What is Transition?

The transition from being a student in high school to becoming an adult in the community must be made in order for each person to meet their personal goals. Common goals include pursuing vocational training or further academic education, getting a job, and living independently. For students with disabilities, these choices may be more complex than for others and may require a great deal of planning. Planning the transition from school to adult life begins, at the latest, in high school. In fact, transition planning is required by law to begin once a student reaches the age of 12 (or younger when appropriate). This transition planning becomes formalized in school as part of the student’s Transition IEP. Students’ needs, interests and preferences must be considered in the planning and students are therefore strongly encouraged to take part in the Transition IEP meetings.

The student and family are expected to take an active role in preparing the student to take responsibility for their own life once school is finished. After a student leaves school, they will need to organize their own life and navigate their way through a maze of adult service providers. This can be a daunting task, one for which the student and their family need to be prepared.

The full collaboration of the student, family, educators and community service providers is needed for successful transition. The planning process helps to ensure that students participate in making decisions related to areas of education, medical, employment, social, and daily living needs.

A coordinated set of activities, providing experiences within the community and school, is planned to meet the individual needs of each student. These activities are documented on the student’s Transition IEP. This ensures a continuation of instruction to assist in the development of daily living skills and practical vocational skills for those students who need them.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

For each student with a disability beginning at age 12 (or younger when appropriate), the IEP must include a statement of the student’s transition service needs which focuses on the courses of study the student will follow to achieve their desired post school outcomes (the student’s vision of where they will live, work, participate in the community and spend leisure time after graduation).

For each student with a disability beginning at age 16 (or younger when appropriate), the IEP must include a statement of needed transition services (activities that help a student move from school to post school activities) for the student, including a statement of the appropriate inter-agency responsibilities.

Transition services

Transition services must:

  • Be based on the student’s individual needs
  • Take into account the student’s likes and interests
  • Include needed activities in the areas of:
    • Instruction (academic or vocational programs, services and activities)
    • Related services (may include physical or occupational therapy, counseling, or transportation)
    • Community experiences (participation in community activities such as recreation and shopping). These experiences generally occur outside the classroom.
    • Development of employment (includes services that will lead to employment as an adult, such as vocational instruction, occupational training, career exploration, paid or non-paid work, career shadowing).
    • Post school adult living (activities that teach skills necessary for living and participating in the community, such as learning to pay bills, getting along with others, learning how to rent an apartment.

When appropriate for the individual students, the Transition IEP team will also identify needed transition services in the following areas:

  • Acquisition of daily living skills (skills included in taking care of one's own personal needs as independently as possible)
  • Functional vocational evaluation when appropriate (an ongoing process that identifies a student's work related skills, interests, and need for training). These services are accomplished through work experience, formal vocational evaluation, or situational assessment.
  • Include services provided by other agencies when appropriate (such as Vocational Rehabilitation, Developmental Disabilities Program, Division of Blind Services). 

The Transition IEP also includes a statement, at least one year before the student turns 18, that the student and parent have been informed of the rights that will transfer to the student upon reaching the age of 18.