Feb. 3, 2021 – Transition

Posted by Dr. Elizabeth Keenan on 2/3/2021

What is Transition?

For a student with a disability, “transition” has a very specific meaning. It is part of the overall Individualized Education Program, or IEP, and it defines the move from public school to adult life. The IEP transition plan is required by law for students with a disability.

What is Transition Planning?

Transition planning is the process of helping students transition from school to adult life and real-world activities, such as employment, education/training, and independent living. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the federal special education law that ensures all children with disabilities have access to a free, appropriate public education. The IDEA recognizes the importance of preparing youth for success after high school and states that transition planning for students who receive special education services and have an IEP must begin by age 16. Although it is required by federal law to begin by a student’s 16th birthday, age-appropriate transition activities can be done by parents and teachers much earlier. Transition planning is done by the IEP team, including the parents and student, and takes into account the student’s strengths, interests, preferences, and needs.

Why is it Important?

All students need guidance to make the leap from high school to the next step. Students with disabilities, however, need even more help because their leap is that much greater. The IEP transition plan ensures not only that these children will be able to function as adults in the real world, but also increases the likelihood that they will pursue post-secondary options in education, training, and live independently. In other words, the IEP transition plan goes beyond simply finding a place for students after high school. It provides a personalized course of action based on students’ strengths, desires, and dreams for a fulfilling life.

Who Provides the Services?

Once transition planning begins, the roles of special education teachers, students, and families shift. School transition services are provided by secondary special educators, transition specialists, guidance counselors, and others as identified by the IEP team. Families and students are also a critical part of the process. Remember, no matter the age of the student, transition activities can always be addressed and included in the IEP.

What Schools and Teachers Can Do

  • Engage in a Person-Centered Planning or Charting the LifeCourse process where a group of people focus on a student and help him or her plan for the future
  • Give students in inclusive high school environments access to the general education curriculum
  • Connect with the effective practice specialist or transition facilitator for your district who specializes in transition services
  • Support students in developing self-determination, leadership, and self-advocacy skills
  • Teach communication and social skills across a variety of settings such as school, home, and community
  • Encourage student involvement in current and future IEP, assessment, or transition meetings
  • Learn about available adult services, and educate students and families about those services
  • Teach students about options for employment, continued education, and community and recreational activities
  • Develop a program of further study and activities
  • Teach job skills, job search activities, and social skills,


What Families Can Do

  • Attend transition planning meetings
  • Participate in transition assessments
  • Assist in focusing the planning on student and family needs
  • Provide information to the team, as relevant, on medical, social, financial, or guardianship issues
  • Support your young adult child in self-determination and self-advocacy
  • Prepare students to be independent and autonomous. Assign chores, offer choice, allow students to learn from failure, let students prepare simple meals, assign problem-solving situations, make decisions
  • Talk to students about their future, what they want to be and do, what they like and dislike
  • Tackle transportation challenges
  • Support and amplify your child’s voice
  • Stay involved

What Students Can Do

  • Participate in the IEP in some way, i.e., greet participants, make introductions, smile
  • Record each experience in adult-related activities in school, at home, and in the community, such as internships and jobs, group and leadership roles, and sports and other recreational activities
  • Build a resume
  • Lead your IEP and transition planning teams
  • Understand the accommodations that are helpful for your disability
  • Prepare to talk about yourself, to share your passions and what you want and need
  • Set goals for exploration and learning

How SSD is Preparing Students for Employment through Off-Campus Work Programs

Students can learn real-world “on the job” skills through various community-based job skills training programs supported through SSD. Although similar, the following programs, offer opportunities for students to prepare for paid employment before graduation from high school. Determining if a student needs job skills training is up to the IEP team. 

CBVI – Community Based Vocational Instruction

A part-time, off-campus work program, primarily for high school juniors and seniors, housed in businesses located in the community. Students spend part of the school day in the business learning basic job skills and the other part of the day at their home school learning academics. Work skills focus on acquiring entry-level tasks and job behaviors in various departments. Students are supported by SSD staff and natural supports provided by the business. Students are trainees and not paid for their efforts. The expected outcome is for students to gain competitive transferable work skills prior to graduation.

VSP – Vocational Skills Program

A full-time, off-campus work program, for 18 to 21-year-old students who have completed their high school program but need additional transition services to become employable. The program is housed in businesses located in the community. Unlike a traditional school, students spend their entire school day in the business learning functional academics and basic job skills. Work skills focus on job readiness and more discrete tasks to prepare students for competitive/supported employment and other post-school employment training programs. Students are supported by SSD staff and natural supports provided by the business. Students are trainees and not paid for their efforts. The expected outcome is for students to gain competitive transferable work skills prior to graduation. Because not all students will be ready for employment upon graduation or exiting the program, those needing additional training will be referred to appropriate adult agencies for support.

What Resources and Links to Public Websites /Adult Agency Connections are Available

Together, schools, families, and students can work toward the best possible outcome for a successful future for students with disabilities.