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When Should I Start Preparing for My Child’s IEP Transition Plan?

Preparing for your child’s transition plan is a critical step in the IEP process. The Individuals with Education Act (IDEA) requires an IEP to include a transition plan when your child turns 16 or younger if determined appropriate by the IEP team or required by your state’s laws. The Department of Education has an excellent Transition Guide to postsecondary education and employment for students with disabilities. A transition plan helps prepare your child to set specific goals and decide what they want to do after high school. It should also identify transition support services to help achieve these goals.

What is a Transition Plan?

An IEP transition plan is your child’s plan to help prepare and assist them from school to post-school activities. It must address your child’s specific needs and identify the right services and activities to help your child advance in their education and career. In addition, the plan should include a timeline for each step to ensure your child makes progress toward their transition goals. The transition planning begins with a comprehensive assessment of your child's skills and interests. It should also address your child’s goals once they graduate high school. 

Transition planning must be student-driven and based on your child’s individual needs, strengths, skills, and interests. Your child should actively participate in the planning process, and the transition team should be responsive to your child’s interests, goals, and preferences. In addition, the plan must include a thorough assessment of your child’s needs and strengths and consider your child’s age, disability, and cultural background.

How Can I Help my Child Plan for the Transition Process?

You can help your child prepare for the transition by talking to them about their interests and abilities rather than focusing on their disabilities. You can also help them set realistic goals. Encourage their independence. For example, you can help them open a bank account and start teaching them how to manage their money.

Who Should be on my Child’s IEP Transition Team?

Your child needs to play an active role in their IEP transition plan to give them ownership of their IEP and help develop their advocacy skills. The IEP transition team should include you, your child, general education teachers, and special education teachers. It’s essential to have additional members, including counselors, administrators, and related service providers such as state vocational rehabilitation agencies, community agency representatives, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, and other related adult service providers. You can also include members of their support network, such as your child’s therapist or mental health providers. A transition plan for an IEP will be the most effective when your child is involved in all aspects of their transition.

Your Child's Transition Plan

Transition planning begins with an assessment of the child's abilities and skills. This assessment should be age-appropriate and consider the child's strengths and interests. This assessment will help your child’s IEP team decide what support they need to move forward with their educational program. Children with disabilities receive special education until they are 22 years old. It is important to remember that a certificate or diploma aren't sufficient for independence. You want your child to be able to be independent in the next phase of their lives.

What if My Child’s School Fails to Provide Transition Services?

If your child’s school fails to provide transition services, ask for an IEP meeting in writing. Send your written request to your child’s school’s special education director. If your child’s school fails to have an IEP meeting to develop a transition plan, you can request a due process hearing or file a complaint.

Rehabilitation Act

Your state’s vocational rehabilitation agency can participate in your child’s transition meetings to help you and your child plan for your child’s post-school goals. To be eligible for vocational rehabilitation, your child must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially impedes employment. In addition, your child must require vocational rehabilitation services to prepare for a job.

A high school transition plan helps students with disabilities understand their options once they leave school. It also helps them develop a plan for their future, focusing on their interests and strengths. It also helps students make informed decisions and develop self-advocacy skills. As part of the special education process, a transition plan is a critical component of a student's IEP.

During this time, the IEP team will also identify the high school classes that the student should take. The transition plan will also include information about the responsibilities of various agencies, such as Vocational Rehabilitation agencies. It’s helpful for these agencies to attend IEP meetings, but only after parents give permission.

What Community Resources are Available to Help?

An IEP transition plan should identify community resources to support the student's transition from school to community life. For example, it should list recreation opportunities, local social work services, Department of Vocational Rehabilitation services, Medicaid, and Social Security benefits. 

You can find your state’s transition resources using the transition map at the National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center’s website. In addition to IEP teams, transition services should attend IEP meetings. For example, if a student has a disability, the school should ask the rehabilitation counselor to be part of the IEP team. A parent can also invite the counselor to the meeting. Parents can also schedule appointments with local disability services coordinators or community colleges to discuss possible transition services. Parents can also get information from the school and the student's teacher.

You are your child’s best advocate. Transition planning is the time for your child to take ownership of their future goals and plans. I recommend preparing them for their transition plan early. You can help prepare them for living independently or in group settings after they graduate from high school or get their school certificate. Believe in them and support them as much as you did when you asked for their first IEP. It’s hard to watch our children grow up so quickly before our eyes. 

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