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Special School District of St. Louis County

Setting Goals for the Future

In planning for the future, one of the most important components to consider is developing a goal. Never is that more true than when setting transition goals for students.

When a student receiving special education services from SSD reaches the age of 16, the district’s staff – in collaboration with the student and his or her family – develop a transition plan as part of the individualized education program (IEP) process. This might include preparation for post-secondary education, vocational training, supported or competitive employment, continuing and adult education, independent living or community participation.

The goal-setting process is sometimes dreaded and put off by students and families because it can be very difficult to look beyond school. But the IEP team is prepared to help, and every effort should be made to create a meaningful future goal for students.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Transition Goals

Q: What is a post-secondary goal?
A: A post-secondary goal for a student with a disability refers to a goal identifying where he or she will work, what type of education he or she would like to continue and sometimes includes where he or she would like to live after graduation. The post-secondary goal becomes an important part of the IEP for students 16 and older and will be considered when developing programming, IEP goals and action plans.

Q: Can a post-secondary goal be revised or changed?
A: The post-secondary goal can be changed every year as a student learns more about him or herself through transition assessments and participates in a variety of new experiences. It most likely will be revised several times and should be the driving force behind the courses taken in high school.

Q: When is the best time to start identifying a goal?
A: A post-secondary goal is usually not on anyone’s radar screen until age 16 when it is requested during the IEP meeting, but discussions about the future should begin much earlier. One reason is to help develop a meaningful course of study that prepares the student for the future goal. As eighth-grade students enter high school, they identify the four-year course of study/personal plan. This plan should prepare them for achieving a post-secondary goal. For instance, if a student wants to go to college, then he or she should take college preparatory classes. If a student wants to work in a chosen field that requires math, such as accounting, then he or she should take math classes all four years. Students who want to work and will most likely receive an entry-level job should get some work experience during the high school years or during the summer.

Q: Is there any help to support the development of post-secondary goal setting?
A: The IEP team will support the process in the following ways:

    Transition assessments will be administered prior to each IEP for students 16 and older to identify the student's interests. The student’s post-secondary goal is identified and action plans or activities are written that create the steps needed to achieve the post-secondary goal. The IEP goals are written and the course of study is matched to support the post-secondary outcome. If an agency is needed to provide support, the IEP team will help connect the family to the appropriate agency.
Q: Why is it important for the student to identify a post-secondary goal in the IEP?
A: Identifying a post-secondary goal during the IEP is important because it should be placed in the forefront as a beacon that drives the school experience.

To check out all of the Planning for Adult Life resources SSD offers, visit Step 3 on the SSD website.
Marilyn Smith
Marilyn Smith is an effective practice specialist in the area of transition for Special School District of St. Louis County.
Top 10 Considerations for Setting Transition Goals
  1. Begin early
  2. Base the goal on student’s interests
  3. Base the goal on strengths of the student
  4. Base the goal on the needs of the student
  5. Be realistic
  6. Keep an open mind and be flexible
  7. Use teachable moments to learn about careers
  8. Learn about the supports that are needed (i.e. technology, adult agency, accommodations)
  9. Revise when new information becomes available
  10. “Begin with the end in mind” – Stephen Covey, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”
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12110 Clayton Rd, Town & Country, MO 63131  /  314.989.8100  /  314.989.8552 – 711 (Missouri Relay)

Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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