasonable modifications are allowed
in how the requirement is met. The IEP should lay out these understandings
clearly and explicitly.
Transition needs are the last area Zigmond addresses. She points
out that about 12 to 30% of graduating LD students go on to college
and they, of course, have transition needs related to selecting and
applying to a school. She also notes that vocational education programs
in high school are not necessarily a better ticket to job success
than are more academic programs. We are left realizing, again, that
many secondary programs still need improvement and that we must truly
ook, in the IEP process, at the individual needs and situation of
One of the most important additional skills needed by many students
who have learning disabilities is self-advocacy. The student's
presentation of his or her needs at the IEP meeting may itself provide
one opportunity to assess and discuss self-advocacy skills. Another
concern for some students with learning disabilities is passing the
examinations required to obtain a driver's license.
Using the same basic three-step inquiry process used in the rest of
the IEP and with self-advocacy and obtaining a driver's license as
the student's needs we can illustrate the inclusion of transition
services on the IEP. This Non-Form is nearly identical to that used
earlier to show Joe's IEP. The only difference is that the present
level of performance is included in the first rather than last column.
That is just another way of doing it and is unrelated to the fact
we are illustrating transition.
It is important to note that the Secretary of Education has acknowledged
that not all the IEP content requirements, especially goals and objectives,
are appropriate for all transition services (FR 44847, discussion
of 34 CFR 300.346). No IEP team should use time or energy trying to
fit transition needs and services into a format including annual goals
and objectives unless it truly makes sense to do so.
Many secondary teachers report they have no idea which of their students,
if any, are on IEPs and that they never see the IEP even when they
are informed a student has one. This is sad, perhaps sometimes even
tragic. By its very nature a good IEP is always helpful and sometimes
essential in providing an appropriate program for the student. Rarely
is a student's disability so mild or limited that she or he requires
no modifications or accommodations in regular middle school or high
When this process of hiding IEPs from teachers is questioned the common
answer suggests a belief that confidentiality would be violated if
IEPs were shared. While it is true IEPs are education records and
must be treated as such, the Family
Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) has an exception
which is pertinent. Under Reg. 99.31(a) of the FERPA regulations,
an educational agency may disclose personally identifiable information
from the education records of a student without the written consent
of the parent "if the disclosure is to other school officials,
including teachers, within the educational institution or local education
agency who have been determined by the agency or institution to have
legitimate educational interests" in that information.
Furthermore, even if there were a confidentiality problem under state
law or district policy it could be readily solved by parental permission
to share the IEP with all teachers. Parents should insist teachers
have copies of the IEP, even if it means they themselves must provide
them to the teachers. Of course, it should go without saying that
the IEP should not contain any information beyond what is required.
It would not be appropriate, e.g., to include the category of disability
or an intelligence score, etc.
We are all new at incorporating transition services into the IEP and
into the broader world. Few rulings are yet available to assist us
in understanding new requirements. Already a few areas of confusion
are emerging. Several are in the direction of an unduly expansive
reading of the new regulations.
First, the transition activities which must be addressed, unless the
IEP team finds it unnecessary, are: (a) instruction; (b) community
experiences; and (c) the development of objectives related to employment
and other post-school areas. There is a tendency to confuse these
three requirements with the post-school activities to which the three
are to be directed, i.e., post-secondary education, vocational training,
employment, adult services, independent living, etc. Many "lists"
are available which can be seen as suggesting the IEP must address
the latter directly rather than the former.
A second source of confusion is that by erroneously viewing the transition
component of the IEP as a thing unto itself it is easy to forget that
IDEA entitles the student who has a disability only to special education
and related services. The transition services to which a student is
entitled must fit the definition of one or the other. Therefore, each
required transition service must be either specially designed instruction
to meet the students' unique needs (taking into account his preferences
and interests) or it must be required to enable the student to benefit
from that instruction. The fact that transition services must qualify
as either special education or related services may not pose a significant
limitation since one could argue that almost any transition service
is necessary to enable the student to reap the benefits of all the
special education she or he has had to date.
A third overly broad reading is the failure to recognize that "student's
preferences and interests" refers to determining the student's
needs, not to delineating the services to be provided (34 CFR 300.18(b)(1)(2)).
One way to approach the question of student needs is to envision a
typical weekday and a typical weekend after secondary school. Is the
student still living in his or her parents' home? Has she gotten an
apartment? Does he know how to find apartment ads in the classifieds?
How to respond to an ad? How to locate the address?
The exact process the IEP team goes through in looking into a student's
post-school future and planning for it will differ from student to
student, as it should. The essential elements which will not vary
include student and family participation and the willingness
of the IEP team to address all the areas of need-intensive and effective
basic skills instruction (not just exposure and not just repetitious
practice), explicit survival skills, graduation requirements, and
Properly used, the IEP can be an extraordinarily useful tool in building
the future we desire for our students who have learning disabilities.
IEP NON-FORM (TRANSITION)
(taking into account preferences & interests)
Education & Related Services
to be Provided and Agency Linkages
& Responsibilities (L & R)
1. Self-Advocacy (PLOP): presently
Jim is unaware of his legal rights under Section 504 and ADA,
and unable to express the accommodations he would need in given
situations in such a large class
1. Small group instruction from
Special Ed teacher in relevant rights & procedures under
Section 504, ADA, IDEA
Role-playing as describing needed
accommodations to "employers" and "professors"
(Services to begin Tuesday, Sept.
15, two 30-minute sessions weekly until goals are met.)
(L & R) Protection &
Advocacy will assist teacher and provide materials at no
cost. Verified by phone - M. Adams.
1. Goal: Appropriately
explain to a potential employer, professor, or other representative
of the post-school world what accommodations are needed and,
if necessary, the basis for the request.
1. By Dec. 15, Jim will pass (75%) of a 25-item objective test
over basic rights and procedures under Sec.504 and ADA.
2. By March 1, given 5 hypothetical situations of common denial
of rights under Sec.504 or ADA, correctly explain possible actions
and defend choice of actions to be taken.
2. Driver's License (PLOP): Jim
has been driving for a year on a learner's permit and is concerned
he cannot pass the test required for his license, although he
is confident of all his driving and related skills except map
2. Within two weeks the driver
training instructor will inform Jim about accommodations in
the state, if any, for licensing people with learning disabilities.
Then she and Jim will develop a plan to follow through and that
plan will be added to this IEP no later than Oct. 10.
Instruction in appropriately
obtaining assistance in (a) route highlighting and (b) map drawing
will be incorporated in self-advocacy practice above.
(L & R) DMV will assist
instructor and will provide information on test accommodations.
Verified by phone - J. Hill.
2. Goal: Jim will be a
competent, licensed driver in Jefferson state prior to June
15 and will be able to obtain and follow highlighted maps and
1. By Dec. 1, Jim will be able to describe correctly 8 of 10
times how he would get from A to B following a highlighted map
and will 8 of 20 times succeed in getting clerks, gas station
attendants or others to assist him in drawing a line map with
approximate distances and major landmarks.
2. By Dec. 15, Jim will score at least 70% on practice exams,
administered under actual conditions.
Zigmond. N., (1990). Rethinking secondary school programs for students
with learning disabilities. Focus on Exceptional Children, 23,1,1-22.