Transition Planning for Students with Disabilities
Prof. Dr. Nasir Sulman
Department of Special Education
University of Karachi
The transition from high school to young adulthood is a critical stage for all teenagers; for students with disabilities, this stage requires extra planning and goal setting. Factors to consider include post-secondary education, the development of career and vocational skills, as well as the ability to live independently. The first step in planning for a successful transition is developing the student’s transition plan. A transition plan is required for students enrolled in special education who have an Individualized Education Program (IEP).
What is a Transition Plan?
A transition plan is the section of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) that outlines transition goals and services for the student. The transition plan is based on a high school student’s individual needs, strengths, skills, and interests. Transition planning is used to identify and develop goals which need to be accomplished during the current school year to assist the student in meeting his post-high school goals.
Importance of Transition Planning
It isn’t enough to simply be aware that teenagers need guidance to transition successfully from high school to the next phase of young adulthood; concrete action steps must be taken to guide and prepare teens for college and/or a career, and for independent living. Without this guidance, students with learning disabilities often fail or flounder in high school and beyond.
Transition services, provided by knowledgeable educators and community resources, can be tailored to a student’s goals and strengths and provide him with options and plans for his future. Transition services offer students with disabilities hope for the future.
At the high school level, transition services for students who have disability and an IEP are available through their special education programs and general education programs. Special education staff provides assistance with counseling, identifying vocational interests, educational and vocational planning, goal setting, pre-vocational skills training, academic support, and linkages to specific programs and services.
Other transition-related services that are available to all high school students include guidance counseling, career center services, work experience education, academy programs, and career education vocational courses.
Transition Planning Activities at Home and in the Community
Many transition planning activities and objectives are carried out at school. However, unlike traditional IEP objectives, many objectives stated in the transition plan take place outside of school – at home and in the community. These activities may include:
Giving your teen chores and responsibilities will encourage his independence and responsibility. As you do this, think ahead to the skills he’ll need as an independent adult. For example:
- He should learn how to manage money.
- It’s never too early to teach your child self-advocacy skills; these skills will continue to help him move toward independent adulthood.
In the Community:
Look within your own community for opportunities to expose your teenager to future possibilities. Consider:
- Taking your teenager to work.
- Networking with friends and relatives about their jobs.
- Researching and visiting local colleges and training schools your teenager is interested in attending.
General Steps for Creating a Transition Plan
Several steps have been outlined that will be important in developing a transition plan for adolescent with disability. These should be a part of the transition plan:
- Describe the student’s strengths and present levels of academic achievement and functional performance.
- Descriptions of the student’s strengths and present levels of academic achievement and functional performance are frequently given at IEP meetings only by school personnel, such as general and special educators, speech and language therapists, and school psychologists. It is critical that students and parents be provided opportunities to participate in this step of the process, as well.
- Develop measurable postsecondary goals.
- The development of measurable annual goals should support the student’s expressed post-school goals and should be based upon the student’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance and age-appropriate transition assessments.
- Develop corresponding IEP goals that will enable the student to meet their postsecondary goals.
- Describe the transition services needed.
- This portion of the IEP planning process identifies the transition instruction and services, activities, personnel, or resources that can be used to help the student achieve his or her desired post-school goals.
These are the major categories of transition services to be considered:
Instruction: This relates to the academic requirements for the student’s chosen course of study, employment skills training, career technical education, social skills, self-determination, and/or college entrance preparation.
Related Services: This may include occupational/physical/speech therapy, counseling, special transportation, and travel training.
Support Services: College or other professional supports may help to move the student toward post-school outcomes.
Community Experiences: This may include community work experiences, recreation/leisure activities, tours of post-secondary education settings, residential and community tours, volunteering and training in accessing community settings, joining a team/club/organization.
Employment: This may include career planning, job shadowing, guidance counseling, interest inventories, job placement, internship options, on-the-job training, on-campus jobs or supported employment.
Daily Living Skills: This may include self-care training, health and wellness training, independent living training and money management.
Functional Vocational Evaluation: This may include situational work assessments, work samples, work adjustment programs, and a series of job tryouts.
In addition to stating the goals, the transition plan should include logistical information on how the plan will be implemented and monitored, such as:
- A timeline for achieving goals
- Identified responsible people or agencies to help with these goals
- Clarification of how roles will be coordinated
- A plan for identifying post-graduation services and supports, and obtaining the necessary funding to access these services and supports
Tips for Parents
- You know your child better than anyone. If he is verbal, listen to your child’s hopes and dreams. If he is not verbal, put yourself in his place and imagine what your child might want his life to be like as an adult.
- Observe your child’s skills and behaviors. Think about how these will impact his life in the community without you.
- Don’t expect the school to do it all. There are 168 hours in a week; 133 hours are spent at home and only 35 hours are spent in school.
- Encourage your child to be as independent as possible. If possible, teach him to do his own laundry, clean his room, manage his time, pack his lunch, make a sandwich, help with household chores, etc.
- Promote appropriate behavior and good grooming.
- Provide opportunities for your child to explore and enjoy the community.
- Encourage self-advocacy skills. Allow your child to make his own choices when possible. Be prepared to discuss the consequences of those choices. Be sure to have your child participate in any planning meetings, including his IEP meetings, as soon as possible. His participation may be minimal in the beginning.
- Depending on your child’s ability, help your child to understand what disability is and how it affects his life. Talk about the things he is good at and the areas where he needs help.
- Consider safety issues. Based on the child’s abilities, prepare him for how to respond to unsafe situations and who to go to for help.
- Explore information on post-secondary education, vocational training, employment possibilities, recreation/leisure activities for adults, financial needs, medical care, and social skills education.
- Seek out volunteer job opportunities for your child.
- Interview people who work at jobs that may interest your child.
- Visit work/training programs or college campuses.
- If your child is college-bound, investigate the entrance requirements and what support services are available at the college/university you are considering.
- Network with parents and professionals.
- Maintain good communication with the school and program personnel in order to monitor your child’s progress toward goals.
- Read books about adults with disability and how they manage to lead productive and independent lives.
- Begin planning for the future now.
Transition and the IEP Process Resources
- Transition Goals in the IEP www.nichcy.org/EducateChildren/transition_adulthood/pages/iep.aspx
- Training Modules for the Transition to Adult Living: An Information and Resource Guide www.calstat.org/transitionGuide.html