Kim Erickson, Laura Kern, Maria Lehane, & Katherine Vanase



“A results-oriented process that ...facilitates the student’s movement from school to post-school activities including a post-secondary education, vocational education, integrated employment, continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, and/or community participation based on the individuals needs, strengths, preferences, and interests...” (IDEA, 2004, Sec. 602(34))


Statistics show that students with disabilities are less likely than typical peers to enroll in post-secondary programs, to be employed after leaving school, to have a checking account, and to even have a credit card (Kellems, Morningstar). By way of illustration, upon exiting high school, only 3 out of 10 youths with disabilities have attended post-secondary schooling according to the data from Wave 2 of the National Longitudinal Transition Study (Wagner, Newman, Cameto, Levine, Garzam, 2006). This number shows that the enrollment is 41%--less than half of their peers. (Wagner, Newman, Cameto, Levine, Garzam, 2006). In 2006, 60% of students with disabilities who entered into post-secondary education dropped out after one semester (NLSEC, 2006). This is not because students lack the ability to succeed, but because they have been ill prepared to cope and adapt to the vast changes between high school and life after high school (NLSEC, 2006). College bound “individuals with disabilities experience far less career success than their non-disabled peers, however differences in achievement diminish significantly for those who participate in post-secondary education” (Blackorby, Wager, 1996). As more emphasis is placed on jobs that require post-secondary education, the impact of transition planning for students with disabilities is of the utmost relevance.

As students leave high school, they will face a number of choices about careers, post-secondary education, living arrangements, and social life. For individuals with disabilities, these decisions are complicated by the need to either compensate or accommodate their learning problems or ameliorate the effects of their emotional, physical or mental impairments. Before this time of emotional upheaval, the student should have considered their ultimate goals for the future. The State of Connecticut Transition manual explains that “transition planning involves thinking about goals after high school and developing a long-range plan to get there" (Connecticut’s Transition Training Manual and Resource Directory). This requires a student to incorporate the development of academic and social skills acquired in high school to assist in reducing the struggle and adaption to his or her new future environment in either college, career or community. Click here to view the Manual.

Transition planning impacts the future and affects the outcome of students with disabilities, while encompassing a broad range of activities in a planning process. This Wiki will look more closely at some the elements of transition planning. The following areas will be examined: The Historical and Legal Background, Things to Know: a Best Practices Perspective, What this means for Parents: A Perspective for Parents or Guardians, and What this Means for Teachers and Schools: A Perspective for School Professionals. Then the areas of Future Research, Directions or Controversies will be explored. Finally, Additional Resources will be provided. Additional Sources and Internet Links will also be included throughout the Wiki and at the end of certain sections.

Historical Backgroundhistory.jpg

History is not kind to idlers. The time is long past when American's destiny
was assured simply by an abundance of natural resources and inexhaustible
human enthusiasm, and by our relative isolation from the malignant problems
of older civilizations. The world is indeed one global village. We live among
determined, well-educated, and strongly motivated competitors. We compete with
them for international standing and markets, not only with products but also
with the ideas of our laboratories and neighborhood workshops. America's position
in the world may once have been reasonably secure with only a few exceptionally
well-trained men and women. It is no longer.

A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform from the National Commission on
Excellence in Education, 1983.

In the 1980’s, the U.S. Department of Education, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services (OSERS) began to emphasize the importance of transition planning for students with disabilities (Johnson, Stodden, Emanuel , Luecking, Mack, 2002). This examination of the efficacy of special education mirrored efforts in general education: articles such as the 1983, “A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform from the National Commission on Excellence in Education” stressed that Americans were falling behind internationally in education, and that this would greatly impact our future as a nation. (Johnson, Stodden, Emanuel, Luecking, Mack, 2002)

Findings from other studies also emphasize that educational skills need to be honed to prepare all American youth for employment (Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS), 1991) See link here.. (Johnson, Stodden, Emanuel, Luecking, Mack, 2002). Federal and state educational reforms in general education, such as the School to Work Opportunities Act of 1994, “stress high academic and occupational standards; promote the use of state and local standards-based accountability systems; point to the need to improve teaching through comprehensive professional development programs; and call for broad-based partnerships between schools, employers, post-secondary institutions, parents, and others.” (Johnson, Stodden, Emanuel, Luecking, Mack, 2002, p. 520). Amidst this background of accountability and overall educational system change emerged the importance in special education for transition planning.

