Get the lowdown on transition planning

Transition Planning

For every student who has an individualized education program (IEP), it is federally mandated under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that transition planning and services begin by the time a student turns 16 years old. In some states, an earlier age for transition planning has been implemented. When deemed appropriate, an IEP team can begin transition planning sooner than what is mandated.

What is transition planning?

Transition planning serves as a roadmap for educators and students with disabilities, identifying what students want to achieve after high school and then specifically outlining how they can meet their goals.

The planning process is designed to evaluate students’ goals and interests and then develop learning pathways that will help to promote gained independence, employability and community access to support students’ shift from high school to post-secondary life.

What does transition planning look like?

Transition planning should be student-focused. When IEP meetings begin for transition planning, it is important that students are invited to the meeting and involved in the process. The IEP team should create an environment that encourages students to express their particular aspirations and interests that extend beyond high school to ensure the students’ capabilities and personal life goals are a driving force behind instructional planning and community-based experiences.

Throughout the transition process, it’s vital that the student understands their own disability and has the ability to communicate it to others. The first step in being able to self-advocate is being able to clearly express the supports they need in order to be successful.

Parents/guardians are also a part of the IEP team and work alongside students to create and implement transition planning that is meaningful, realistic and achievable.

What are transition services?

Transition services aim to improve the students’ skills across multiple domains as soon as they turn 16.

For example, transition services and activities should provide clear instruction and training for academic and functional skills, as well as:

  • Personal life skills, such as washing hands or brushing teeth
  • Home skills, such as making a sandwich or cleaning up a room
  • Vocational skills, such as applying for a job
  • Community skills, such as safely crossing a street
  • Leisure skills, such as purchasing movie tickets.

Community-based learning opportunities

It helps when transition services are community-based whenever possible, as being in the community allows students to practice their skills in real-life settings and receive naturalistic instruction. Ultimately, this increases the likelihood that students will maintain their skills over time and will be able to generalize their skills to new settings, people, activities and materials once they leave school.

As an educator, developing relationships with local businesses to create meaningful, community-based learning opportunities is key. Examples of local businesses you can partner with may include:

  • A local bank where students can learn how to open an individual bank account
  • A restaurant where students can experience setting a table
  • A grocery store where students can practice bagging groceries.

The transition services set forth in students’ IEPs should address both short- and long-term goals for students in order to build on the strengths they currently have, while also working toward academic and life goals, such as attending community college or managing healthcare needs.

Transition services must be updated within IEPs on an annual basis. It’s crucial that the services in place are continuously evaluated and updated when appropriate.

Next steps

If you are looking to implement an evidence-based curriculum to support transition students in your district, TeachTown offers Transition to Adulthood.

Built around evidence-based practices to meet the needs of individuals with autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disabilities and developmental disabilities, Transition to Adulthood utilizes point-of-view video modeling, task analyses, computer-based lessons, teacher-delivered lessons and visual supports to teach a range of critical, functional skills.

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