Transition Planning: Setting Lifelong Goals
by Jennifer Graham and Peter Wright, Esq.
As we enter the second half of the school year, many parents hear the clock ticking louder and louder as graduation nears.
We hope you have been working closely with your child’s IEP team through high school to ensure that appropriate transition goals have been established and your child's progress toward these goals has been measured and documented. IDEA requires Transition Services to be “results-oriented” to “facilitate the child’s movement from school to post school activities . . .”  The law requires that the IEP Transition Services be in place by (before) the child’s 16th birthday.
In this article, we provide you with two checklists and some advice to help your child make a successful transition from school to employment or further education.
The Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA) describes the required components of the transition plan. During your child's high school years, it is essential that the IEP team adhere to these requirements.
- The student must be invited to participate in IEP meetings to discuss his/her goals for life after high school.
- You may request several IEP/Transition Planning meetings during the school year.
- You may invite representatives of local agencies to these IEP meetings to discuss transition goals and services to support those goals.
- The IEP, including the transition plan, should be based on person-centered planning, and reflect the student’s interests and skills.
- The work experiences or “community based work assessments” (CBWAs) chosen should be based on the student’s interests and abilities. Students should NOT be placed in a community based work assessment simply because it is available.
- Any placement should help the student develop skills in a setting that is of personal interest to him/ her and where his/her unique abilities can be successfully utilized and improved with job coaching.
- Annual transition goals in the IEP should lead to successful post- high school outcomes.
- Progress should be documented and measurable.
- Ask for progress reports about your child’s community based work experience. Discuss with the IEP team how your child will meet the goal of being employed after graduation, without a lapse in supports and services.
- Maintain a portfolio and resume of your child’s experiences, progress reports, and favorable reviews from your child’s supervisors.
Transition Planning Checklist
While IDEA provides the legal requirements for transition services to support your child's goals of employment in the community or further education, there are several things that parents and students must do to prepare for life after high school.
- Confirm the date of your child's graduation. Federal law states that your child's eligibility for special education ends when s/he graduates from high school with a regular diploma or until the child reaches the age of eligibility for a free appropriate education under State law.
- Clarify whether your child will receive a regular high school diploma or a certificate of attendance.
- Clarify that you child will be able to fully participate in the graduation ceremony.
- Find out what local agencies provide job coaching for transitioning youth. Contacting adult provider agencies before your child graduates or “ages out” will help to ensure that your child will continue to receive services after graduation. This may also prevent your child from being placed on a long waiting list for adult services.
- You are entitled to invite representatives from other agencies to your child’s IEP meetings.
- If the IEP Team, which includes the parents and the child, determine that your child’s transition needs can be met by participating in transition programs on college campuses or in community based settings, these services should be included in the child’s IEP.
- If your child has a supports coordinator from your local office of Mental Health, Behavioral Health, or Intellectual / Developmental Disabilities, invite the supports coordinator to IEP meetings during the last year of high schoo, if appropriate. This person can help to coordinate post-high school support services.
- If your child will be eligible for services through Vocational Rehabilitation, schedule an appointment for an intake interview and file the necesssary paperwork with the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation ahead of time. Request that a Vocational Rehabilitation counselor attend the IEP meeting no later than spring of the your child’s last year in high school.
- Discuss your child's transportation needs. If s/he will need assistance getting to and from work, request and fill out applications for public transportation services.
- Request information about social/recreational opportunities for young adults with disabilities in your community. Ask for their contact information.
- Request information about post-high school training programs at local vocational schools, community colleges, business schools, and state-affiliated training schools.
When your child graduates from high school, you and your graduate should celebrate accomplishments -- and the transition to adulthood.
With the new emphasis on transition planning in IDEA 2004, and online resources such as www.wrightslaw.com, more students with disabilities are preparing for further education, employment and independent living as productive, active members of their communities.
Having a 504 AND an IEP senior year can help the transition to post-secondary education.
IDEA 2004 Transition guidelines are summarized at http://www.ncset.org/publications/related/ideatransition.asp
Learn about transition, transition services and transition planning with articles, dozens of free publications, cases, and assistance for college-bound students with disabilities.
Learn more about IEPs.
Learn more about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004)
About the Authors
Jennifer Graham is a transition consultant and was the editor of "Transition Map" when the website was originally conceived. Her son successfully transitioned to community-based employment in June 2006.
Pete Wright is an attorney who represents children with special educational needs. Pete is the co-author of Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition (2007), Wrightslaw: IDEA 2004, (2005), Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy, 2nd Edition (2005) and Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind (2003).
 Definition of Transition Services in the IDEA 2004 regulations
§300.43. Transition services.
(a) Transition services means a coordinated set of activities for a child with a disability that—
(1) Is designed to be within a results-oriented process, that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the child with a disability to facilitate the child’s movement from school to post school activities, including postsecondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation;
(2) Is based on the individual child’s needs, taking into account the child’s strengths, preferences, and interests; and includes—
(ii) Related services;
(iii) Community experiences;
(iv) The development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives; and
(v) If appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and provision of a functional vocational evaluation.
(b) Transition services for children with disabilities may be special education, if provided as specially designed instruction, or a related service, if required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education. (34 C.F.R. §300.43)
(Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, page 203)
In IDEA 2004, the definition of Transition Services is at 20 U. S .C. §1401(34).
(Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, page 56)
For children who receive protections under Section 504, see Section 504 at 29 U. S. C. § 705. Definitions (37))
 Transition Services in Individualized Education Programs.
§300.320. Definition of individualized education program.
. . . .
(b) Transition services. Beginning not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the child turns 16, or younger if determined appropriate by the IEP Team, and updated annually, thereafter, the IEP must include—
(1) Appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based upon age appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and, where appropriate, independent living skills; and
(2) The transition services (including courses of study) needed to assist the child in reaching those goals. (34 C.F.R. §300.320)
(Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, page 246)
In IDEA 2004, the requirements about Transition services in the IEP is at 20 U. S .C. §1414(d)(1)(A)(VIII).
(Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, page 100-101)
 See the Commentary about Transition Plans in the Federal Register, page 46668.