Legal.jpgLegal background

The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) is the law of special education that ensures that students with disabilities have a right to an education. The overall purpose of the IDEA is “to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living.” (IDEA 2004, Section 601(d(1)(A). IDEA purpose Another federal law, that explains the role of the U.S. Government in education, also states “The Federal Government has an ongoing obligation to support activities that contribute to positive results for children with disabilities, enabling those children to lead productive and independent adult lives.” (Title 20, Chaper 33, IV, Section 1450 ) Law These laws emphasize the underlying significance of positive outcomes in the future for students with disabilities.

In the 1990 addition of the The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), language on transition planning for students with disabilities was specifically included (1990 IDEA presentation). Aside from the broader statement in the purpose of the IDEA, this was the first official mention of transition planning in the IDEA.

It was the1997 version of the Act, however, that expanded the language on transition planning. Under the 1997 amendments, the Individual Education Plan (IEP) was required to contain a statement of “transition service needs” when the student reached the age of 14 or earlier. The statement had to include the needs of the student, while focusing on the "Courses of Study". At the age of 16 and thereafter, the IEP would then contain the statement of “needed transition services” and interagency responsibilities (out of school agencies). The IEP had to include actual transition planning--such as progress toward annual goals and the provision of parental notice ( (See also Transition Questions for detailed explanation of differences between the 14 and 16 age requirements). Transition services had to reflect the students preferences and interests in the domains of instruction, related services, community experiences, development of post-school or employment options, or (if appropriate) daily living skills and a functional vocational evaluation (Pub National Cetr on Secd Ed Trans, also IDEA 1997 Regs Sect 300.29). Click here for more detail. To note, transitional planning was still part of the IEP document—no separate form for transition planning was developed (Bateman, n.d).

With the 2004 amendments to the IDEA, the current version of the statute, more transitional language was added. The age of transition planning was changed to “at least by 16”, but could be done for younger students if the IEP team determined it is appropriate. (Bateman, n.d.). Rather than an outcome-orientated process of 1997, the 2004 version called for a “results-oriented process, that focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the child with a disability to facilitate the child's 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 strengths of the child, not just the needs were to be considered. Finally, the 2004 amendments called for “appropriate measurable post-secondary goals based upon age appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and, where appropriate, independent living skills” (See also key differenceswhich examines some of the differences between 1997 and 2004 transition law).

Another new important component of transition planning under the IDEA 2004, was that the schools must give students a summary of skills, needs, and strengths when they graduate (Samuels, 2009). This document, called the Summary of Performance (SOP), can be a powerful tool for the students who wish to pursue post-secondary education. The law states that the Summary of Performance “includes recommendations on how to assist the child in meeting the child’s post-secondary goals” (IDEA, 2004(614)(c)(5)(/B). The SOP can include documentation of disability, as well as a history of accommodations for the student. No specific SOP form was developed in the IDEA.

In addition, the IDEA 2004 contained a reporting requirement: Indicator 13. Under this provision, the IDEA states that the states must report data on the “Percent of youth with IEPs aged 16 and above with an IEP that includes appropriate measurable post-secondary goals that are annually updated and based upon an age appropriate transition assessment, transition services, including courses of study, that will reasonably enable the student to meet those post-secondary goals, and annual IEP goals related to the student’s transition services needs. There also must be evidence that the student was invited to the IEP Team meeting where transition services are to be discussed and evidence that, if appropriate, a representative of any participating agency was invited to the IEP Team meeting with the prior consent of the parent or student who has reached the age of majority.” (20 U.S.C. 1416(a)(3)(B) Indicator 13

As a final point in the area of law, Congress made the following finding:

As the graduation rates for children with disabilities continue to climb, providing effective transition services to promote successful post-school employment or education is an important measure of accountability for children with disabilities (IDEA, 2004 (601(c(14). Law

Transition planning legally and historically must bear in mind the accountability of the education system to educate students with disabilities and successfully prepare them for employment or college.

