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Transition Planning

By Hillary D. Freeman, Esq.

The transition planning process represents the best opportunity to ensure that your child is provided with the instructional supports necessary to achieve his or her post-secondary goals. The school district has an obligation to teach the students to become as independent and self-sufficient as possible.

The IDEA defines transition services as a coordinated set of activities for a child with a disability that:

  • Is designed to be within a results-oriented process, that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the child with a disability to facilitate the child's movement from school to post-school activities, including postsecondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation.
  • Is based on the individual child's needs, taking into account the child's strengths, preferences and interests.
  • Includes instruction, related services, community experiences, the development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives, and, when appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation.

See 34 CFR 300.43.

For students with special needs, that process begins no later than age 14. Students with disabilities age 14 and older must be invited to participate in the transition planning meeting. If the student does not attend the meeting when transition is being discussed, the district must take other steps to ensure that his/her preferences and interests are considered.

To begin the process, it may be helpful to first administer a Vocational Assessment to the student. This involves an assessment to determine the student's goals, interests, strengths and weaknesses. Next, the IEP team must include "appropriate measurable postsecondary goals related to training, education, employment and, when appropriate, independent living skills" into the IEP. This requires the IEP to consider not only the required courses that will lead to graduation, but also other educational experiences in the school or in the community that can help the student achieve his or her desired post school goals or outcomes (higher education, employment, military, technical training, independent living).

Beginning in the school year in which the student turns 16, the IEP must include a statement of needed transition services. This describes the coordinated set of activities and strategies that will lead to the desired post-school outcomes, and identifies those responsible for providing them. Strategies may include but are not limited to: instruction, related services, community experiences, employment, and the like.

Here are some factors to consider in assessing whether the Transition Plan is appropriate:

  • What does my child want to do when he or she graduates? If s/he is unable to communicate, have you been able to identify interests, strengths and/or weaknesses?
  • If s/he is going to college, will s/he be living independently? Does s/he remember to shower every day? Can s/he prepare meals? Navigate public transportation (if necessary)? Are there any prerequisites to the program s/he wants to be admitted to?
  • If s/he is not going to college, what does s/he like to do? Is there is interest in computers? Cooking? Auto mechanics? What skills does s/he need to be successful in those areas?
  • Will your child require the supports of a state agency such as DDD, DVRS in New Jersey, OVR or MH/MR in Pennsylvania? If so, did you invite the representatives from those agencies to your IEP meetings? Note, if they do not attend, the district cannot escape their responsibility to provide the necessary supports.

In both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, once a student accepts a diploma, the district is not required to continue to provide services under IDEA. Since students with IEPs are entitled to receive special education services through age 21, it is important to review your child's progress towards his or her transition goals prior to consenting to graduation.

Freeman Law Offices, LLC can help you to ensure that your child's transition plan is appropriate. If you have questions about this process, please do not hesitate to call the office at (609) 454-5609 for assistance.

Freeman Law Offices, LLC - New Jersey & Pennsylvania Special Needs Attorney
Freeman Law Offices, LLC - New Jersey Special Needs Attorney
Located at 103 Carnegie Center, Suite 101 Princeton, NJ 08540. View Map
Phone: (609) 454-6661 | Local Phone: (609) 454-5609.