When students turn 14 (in Massachusetts), IEP teams are required to consider “transition services.” Students with disabilities are far more likely than non-disabled students to have difficulty successfully navigating post-secondary education, finding and holding a job, and living independently. The point of transition planning and transition services is to make your student ready to participate in post-secondary education if that is appropriate, live as independently as possible, and be gainfully employed. Transition planning is a results-oriented process in that it is focused on how to move the student from where he is now to where he wants to be. The transition plan is a set of coordinated activities which is based on the student’s vision for himself.
Eligibility for special education services (and with it, transition services) terminates upon high school graduation or when the student turns 22, whichever comes first. So, it is obviously important that your student not accept a high school diploma and not graduate from high school before he or she is ready, because graduating will terminate eligibility for services.
From the time a student turns 14, the IEP team is supposed to look forward to the future, consider the student’s vision for herself, and discuss how to help her achieve her goals. The student should be the star of the show at this time, because it is the student’s interests, goals, and plans which are the primary focus. The student should attend these meetings and be encouraged to participate as best she can. You should additionally invite anyone to team meetings who you think has a unique perspective on your student, her skills, and her needs (e.g., a coach, a boss, a mentor, etc.). When discussing the student’s goals, the conversation should be specific. Appropriate topics could and should include what education the student wants to pursue, what employment the student would like to achieve, what leisure activities the student would like to be involved in, and where the student wants to live (e.g., city or suburb?; independently in an apartment, in a supported living environment, or with family?). These conversations will evolve over time.
Once the IEP team figures out what the student wants and needs, it must be documented in the IEP. There should be goals which describe what the student needs to work on and there should be services on the service delivery grid which will help the student achieve those goals. It is not enough to just fill out the Transition Planning Form (the “TPF”). The conclusions drawn from the TPF must be put into the IEP as goals, objectives, and services.