Transition Planning For Students With Disabilities

If your child is on an IEP, he or she has a right to have a plan to transition into a postsecondary setting after high school. The type of setting does not obviate the need for a transition plan. School districts in Ohio are required to have these plans when a student on an IEP turns 14.

The need for good transition planning cannot be overstated. Regardless of whether the student is college bound or slated to participate in vocational programming, transition is essential to enable students with disabilities to be successful when the district’s obligation to provide a free appropriate public education ends. The transition should be a “roadmap” which directs what the student intends to do, and defines the services and activities which will enable him or her to get there. The transition plan also includes a section on independent living, which for many students, is critical in how they will manage either independently or in a supported living environment as adults. As a colleague once said, “parents must picture their child’s life when they are no longer in it.” 

Most of the transition plans we see have statements such as “John will explore options for college,” or “Susie will learn functional skills in the resource room.” Those kinds of statements do not comply with requirements for transition planning. Not even close. Parents interested in advising their districts about compliant transition planning should explore the website at NSTTAC.org. This website has comprehensive examples of compliant transition plans for a variety of students with a variety of disabilities. Remember that the failure to have a transition plan is a significant denial of FAPE. By the time a student is in high school, the transition plan should be the centerpiece of their IEP.

Early planning for students intending to go to college is essential. While colleges are required to comply with the ADA and Section 504, they do not have to alter their admission requirements for students with disabilities. Students need to determine what those requirements are, whether they can meet them, and what services will be required to enable that student to be admitted into the program of their choice. Students also need to learn about what their rights are as adults, what accommodations they are entitled to, and how to advocate for themselves with schools and employers.

Students with significant impairments are often relegated to one or two programs after high school, many of which are segregated from the community. Transition planning for these students needs to include development of workplace skills, self- help skills, and skills that will enable them to be as functionally independent as possible. Districts are required to bring in outside agencies to enable transition plans to be comprehensive in the options offered. Parents should not assume that the only option for their child is something akin to a sheltered workshop. Adults with disabilities have the right to work and live in the community, and the transition plan needs to be geared toward that objective.

Look at the NSTTAC.org website. Pull up the sample transition plan for the student who most closely resembles your child. Bring it with you to your IEP meeting and tell the District that if the plan doesn’t resemble that, it is not going to fly. Remember that for a student in high school, the transition plan is the centerpiece of that student’s IEP. Everything else in the IEP should come from what is in that plan.  

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