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Overview of the Transition Planning Process

PACER advocate Carolyn Anderson discusses the concept of “transition in the IEP" and the secondary transition planning process for a student with a disability on an IEP. She highlights that this time of discovery is based on the student's strengths, interests, and long-range goals for life after high school.

From the time your child begins receiving special education services, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) guides his or her education. During the transition years, your son or daughter's IEP must contain specific transition services defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA) and its regulations. IDEA requires that by age 16 the IEP team must determine what instruction and educational experiences will help students prepare for the transition from school to adult life. IDEA requires that parents and students be involved in all aspects of transition planning and decision-making.

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Transition planning generally involves three major activities:

  1. Coaching students and family members to think about goals for life after high school and to develop a long range plan to get there;
  2. Designing a high school education that ensures students will gain the skills and competencies needed to achieve their desired goals; and
  3. Identifying needed post-school services and supports, and linking students and families with them before they leave the special education system.

Teachers and families support students in identifying post-school goals and the steps needed to achieve their goals through ongoing discussion, assessment, instruction and work-based experiences.

Successful transition planning and implementation is student focused. School activities identified in a student's transition plan must be directly linked to each student's post-school goals. A transition plan must reflect a student's individual choices, preferences, and needs in the areas of education and training, employment, adult living arrangements, and community experiences. Self-determination and advocacy are critical skills that help ensure student-focused planning and implementation. Students can practice applying these skills by taking increasing responsibility for planning and conducting their IEP meetings.

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PACER Resources

Other Online Resources on Transition Planning