Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), public school students age 3-21 eligible for special education services must have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that takes into account a student’s educational needs and goals, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
As a special education student reaches their teens, the IEP starts to morph into an Individualized Transition Plan (ITP) to prepare a student for life after high school. By the time a student is 16 (or younger, depending on the IEP team), federal law requires any transition services to be included in the IEP. Transition planning can start at 14 (or younger).
When the discussion shifts to the transition process, the teenage student becomes as big a part of the IEP team as the parents, as the goal of an ITP is to set the student up for life as an independent young adult outside of school.
Other members of the ITP team should include parents, teachers, guidance counselors, adult service representatives, vocational counselors, employers and a transition coordinator, as well as friends and relatives close to the student. The team will outline the training and support a student will require in order to live, work and participate in the community as an adult. The plan should prioritize both academic and functional achievement and be results oriented.
Taking into account the student’s interests, the ITP will lay out a roadmap for instruction, services, community experiences, vocational evaluation and the development of daily living skills and employment possibilities. The student focuses on acquiring skills that will help them become as independent as possible after finishing school. Assessments of the student transition plan establish current strengths and needs, skills (physical, academic and daily living), interests, learning style and preferences for their future path.
The IEP team should pay close attention to the execution of the transition plan and review it annually. Self-assessment by the student can also facilitate goal setting and raise self-awareness.
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Going Outside of the Classroom
Unlike IEP goals, which primarily take place in the classroom, ITP goals are set at home and in the community. Some examples of home activities include opening a bank account to learn how to manage money, shopping for groceries and meal planning, learning to use public transportation and scheduling appointments.
Community activities that can help students explore post-school options include researching colleges and participating in campus visits, networking with friends and relatives about careers, looking for internships and apprenticeships, and shadowing professionals and touring workplaces.
Making Use of Transition Services
As the student transitions into adult life, there are services available to make the process smoother:
- Instruction of academic requirements and social skills that get the student where they want to go, whether it’s college or the professional world.
- Related Services such as counseling, speech/occupational/physical therapy, travel training and specially arranged transportation.
- Support Services provided by colleges and professional providers, including tutoring, financial support, housing and job training.
- Community Experience like work, recreation, volunteering and taking tours of college and residence opportunities.
- Employment beyond placement, including training, internships, shadowing opportunities and guidance counseling.
- Adult Living Skills such as registering to vote, filing taxes, searching for housing, reading maps and managing a home.
- Daily Living Skills like money management, and health and wellness training.
- Functional Vocational Evaluation involving situational work assessments, work samples, adjustments, aptitude tests and job tryouts.