Additional Sources:
Wrightslaw: A website dedicated to Special Education Law and Advocacy
IDEA 2004 Source for the full text of statute, with search engine for key terms

Things to Know: A Best Practices Perspective


What is involved with transition planning? What are some of the best practices?

The National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center established several best transition practices. Common key components to these best practices can be categorized into five areas: student focused planning, student development, inter-agency collaboration, family involvement, and program structure (Kellems, Morningstar).

In a recent edition of the Division on Career Development and Transition Journal, Landmark, Ju, and Zhang provided an extensive review of substantiated best practices in transition planning (2010). The results of a review of 29 documents, including studies and peer-reviewed publications, yielded 8 best transition practices: “paid or unpaid work experience, employment preparation, family involvement, general education inclusion, social skills training, daily living skills training, self-determination skills training, and community or agency collaboration” (Landmark, Ju, and Zhang, 2010).

In the following section, this Wiki will explore some of the areas of best practices in transition, focusing on 6 key components for successful transition planning.

Student Focused PlanningTransition_2.jpg

By 9th grade realistic transition goals should be in place for the student (Kellems, Morningstar). The plan should be student centered, meaning that the student has an actual say in their future and is actively involved in the process. A way to keep the process student centered include assessments and direct involvement of the student in the planning. Assessment tools can help to assess areas such as social skills, self-advocacy, daily functioning, awareness of academic modifications, preparedness, and support considerations, employment and financial concerns, and the responsibility of the student (Babbit, White, 2002). A transition interview, conducted with the student at age 13, along with the preparation of a portfolio which contains videos, photographs, interviews, student work, and any other evidence of academic success, can be a beneficial part of the process (Kellems, Morningstar). Also, the IEP meetings about transition may be student led. With a student led IEP, the student will direct the discussion about their future. (See Student Led IEP Project for more information). Another student centered option is for a student to converse with another person with a disability either currently enrolled in a college or engaged in an area of similar future interest. This “mentor” student can assist the student plan their future by answering questions or by describing accommodations that they receive (Kellems, Morningstar).

Additional Sources:
See Iowa Transition Assessment (website contains assessments based on students interests and strengths)
Transition Assessment Toolkit (website contains assessment information, including the use of age appropriate assessments)

Person-Centered Planning

Another way to implement effective transition planning is through the process of person-centered planning. An excellent example of person-centered planning is MAPS. MAPS, which stands for McGill Action Planning System, was developed by researchers and staff at the Canadian Center for Integrated Education and promoted by researchers from the University of Minnesota. (See Maps Process for a broader explanation of the process)

To begin the MAPS method; the parents, the teachers, school professionals, (such as therapists and the principal), peers of the student, the student (when of appropriate age) and other family members (such as siblings) come together in 1-3 sessions for up to 3 hours to discuss the child. A leader or facilitator keeps the meeting focused.

First, family members answer: What is the individual’s history?

Then six additional questions are considered by all of the members:

- What is your dream for the child?
- What at the student’s gifts?
- What is your nightmare?
- What are the student’s needs?
- Who is the student?
- What would an ideal day at school be like for the student?

