Transition is planning for one's future after high school while still in high school. The transition from school to work, or from secondary to post-secondary education is often a difficult one for young people, particularly those with disabilities. As parents, we help our children through many changes while they are growing up. We strive to provide the skills they will need for independence after high school. While it is critical to provide information and resources to all students about their future, it is especially true of students with disabilities. Planning for their future after high school may take coordination between many people and agencies, and like all events, the key to success is early planning - while in high school.

The movement of both transition and school to work efforts has encouraged students to become familiar with occupational choices, vocational preparation and career planning at an earlier age to ensure maximum opportunity of curricular choices and involvement of secondary school resources. A smooth transition is possible with planning, communication, and information. Planning what will be needed and who can help provide that assistance is of utmost importance to successful networking. Information about the many choices and programs available also requires early planning and decision making. The integration of age appropriate transition assessment results into the planning process enables the student and the Transition IEP team to understand the student's skill levels for many areas. When there is this coordinated effort between the school, student, family, and appropriate post-school agencies, there is enhanced opportunity for the student to achieve his/her post-secondary goals.

Self-advocacy, or speaking up for one's self is also an opportunity and a responsibility for young adults. Participating in the decision making process of the transition IEP meeting, seeking employment or planning your college future requires knowledge of your disability, your strengths, your interests, and your needs. Making decisions is never easy, but being adequately prepared to do so will enhance your independence.

The Federal Law regulating education of students with disabilities, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA 2004), identifies transition as:

  • A coordinated set of activities for a student, designed to be within a results-oriented process that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the student to facilitate the students movement from school to post-school activities including post-secondary education, vocational education, integrated employment including supported employment, continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living or community participation.
  • The coordinated set of activities shall be based upon the individual student's needs, taking into account the student's strengths, preferences, and interests and shall include instruction, related services, community experiences, the development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives, and when appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation.

Transition makes education relevant to the student and is driven by the following beliefs:

  • The Transition IEP represents and supports the vision of the student and the student's family.
  • Transition drives the IEP process to prepare the student for the changes and demands of life after high school.
  • Transition is an ongoing and results-oriented process including commitment of resources, collaboration between people and agencies, and decision-making to develop an IEP for the student.
  • Transition allows the entire community, especially the family, school, and adult service agencies to share responsibility in the transition of the student.
  • Transition planning promotes relevant, ongoing results-oriented instructional experiences within the least restrictive environment, including community-based experiences.

Keys to successful Transition:

  • Early planning and involvement
  • Continuous assessment process as to strengths, interests, needs, and goals
  • Student participation in IEP meetings
  • Knowledge of self and disability
  • Work experiences
  • Academic infusion into the community
  • Networking with agency and community personnel;
  • Creativity about planning.

Transition Domains

As any student prepares to leave high school and move on new roles and responsibilities as an adult, there are many areas to consider:

  • Independent Living: Where will the student live and with whom? Can he/she live on their own and be responsible to cook, shop, clean, pay bills, manage time, take care of themselves?
  • Community Participation: Can the student shop, vote, use the library, make health appointments and utilize their local community to be self sufficient? How will the student get around in the community? Does the student know how to access volunteer, community and church organizations?
  • Jobs and Job Training: Does the student have the skills to apply for a job and to work with others? What type of supports, if any is available to provide assistance?
  • Recreation & Leisure: How does the student spend time alone and in groups? What does the student do for physical fitness and relaxation?
  • Post secondary & Lifelong learning: Beyond high school, what will the student do to continue to learn and grow in post-secondary education and personal enjoyment? What supports will be necessary?

When does Transition begin?

The Individual with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA 2004) states that "beginning not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the child is 16, and updated annually, the student's Individualized Educational Program (IEP) must contain:

  • appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based on age appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment and where appropriate, independent living skills; and
  • the transition services (courses of study and a coordinated set of activities) needed to assist the student in reaching those postsecondary goals.

In addition, beginning not later than one year before the student reaches the age of majority (in ND that is 18) the IEP team must discuss the transfer of educational rights from parent to student.