Transition planning is written into the very purpose of IDEA…
“To ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them, a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living.” 20 U.S.C. 1400(d)(1(A).
The preparation for further education, employment, and independent living is referred to as transition planning.
Despite the clear directive of the law, transition planning is often overlooked, and sometimes even avoided at IEP meetings.
The purpose of special education and related services is to prepare students for life after they leave the public school system, which in some cases may continue until the school year in which the student reaches the age of 22. Therefore, transition planning should be results-oriented, and focus on the skills they need to reach their individualized post-secondary goals.
In California, transition planning, known as the ITP (Individual Transition Plan), should be written during the IEP for the school year in which the student turns 16. Some states begin transition planning at age 14.
The law says the Transition plan “must include goals based on age-appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and, if appropriate, independent living, and the transition services including a course of study needed to assist the child in reaching those goals.”
The five main components of transition are: instruction, related services, community experience, the development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives, and if appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and provision of a Functional Vocational Evaluation.
The district must conduct appropriate transition assessments to determine your child’s transition needs and the services that address those needs. The assessment process should be followed as it is for any other area of need. The school district often will consider the Triennial Psychoeducational assessment as the Transition Assessment. This is not correct. There are specific transition assessments that use different tests and measures. A Transition Assessment is not a Psychoeducational Assessment.
School districts fail to conduct comprehensive Transition Assessments, and instead, the team will have the student fill out a simple questionnaire or “vocational interest inventory” that asks questions about the student’s interests. This is not a Transition Assessment.
It is common practice for school districts to fail to develop an appropriate and effective Transition Plan. Because they don’t conduct proper assessments, they will write arbitrary and generic goals, placing the responsibility on the student instead of the IEP team, i.e., “Johnny will visit fast-food restaurants and interview the manager.” “Julie will research Junior Colleges in her area.” “Jimmy will research trade schools in the area of his interest.”
In addition, the district must also consider student and parent input in developing the ITP. When advocating for my clients, there have been many times when the IEP team developed the transition plan without parent input. Other times, the school had a non-verbal student or a student with very limited speech, circle the pictures of things they liked on a vocational interest inventory and called that a transition assessment.
Students do not need to fit into an already set up one-size-fits-all transition program option.
High schools have classes such as a “jobs class” that they automatically have kids enroll in and then believe they have fulfilled the transition requirement. They have not. Rather, the school is required to plan creatively and to focus on your child’s individual abilities, needs, interests, and post-secondary school goals.
Transition services for students in special education are services that help students move from school to adult life. They should reflect the student’s own individual goals for his or her future.
Federal special education law defines transition services as a coordinated set of activities for a student with a disability that:
- Is designed within a result-oriented process, which promotes movement from school to post-school activities, including post-secondary education, vocational training, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation;
- Is based upon the individual student’s needs, taking into account the student’s preferences, strengths and interests; and
- Includes instruction, related services, community experiences, the development or employment and other post-school adult living objectives, and, when appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation. [20 U.S.C. Sec. 1401(34); 34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.43(a).]
One court has found that a student’s services may include driver’s education, self-advocacy, and independent living skills such as cooking and cleaning. [Yankton School District v. Schramm, 93 F.3d 1369,1374 (8th Cir. 1996).]
Appropriate identification of a student’s strengths, interests, and preferences is critical, as it forms the basis for development of a comprehensive transition plan. For example, a teacher saying “Johnny is a pleasure to have in class” or “Johnny is interested in computers” does not say anything about that student and what he needs to do to be prepared for college or employment.
Schools often tell parents, “Your child is doing fine academically and is on track to meet the graduation requirements, so no transition plan is needed.” This is misinformation and is not in accordance with state and federal law.
Transition planning must include:
- Related services
- Community experiences
- The development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives and
- If appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation
As explained above, the purpose of special education and related services is to “prepare [students] for further education, employment, and independent living.” The IDEA anticipates that not all students will continue their education beyond high school, and that even if they do, they might still need support to gain the skills needed for employment and independent living.
A transition assessment will identify areas of weakness that are appropriately addressed in a transition plan. “Transition services” are defined by law to include instruction, related services, community experiences, development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives, and, if appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills. For example, a transition plan may: provide instruction in banking and budgeting; training in use of public transportation; assistance with hygiene, time management and organization; assistance with satisfying admission requirements for vocational/technical school, college, or other postsecondary educational setting; and vocational and/or pre-vocational training, including job sampling in local businesses or on school premises.
A coordinated transition-planning meeting (conducted as part of an IEP team meeting) should include representatives of agencies that would serve the student once the student graduates, or if they have not graduated, reaches the age of 22, various agencies provide continued educational support for students with disabilities since the school district is no longer responsible for their education.
In California, these agencies include the Department of Rehabilitation (DR), the Regional Center, college disability service programs, as well as private agencies. Transitional planning will give you a greater opportunity to become familiar with these community resources. If you are not in California, find out what disability agencies are responsible to partner with the school district in your state. Do not take a passive role in the planning process.
Work with your school district to identify and work with the agencies that will assist your child as they reach adulthood and independence.
The transition plan or statement of needed transition services in each IEP must include, where applicable, a statement of the responsibilities of other participating agencies. However, remember that the district remains ultimately responsible for ensuring that these services are provided. Therefore, if a participating agency stops providing an agreed upon service, the district must fulfill that obligation or responsibility, either directly or through contract or other arrangement. [20 U.S.C. Sec. 1412(a)(12)(B).] The district must also have another IEP meeting to find a different way to meet the transition objectives in the IEP. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.324(c).]
Most parents are not aware of the school’s responsibility for a Transition Plan. Don’t let your school fail to provide a comprehensive Individual Transition Plan for your child.
If you are unsure if your child’s high school has developed a comprehensive transition plan, please schedule a consultation to meet with me here. And if you haven’t joined our Private Special Education Parent Empowerment Facebook Group yet, you should check it out here.
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