Such questions raise important issues to consider for the child and keep the focus on the child for various members of the team. They also focus on the child’s strengths. Ideally, such information can be implemented formally in the IEP.
(see Maps Process)

Additional Sources:
For more detail and examples on person centered planning, see these sites: Inclusive Solutions and Cornell's Person Centered Planning


Self-advocacy embodies the larger disability rights movement known as "self-determination", which refers to persons with disabilities living their own lives consistent with their own values, preferences, strengths, and needs (Turnbull et al., 2006). Self-advocacy means speaking up for oneself. See Wrightslaw Self-advocacy. It requires knowledge of personal strengths, needs and rights as a citizen. Self-advocacy also includes acting in an assertive manner to make ones needs known to others (Manual).

Self-advocacy skills will play an important role in all areas of student’s life. It is critical that a student is aware of their disability and the many ways it affects their life socially and academically. In order to successfully self-advocate, a student needs to learn to effectively use their support systems and how to make informed choices. Students should be prepared to attend and actively participate in their IEP meetings as this process will be instrumental in preparing the student for post-secondary transition, future employment and the ability to live independently Zarrow CenterStudents should develop self-determination skills, such as choice making, self-awareness, problem solving, and self-advocacy (Wehmeyer, Palmer, 2000).

Mastropieri and Scruggs (2010) note that students with strong self-determination skills generally have better post-school outcomes. However, these skills are not taught. Their potential application in the school setting is further hampered by over-protection on the part of teachers, parents and other students. While recognizing that successful outcomes improve self-confidence, it is important to realize that negative outcomes and failure can also be effective in helping developing a person. In a study that involved interviews with several adults with significant disabilities (Angell, Stoner, Fulk, 2010), the interviewees reported that self-determination was necessary for a fulfilled life. The study also noted that low expectations (of school staff) caused feelings of isolation, insufficient accommodations, and inadequate educational planning. On the other hand, interviewees found that being encouraged or pushed to assume increasing levels of responsibility was very helpful. It was also beneficial for them to understand the obstacles to self-determining skills and behaviors. For example, issues of self-doubt, shyness, frustration and awareness of ones limitations. This study found that one of the most important elements for people with disabilities was the opportunity to experience and practice self-determined behaviors. (Angell, Stoner, Fulk, 2010). Both the school’s team and parents can help a student by teaching them how to set goals-in small, realistic steps and helping in the self-assessment process. (Field et al., 1998).

Additional Sources:
Self-Determination check list, PPT Self-Determination Work sheet, and Self advocacy work sheet from Connecticut’s Transition Training Manual and Research Directory Manual
See also **Self Determination Theory**, **Beach Center** and **Publications and Research**

social_skills.jpgSocial Skills Training

Social skills training is another important best practice of transition planning. To say that it is not easy socially for many who have disabilities in school is an understatement. However, while these students are still in high school, social interactions do take place on a daily basis. Many students benefit from social skills groups in both school and private practice. The schools responsibility for social instruction and development should be part of the IEP. The goals and objectives should include for social instruction and an opportunity to practice. For example, a lunch buddy or a lunch-bunch group can be employed where the student can interact with other students in a controlled, but social context. For more information see also behavioral-strategies-social-skillsStudents do need the opportunity to practice the skills that they learn and should be involved in social clubs and extra-curricular activities.

Once a student with a disability has graduated from school and is living in the adult community, he or she will have to be active in seeking out connections and ways to belong. This is why it is very important to create a network of social support while students are still in school because “no matter what the disability or the level of severity of disability, young adults with disabilities report that the most significant barrier in adult living is social isolation.” . A social network can include relatives, family, friends and clubs. In addition to creating a network of social support for their child, parents can have their child create a social schedule while in high school. Parents can occasionally check the schedule to see if it includes a variety of both school and recreational activities that involve other people. (Autism Asperger’s Digest, 2009).

Additional Sources:,

vocational_training.jpgVocational Training

Individuals with disabilities are more likely than their non-disabled peers to be unemployed or underemployed, have lower pay, and higher level of job dissatisfaction (Levinson, Palmer, 2005). Some students with disabilities drop out of high school before they graduate, which leaves them even less unprepared to get a job, and that much less likely to get one. (Levinson, Palmer, 2005). Around one fourth of students with disabilities graduate from high school with an actual diploma, but if they had appropriate job training in high school, they would have been less likely to drop out, and more likely to be employed (Levinson, Palmser, 2005). This makes the importance of training for a future vocation vital for transition planners.

