Addressing Post-High School Needs
According to law, starting at the age of 14, in a student’s annual Individualized Education Plan (IEP) the team must address the student’s transition needs. This process is called transition planning. Transition planning means that the IEP will address what the plans are for the student upon receiving their high school diploma.
Typically, a student that is 14 is in the eighth grade, and it may seem quite early to start. The truth is that many students have no idea what their plans for the future will include. By starting at an early age, they can be exposed to the various options they have for their future. Having these goals in place also helps the student's support team to focus on developing skills to achieve these goals.
A typical transition plan will address the following three areas: independent living, post-secondary education, and employment. Generally, when a student is 14 the IEP team will begin with something as simple as a transition survey to see where the student’s strengths are to determine which option would be best for them in the future.
The younger students will also meet with their guidance counselor to talk about what they would like to do after they graduate. A goal for someone this age may state, “The student will begin to explore post-secondary options through transition surveys and a meeting with their guidance counselor.” Again, at this age it is all about exposing them to their future possibilities.
As the students get older, perhaps ninth or tenth grade, they may begin to go on college field trips, field trips to places of employment, and anywhere else that may be linked to their future goals. Researching these aspects may also be part of an educational course. Therefore, as the student gets older their transition plan becomes clearer. The IEP can also include goals that build toward their transition goals. A transition goal for someone this age may state, “The student will visit a college, vocational school, or some other place for potential post-secondary education.”
By the time the student is nearing high school graduation, their transition plan should be detailed with their future goals clearly identified. Their goals will state exactly what they are doing after high school. For example, a goal may state, “The student will attend a vocational school upon high school graduation." This goal could specify which vocational school or schools they will apply to and, once the student has heard back, which school they will attend.
For students with more severe disabilities, their transition plan will be centered around independent living goals and possibly employment goals as well. Each student’s transition plan will be different because each student is an individual and requires different goals. Not every student is going to go to college; some may not even be able to hold a job. The important thing to remember in transition planning is that the future goals for the student are based on what their needs are.
Every member of the team, including the student, needs to agree to what on what the student will do after graduating high school. It is the student’s future, and a good transition plan will ensure that the transition plan leads to a reality.