A transition plan is part of a student’s individualized education program (IEP), with the goal to prepare the student for life after graduation when they are no longer receiving special education services. The IEP team, including the parent, must look at the student currently, to determine what the student needs now to be as prepared as possible for a post-secondary (after school) life.
There is a separate present level of performance section, where information for the student’s transition plan will go. The focus is on what the student needs now to prepare them for future employment, education, and independent living. This is part of a school district’s requirement to provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to students with disabilities. Then, the school district needs to create goals to address these issues and recommend any services necessary to address these needs. For instance, travel training, additional speech-language services, or services to further address a student’s daily living skill deficits.
Some requirements for transition plans are:
- Each student’s transition plan must be individualized to the student’s specific transition needs- this is about what the student needs, in order to prepare them for their post-secondary independent living needs, education needs, and employment needs.
- In New York, transition plans must be in effect the year in which a student turns 15 years old, at a minimum. If your child is 15 or older and they do not have a transition plan, or you have not been part of the transition plan discussions, this could be a red flag.
- The student must be invited to IEP meetings where their transition plan will be discussed. It is important for the IEP team to know and understand the student’s needs, wants, and goals, and to incorporate that into the transition plan. For instance, what kind of job does the student want? What is he comfortable doing? What daily living skills can he truly do? This does not mean the student needs to lead the meeting, and even if the student only participates for a few minutes, this can allow the student to feel included in their IEP process. If participation is not a real option, there is no need to force it, but there should be a discussion about why the student is not participating – the school district should not make that decision without the parent’s knowledge or consent.
- Districts must evaluate the student to determine the student’s transition needs. School districts should do this before the transition plan IEP meeting. In addition, the school district should conduct updated assessments as necessary to obtain information about the student’s vocational or career goals and needs, the student’s educational goals, and the student’s independent living skills issues and needs.
- Transition plans must include “appropriate measurable postsecondary goals” – these are goals to address the student’s transition plan needs, in addition to the goals the student already has on their IEP. There may be overlap between goals, but if the transition plan identifies that the student needs to learn how to travel around his community or brush his teeth every day, for example, then there need to be goals on the IEP to ensure the student is working on these issues.
- Transition plans must include “a statement of the responsibilities of the school district” and any participating agencies. The school district cannot place transition planning responsibilities on a family alone. In addition, if the school district needs to involve other agencies, then those agencies should be at IEP meetings as well. The school district should be talking to the family about agencies like the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) and Adult Career and Continuing Education Services-Vocational Rehabilitation (ACCES-VR).
- Transition plans must be updated annually. At IEP meetings after the student turns 15, the IEP team must review and discuss the student’s transition plan, the student’s issues, needs, and goals, and make any changes as needed. For instance, if a student has improved in hygiene skills but still cannot appropriately determine clothes to wear, or no longer wants to work in a pet shop but wants to work in a daycare center, the transition plan must be updated, and new goals must be created accordingly.
How can you prepare for your child’s transition plan IEP meeting? Make a list of what their independent living skill needs are, what their employment goals are, and what their educational goals are. Then, in addition to the information from the transition planning assessments, talk with the IEP team about how to make sure your child has these issues and goals addressed, so they are as prepared as they can be when they leave high school. Activities of daily living (ADL) issues are a main issue that are often overlooked as part of a student’s transition plan. Some ADLs to think about when preparing for your meeting are (and ADLs can fall under employment, education, and/or independent living needs):
- Communication skills
- Transportation abilities
- Meal preparation abilities
- Hygiene issues
- Money management issues
- Medication management abilities and issues
- Safety concerns
- Social skills
- Leisure skills
- Functional mobility if wheelchair bound
If your child or loved one has a transition plan, but you do not believe it is tailored to meet their specific post-secondary needs, this could be a red flag that your child has an inappropriate transition plan. We at the Cuddy Law Firm understand how crucial this piece of a student’s IEP is, and we are here to answer questions you may have about transition planning.