One of the ways to engage in vocation planning is through assessments. Vocational assessment is an on going process that identifies a students needs, and what training/support is required by the student to make the transition from school to work as successful as possible. This involves career exploration and identification. Vocational training also assists professionals, parents and students in making the appropriate referrals to state agencies. Vocation preparation should involve both students interest and aptitude assessment as students may have certain perceptions of a job that are not realistic. The results should be discussed with both student and family. In addition, students can job shadow and go on ‘test’ interviews.

Whether the student is going directly from high school to a job, or plans on going to college or vocational training first, the best way to learn work skills is to actually work. One of the most crucial components of transition planning for students with disabilities “is early exposure to employment activities. Numerous studies have indicated a strong positive association between paid work experience during high school and post school job success for youth with disabilities." (Benz, Yovanoff, Doren, 1997; Luecking, Fabian, 2000; Wittenburg, Maag, 2002). Also the work experience should include specific training for vocational expectations. A large part of a job can be arriving on time, following directions, staying on task, knowing safety procedures and getting along with co-workers . See following link . While it may be difficult to find a part-time paid employment, a student can start with small jobs such as mowing the lawn, volunteering and even pet- sitting. Schools can facilitate this process and assist the student in finding employment while still attending school.

collaboration.jpgCollaboration between Parents, Teachers, Students, and Agencies

In 1997, the IDEA began to emphasize the need to include all parties in transition planning. The 1997 act tied transition services with a coordinated set of activities based on individual needs, preferences, and interests. (IDEA, 1997, Section 602(34). In the best scenario, such coordination includes representatives of public agencies involved with the student's transition at the IEP meetings. These public agencies might include “vocational rehabilitation, employment and training, mental health, mental retardation/developmental disabilities, social security, housing, recreation,” and other relevant entities (Wrightslaw Questions). The student should also be included. Other members of the IEP team, including school administrators, parents, teachers, specialists, and the alike should all be invited to the IEP meeting and are important participants for transition planning. Notices should be provided to agencies, parents, and students that transition planning will be considered at the IEP Wrightslaw Questions.

In 2004, the requirement for follow-up on the invitation for the participation of the public agencies was lessened—under 1997 amendments the school had to make take more action to see if the agencies would attend. With the 2004 amendments, notice to the agency was sufficient (Bateman, n.d.). However, even with this change, agencies should still be invited to the transition planning sessions. Agencies, such as the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) in Connecticut, might be instrumental for the post-school future of the student and should still be invited and encouraged to attend.

Additional Sources
Connecticut Agencies
Bureau of Rehabilitation Services (BRS)
Different services of BRS (including VR, SSI & IL (Independent Living) ):
Bureau of Education Services for the Blind (BESB)
Connecticut Department of Developmental Services (DDS; formerly DMR): Note: DDS linked with IQ cutoff of 69 or less
When Applying
CT Works (Department of Labor) (general employment information for everyone):
Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DHMAS)
Department of Social Services (DSS): program information for people with disabilities, including housing, employment, medicaid
Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities (P&A)

Federal Agencies
Job Accommodation Network (JAN): Job accommodations listed as well as ADA information, includes accommodations database
One Stop Centers: (general employment assistance)
Social Security Disability Benefits: (all about social security disability benefits)
Ticket to Work: (for social security benefits for people with disabilities who want to go back to work; training opportunities etc)

parents_brain.jpgWhat this means for Parents: A Perspective for Parents or Guardians:

The transition process of a child continuing on for post-secondary education or employment can be a difficult time for any parent or caregiver. For those who have a child with a disability; it can be a challenging, overwhelming and a terrifying process. While it is difficult to think ahead when caught up in the many daily challenges of living with a child with a disability, it is imperative that parent’s begin planning for their child’s future as early as possible. Many students with disabilities need to start their transition in middle school because they may need to take specific classes or courses of study to keep them on the path to achieve their post-secondary goals. It is important that a student’s IEP/transition plan is based on the individual’s interest and needs, focusing on independence and employment. The transition plan should address the child’s goals once high school ends, which may include going to college, attending a trade school or seeking employment (Parents Guide to Special Education, 2007).

