Why You Need to Begin Transition Planning Early

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My child is 14. When I requested a transition plan and transition services, the IEP team said they don’t have to provide transition services until he is 16. Is this correct?

No! Transition services must be included in the IEP that is in effect when your child turns 16. In general, that IEP will be developed when he is 15.[1] Some states adopted a lower age for transition so you need to check your state’s special ed regulations.

The first IEP in effect when your child turns 16 (or younger if the team decides this is appropriate) must include measurable transition goals based on transition assessments. This applies to all IEPs for all children with disabilities who will be 16 years old.

Transition plans can include academic and non-academic courses, employment, training, and other services to prepare your child for life after school. Transition services:

  • Improve your child’s academic and functional achievement
  • Are individualized, based on your child’s needs, and take into account his strengths, preferences, and interests
  • Include instruction, related services, community experiences, employment, adult living skills, daily living skills, evaluations

The goal of transition is to help the child make a smooth transition from school to employment and further education. Transition services must be based on “the individual child’s needs, taking into account the child’s strengths, preferences, and interests.” [2]

Another goal of transition is to reduce the number of children with disabilities who drop out of school. If the IEP team selects courses of study that are meaningful to your child, he is more likely to stay in school.

Transition planning should help your child understand his disability and what he needs to be successful. To be effective, a transition plan must be individualized to his needs and implemented properly. The IEP team should work closely with you and your child to implement the plan.

To get the transition ball rolling, write a letter requesting an IEP meeting to discuss your child’s needs related to his disability and his transition needs. Do research on transition for children with your child’s disability. Use this information to make your case about why the team should begin transition planning early. Bring extra copies of documents for the team members so they understand your position.

Chapter 9 in Wrightslaw: All About IEPs is about “Transition to Life After School.” This chapter includes information about transition assessments, transition plans and services, and how to negotiate for services. You’ll find a Transition Checklist on page 89.

Additional Resources

Transition Plans, Assessments, Goals and Services from Wrightslaw.com

Transition: Qs & As from the Wrightslaw Way Blog

Transition to Adulthood  series.  Available in Spanish – Transición a la Vida Adulta from the Center for Parent Information & Resources.

Transition Goals in the IEP – Includes a Checklist of Questions to Ask; good examples of real life measurable (and non-measurable) transition goals in three areas:  education/training, employment, and independent living. Excellent resource from the Center for Parent Information & Resources.

Age Appropriate Transition Assessment – Toolkit by National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT)

Transition Assessment Reviews from the Transition Coalition Univ. of Kansas)

[1] 20 U.S.C. § 1414(d)(1)(A)(i)(VIII); 34 C.F.R. § 300.322(b)(2)
[2] 20 U.S.C. §1401(34)

  1. When a parent requests further evaluation in the MET meeting, does the timeline for initial eval still count?

  2. Hello. My son is 15 years old. For his IEP meeting his teacher completed a “Transition IEP Pre-planning Form” The form states “Dear Parent… complete the following survey with your son or daughter prior to your scheduled meeting.” She then emailed it to me asking me to print and sign and return. The form clearly states “Dear Parent, etc.” I have always been an advocate for my son and have had to push and push the district to get my son to services he needs. I do not think it was appropriate for the teacher to complete the form and then ask me to sign it.

    My question is: Is a teacher legally permitted to complete a school district IEP form for the parent without the parent’s consent?

    • That would likely depend on the state, & district rules. The state agency that accredits educators should have a process for making complaints about educators not following their code of conduct. The district should also have a process for dealing with this type of complaint.

  3. Since the Covid 19 crisis the distance learning by zoom is not working for many students with IEP especially those that respond to one on one instruction. Do parent’s have an recourse to ask for compensation time or asking for their child to repeat a grade due to the crisis. Do students that have aged out at 21 before the school year do they have any options to stay one more year due to the Covid crisis?

    • Diana, apologies for the delay. We’ve been swamped. In a word, yes. Unless your school district is ensuring that your child receives individualized tutoring through distance learning, your child is entitled to compensatory education. Same with students who would have aged out. We are writing about compensatory education – please see most recent newsletter: https://www.wrightslaw.com/nltr/20/nl.0527.htm
      We were on a webinar and a podcast in the past 10 days or so to discuss compensatory ed. The link I provided has links to the Webinar and podcast. I believe we are schedule as guests on another webinar next week (last I heard, this was on Tuesday).

  4. PLEASE HELP! My son is getting ready to graduate high school this June and I want to have transitions in place. School informed me that his services end and it is not their responsibility to give him transition services. I argue that it is and school responds in writing that my son is retarded and won’t amount to anything. What is wrong with this picture? What should I be doing for my next step to help my son.

    • In January, you wrote that your boy is “getting ready to graduate high school” in June. You wanted the school to provide transition services. The school said they aren’t responsible for providing transition services.

      I don’t know anything about your boy but I do know that he doesn’t HAVE to graduate in June. If he isn’t prepared for the next steps in life and the adults in his life dropped the balls that might have helped, you and he may consider putting off HS graduation until he is better prepared.

      The IDEA requires the IEP team to develop a transition plan for each student with a disability. The plan should include transition services based on a variety of assessments. The transition plan should be incorporated into the IEP that was in place when he turned 16 (some states have a younger age).

      These timelines were created because transition to life after school is often complicated. The purpose of a 2-3+ year transition is to prepare the child for the next steps – a job, more education, and life after school. Waiting until the last minute isn’t advised.

      What does your boy want to do? Does he know? What does he dream about doing? What is his temperament? Personality? Strengths and weaknesses? What knowledge and skills does he need to be better prepared for the next steps?

  5. My son is 15 and just started high school he is still in need of basic reading and math skills to prepare him for life after high school as per IDEA Law. The school said that they no longer provide those services once in high school and instead the schools focus is that he pass the state alternate assessment. Can I request tutoring?

  6. My son just turned 16 and i requested for Transition Services. School responded in writing that they do not care what he does when he leaves school. They also said services end and they don’t have to provide transitional services and I am not to ask them again.

    • If you have not communicated with the special ed director, I would suggest doing so. You can contact your state parent training and information center for assistance in knowing your options. Contacting your state department of education is one option.

  7. Can we stop the N.C. academic core standards for a 16 year old that are meaningless and do not generalize to any other location and only provide transition services that teach tasks that the child will be able to use as an adult and tasks that generalize to the home and other community environments? I am a parent advocate and autism specialist helping the parent teach the child board games (to use for social interaction), arts and crafts (beading), sticker puzzles, etc. that enable him to do some things independently or with a caretaker. This child will be living at home as an adult and require caretakers.

  8. My two sons 15 & 17 (10th and 11th grade) are due for a triennal eval. The school is giving us two options. Option 1 – Full battery of tests which helps them restablish their eligibility for Special Ed under the categories of Autism and Speech & Language Impairment. Option 2 – Triennal report that confirms eligibility under above categories, & continuation of services at current school by reviewing their previous psychoed reports. Report will also discuss current progress in their classes per classroom assessment by their case manager & review progress on IEP goals over the last 3 yrs. What would you recommend?

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