Planning for life after high school: An important step for students with disabilities

Everyone, students and adults alike, move or transition from one situation to another at various times throughout life.  So why is transition planning for students with disabilities, age 14 and older, so important?

Students who receive special education services and have an IEP (Individualized Education Program) are protected under legislation known as IDEA or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  IDEA helps students with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education that focuses on special education and related services to meet their individual unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment and independent living.

Change or transition can be challenging for any student and the process can be more difficult, especially if the student has a disability.  The transition process may take more time for some students or specific strategies may need to be used to help students develop skills needed after high school in the areas of living, learning and working.

Beginning when the first IEP goes into effect when the child turns 14, the IEP team, including the parent and child, will begin to identify strengths, interests, and preferences that will lead to the development of future post-secondary expectations in living, learning and working.  The transition plan must include a set of activities that are coordinated and designed to help the child have successful results after high school.  While in school, the transition plan must address the child’s academic and functional achievement. The specific areas that need to be discussed and documented in the child’s IEP include: strengths, interests, and preferences; transition assessments; post-secondary expectations; a course of study; annual goals, and supports, services, activities and linkages to outside agencies.

The transition plans are reviewed yearly, and will change and become more specific as the child progresses through school. Preparing children with disabilities to “lead productive and independent adult lives, to the maximum extent possible” is one of the stated objectives of IDEA.  Planning and preparing all children for the future is the mission of each school district and Area Education Agency in Iowa.  For students with disabilities, IDEA provides a process to ensure that it happens.

Area Education Agency 267 (AEA 267) staff members serve on each IEP team and have knowledge to assist with transition planning. Local school districts and the AEA partner with many outside agencies to assist students and families through the transition planning process.  Specifically, the schools, AEA and Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services share expertise to improve post-school results for students.

For more information about transition, contact Ann Lupkes, AEA 267 Work Experience/Transition Coordinator at 1-800-392-6640.

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