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Transition Planning for Students With IEPs

Learn how this part of the IEP allows a teen in special education to outline goals that will help him achieve his post-high school plans.

By Kristin Stanberry

The transition from high school to young adulthood is a critical stage for all teenagers; for students with learning disabilities (LD), this stage requires extra planning and goal setting. Factors to consider include post-secondary education, the development of career and vocational skills, as well as the ability to live independently. The first step in planning for a successful transition is developing the student's transition plan. A transition plan is required for students enrolled in special education who have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). In this article, we will define and describe transition planningand how it can be utilized to maximize your teenager's future success.

What is a Transition Plan?

A transition plan is the section of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) that outlines transition goals and services for the student. The transition plan is based on a high school student's individual needs, strengths, skills, and interests. Transition planning is used to identify and develop goals which need to be accomplished during the current school year to assist the student in meeting his post-high school goals.

When Should Transition Planning Begin?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 04) requires that in the first IEP that will be in effect when the student turns 16 years of age, his annual IEP must include a discussion about transition service needs (some states may mandate that the process start even earlier). A statement of those needs, based upon his transition assessment and future goals, must then be written into his IEP. IDEA 04 mandates that the annual IEP meeting focus on more specific planning and goal setting for the necessary transition services. Factors to be included are: academic preparation, community experience, development of vocational and independent living objectives, and, if applicable, a functional vocational evaluation. The agreed upon plans must then be documented in the student's IEP. The law also requires that a statement of the student's transition goals and services be included in the transition plan. Schools must report to parents on the student's progress toward meeting his transition goals.

The IEP team may begin discussing transition services with the student before he turns 16, if they see fit. If the IEP team hasn't begun to focus on transition planning by the time your child turns 16, it is important for you, as the parent, to initiate that process.

Why is Transition Planning Important?

It isn't enough to simply be aware that teenagers need guidance to transition successfully from high school to the next phase of young adulthood; concrete action steps must be taken to guide and prepare teens for college and/or a career, and for independent living. Without this guidance, students with learning disabilities often fail or flounder in high school and beyond. Consider these sobering statistics:

  • Over 30% of children with learning disabilities drop out of high school. (Source: 28th Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 2006)
  • Only 13% of students with learning disabilities (compared to 53% of students in the general population) have attended a 4-year post-secondary school program within two years of leaving high school. (Source: National Longitudinal Transition Study, 1994)

Transition services, provided by knowledgeable educators and community resources, can be tailored to a student's goals and strengths and provide him with options and plans for his future. Transition services offer students with learning disabilities hope for the future.

Kristin Stanberry is a writer and editor specializing in parenting, education, and consumer health/wellness issues. Her areas of expertise include learning disabilities and AD/HD, which she wrote about extensively for Schwab Learning and GreatSchools.


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