Transition planning is a gigantic topic and a very important one for youth with disabilities, their families, and IEP teams. NICHCY has devoted an entire section of its website to the subject, including articles written expressly for students themselves, school personnel, and parents.
Here, in this article, however, we’ll keep it short and focused on what IDEA requires in the IEP for transition-aged students.
- IDEA’s exact words
- Defining “transition services”
- Involving the student in transition planning
IDEA’s Exact Words
IDEA’s provisions requiring transition statements in the IEP are found at §300.320(b) and read as follows:
(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. [§300.320(b)]
This means that the IEP team must develop measurable goals for the student that are focused on the postsecondary world and specify what transition services are needed to help the student reach those goals.
Defining “Transition Services”
Transition services are intended to help youth with disabilities make the transition from the world of secondary school to the world of adulthood. That said, it helps to know how IDEA defines transition services. You’ll find the definition at §300.43, as follows:
§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.
If you take a moment and think about what’s listed in this definition, you’ll see that it includes the domains of independent and adult living. The community… employment… adult services… daily living skills… vocational…postsecondary education. This definition clearly acknowledges that adulthood involves a wide range of skills areas and activities, and that preparing a child with a disability to perform functionally across this spectrum of areas and activities may involve considerable planning, attention, and focused, coordinated services.
Note that word—coordinated. The services are to be planned as a group and are intended to drive toward a result—they should not be haphazard or scattershot activities, but coordinated with each other to achieve that outcome or result.
What result might that be? From a federal perspective, the result being sought can be found in the very first finding of Congress in IDEA, which refers to “our national policy of ensuring equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities.” [20 U.S.C. 1400(c)(1)] Preparing children with disabilities to “lead productive and independent adult lives, to the maximum extent possible” is one of IDEA’s stated objectives. [20 U.S.C. 1400(c)(5)(A)(ii)]
Involving the Student in Transition Planning
For the students themselves, the outcome or result sought via coordinated transition activities must be personally defined, taking into account a child’s interests, preferences, needs, and strengths. This is why the public agency must invite the child with a disability to attend the IEP team meeting “if a purpose of the meeting will be the consideration of the postsecondary goals for the child and the transition services needed to assist the child in reaching those goals under §300.320(b)” [§300.321(b)].
And if the student is not able to attend or doesn’t attend? Then, the public agency “must take other steps to ensure that the child’s preferences and interests are considered” [§300.321(b)].
Here are two resources of more information for, and about, students with disabilities participating in development of their own IEPs.
- Student with a Disability on the IEP Team
- NICHCY’s Transition Suite: Students Get Involved!
It’s easy to see how planning ahead in the domains of adulthood, and developing goal statements and corresponding services for the student, can greatly assist a student in preparing for life after high school. There’s a lot to know about transition, and you can find out more in the Transition to Adulthood section of our website.
Would you like to read about another component of the IEP?
If so, use the links below to jump there quickly.
How is the child currently doing in school? How does the disability affect his or her performance in class? This type of information is captured in the “present levels” statement in the IEP.
Once a child’s needs are identified, the IEP team works to develop appropriate goals to address those needs. Annual goal describe what the child is expected to do or learn within a 12-month period.
Benchmarks or Short-Term Objectives
Benchmarks or short-term objectives are required only for children with disabilities who take alternate assessments aligned to alternate achievement standards. If you’re wondering what that means, this article will tell you!
Measuring and Reporting Progress
Each child’s IEP must also contain a description of how his or her progress toward meeting the annual goals will be measured and when it will be reported to parents. Learn more about how to write this statement in this short article.
The IEP must contain a statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services to be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child. This article focuses on the first element: a statement of the special education that will be provided for the child.
To help a child with a disability benefit from special education, he or she may also need extra help in one area or another, such as speaking or moving. This additional help is called related services. Find out all about these critical services here.
Supplementary Aids and Services
Supplementary aids and services are intended to improve children’s access to learning and their participation across the spectrum of academic, extracurricular, and nonacademic activities and settings. The IEP team must determine what supplementary aids and services a child will need and specify them in the IEP.
Program Modifications for School Personnel
Also part of the IEP is identifying the program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided. Read more here.
Extent of Nonparticipation
The IEP must also include an explanation of the extent, if any, to which the child will not participate with nondisabled children in the regular class and in other school settings and activities. Read how this connects to IDEA’s foundational principle of LRE.
Accommodations in Assessment
IDEA requires that students with disabilities take part in state or districtwide assessments. The IEP team must decide if the student needs accommodations in testing or another type of assessment entirely. In this component of the IEP, the team documents how the student will participate.
When will the child begin to receive services? Where? How often? How long will a “session” last? Pesky details, but important to include in the IEP!
Transition Planning (you’re already here!)
Beginning no later than a student’s 16th birthday (and younger, if appropriate), the IEP must contain transition-related plans designed to help the student prepare for life after secondary school.
Age of Majority
Beginning at least one year before the student reaches the age of majority, the IEP must include a statement that the student has been told about the rights (if any) that will transfer to him or her at age of majority. What is “age of majority” and what does this statement in the IEP look like?