How to Make the Most of the IEP and Transition PlanPlanning and Funding Your Child’s Education—
Elementary and Secondary School
Part 3

How to Make the Most of the IEP and Transition Plan—The Path Toward High School Graduation and Beyond

Here are some ideas you can share with your child on how to make the most of his or her IEP transition plan (see “College or Training Programs: How to Decide.” PACER Center Action Information Sheets. PACER Center. 2006.).  Each action item listed below might help your child further develop a vision for the future and focus on specific goals.

  • Take an evening or weekend course at a post-secondary school to get the feel for getting there and back, managing time, and a new learning environment.
  • Take high school courses that will help improve eligibility for post-secondary programs. Examples include foreign languages, computer programming, and advanced math and science.
  • Look for internships, part-time jobs, or volunteer work in the community.
  • Enroll in pre-college courses specifically designed for high school students the summer before or after the senior year.
  • Work on communication skills, such as writing, speaking, and presenting. These are practical skills to have and can create opportunities in any endeavor.
  • Research and apply for financial aid (scholarships, grants, and loans).

Know the Differences between High School and Post-Secondary School

Your child’s post-secondary school options include:

One- or two-year programs offered by vocational schools and community colleges.

Four-year programs offered by colleges and universities. 

If your child would like to pursue post-secondary education, you can help your child gain greater confidence of what lies ahead by knowing the differences between high school and post-secondary educational experiences.

In a nutshell, while your child attends public school, his or her IEP team determines the individual support and services your child needs for school success. When your child attends post-secondary school, he or she becomes responsible for requesting supports and services needed to succeed.

Here are additional differences between high school and post-secondary school 

High School Area Post-Secondary Education
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), your child is entitled to a free and appropriate education (FAPE). Cost our child must demonstrate eligibility for a post-secondary education.
Often you will advocate for the most appropriate IEP for your child by keeping in close contact with your child’s teachers. Your child’s IEP is created by a team of people who provide supports and accommodations so your child can achieve school success. Supports/Accommodations There is no IEP. Your child must be his or her own self-advocate and ask for supports and accommodations necessary to achieve school success. Many post-secondary education facilities have a Disabilities Support Services (DSS) to handle these requests.
 You have access to all information contained in your child’s IEP, and to his or her teachers as well.  Access to Academic Information  Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), you may have limited access to information contained in your child’s academic records, and to their professors as well. FERPA provides your child the right to limit how his or her school records are distributed.
 Teachers adapt all coursework to your child’s needs and are usually available after class to help students. Changes to your child’s coursework are made during mandatory IEP meetings.  Coursework  Teachers are trained in a specific area of coursework not adapted for students with special needs. The syllabus (academic areas covered during a course) is set and does not change. Your child must ask for help, usually during the teacher’s office hours and possibly by appointment.
 You often provide structures at home to help ensure academic success, such as set hours to complete homework and go to bed. The school provides a set routine for the start and end of school, classes, and after-school activities.  Time Management  Your child is completely responsible for his or her own time. Your child has to figure out transportation to and from school, where classes are located, what courses are required, the course syllabus, what to do in between classes, when to study, how long it takes to learn certain things, and how long it takes to get homework done.
 Your child’s education rights are legally protected under IDEA and FAPE. These laws are about helping your child achieve success in school.   Legal   Your child’s civil rights are protected under the anti-discrimination laws of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. These laws are about creating access to public places and services so individuals with disabilities can participate in various activities. 

Source: Think College! Retrieved from on August 10, 2010.

What You Need to Know—It Pays to Learn

Even though individuals without disabilities tend to earn more than individuals who don’t, the numbers tell it all—the more you learn, the more you earn. The table below compares median incomes of individuals with and without disabilities by level of education attained. While viewing this information, keep in mind that the actual income attained by any individual with disabilities may be influenced by one’s:

  • Ability to attain a desired productivity level required by certain jobs.
  • Attainment of marketable skills.

Also keep in mind the economic health of a region, the overall job market, employment rate, and industries in your area.

Median* Income by Educational Attainment and Disability Status for Full-time, Full-Year Workers**

   Without a Disability  With a Disability
 Less than a high school diploma  $25,459  $24,441
 High school diploma  $32,588  $30,551
 Some college  $39,714  $35,643
 Bachelor’s degree or higher   $61,103   $50,919* 

*Median means “the middle”; for example if you made a list of nine people’s income from lowest to highest, the median income would be the income of the fifth, or “middle,” person.

** Non-institutionalized population, ages 21-64. Source: Analysis of the 2008 American Community Survey (ACS) data, William Erickson, Employment and Disability Institute, Cornell University

A college graduate with a disability can expect to earn $20,000 more per year than someone with just a high school diploma, and about $29,000 more than someone who didn’t earn one. The median annual income for individuals with disabilities in 2008, the most up-to-date data available at the time of this publication’s writing, is $35,600 (see U.S. Census Bureau. 2008. American Community Survey (ACS).