Although there is a wealth of information, it can be overwhelming for parents. The parent can ensure that such planning is indeed taking place. If college is the goal, the transition plan should include preparation that will facilitate applying to college, as well as academic and social preparation. Academic preparation might include successful study skills “that include special attention to writing essays and test taking, intensive preparation in note-taking, individual and group study skills, problem solving and other executive functioning skills, and learning how to manage self, time and projects independently.” (Autism Asperger’s Digest, 2009).

Pacer (website on transitions and other information on special education, advocacy etc. for parents and families)
Federal Cite for Connecting the Disability Community to Information and Opportunities
Post-ITT Parent Support Module
Parents’ Guide to Transition: What Happens After High School?
Connecticut Special Education Parents Guide

Teacher_Brain.jpgWhat this Means for Teachers and Schools: A Perspective for School Professionals

The best practices for transition planning and the importance of the outcomes for the future of the student with disabilities directly relate to teachers and schools. This section examines what school professionals can do to adequately prepare their students for the future and fully utilize planning in the process of transition.

In the classroom, teachers can teach skills that are required beyond high school, such as how to research different job opportunities, and how to acknowledge, advocate for, and modify their learning differences as they play a role in future jobs. Teachers can facilitate a job shadowing program where upperclassman are able to observe a professional in a field they show interest in. There could be an entire unit devoted to budgeting for a home, including furnishing the house, writing checks, and budgeting a checkbook (Kellems, Morningstar). These skills alone can help close the post-secondary gap between students with disabilities and their peers.

As a teacher in a high school, you might be wondering if a student is even ready for post-secondary education, even if they show interest in continuing onto college. In this case, there is a questionnaire available to assess the readiness of a student for post secondary education (Babbit, White, 2002). Knowledge of best practices, such as assessments, is crucial to the success of the student with disabilities.

There are many steps in planning that a teacher, or an IEP team must take towards planning the post secondary future of a student with a disability. In Connecticut the steps in planning the future of these students must begin by the time they turn 16, and the plan must be updated yearly after that (Anderson). The members of the IEP teams have different roles. The team needs to make sure that for each post-secondary goal there is a yearly goal following it so that the student can work toward that goal.

As an educator, when preparing students for post-secondary life in any type of higher education facility, it is important to inform students of what their choices are for standardized testing and the admission process. In order for students with disabilities to receive any type of change to their test, whether it is extended time, less items on a page, large print, or a private room, students will most likely need to provide evidence of their disability to the testing service or institution of post secondary education. However, these changes must not alter the exam, or create situations where the individuals administering the test are burdened, or if it is too costly (OCR, 2007)

If the student has gotten accepted to a post-secondary institution, an educator must begin to prepare the student for what lies ahead. This includes high school teachers helping the student understand their strengths and weaknesses as learners, and knowing limitations and what they have found difficult in the past, as well as knowing what has helped them overcome these limitations (OCR, 2007). An exercise that helps with this may be roll play, where the student practices explaining their disability and the reason they need services. Teachers should encourage students to participate in 504 or IEP meetings, and become part of the team (OCR, 2007).

Sometimes post secondary education is not the right path for a student. In this case, most students will prefer to get a job of some kind. Participation in vocational education programs, or paid work experiences have had a positive impact on students, and these types of programs along with after school activities have been shown to positively reflect on school work (Field, Kohler, 2003). In the school, especially middle school or high school, life skills may be taught to students such as math, reading and writing, problem solving, listening comprehension, speaking, and computers. Within math, teachers may focus on basic computation, money, and measurement, and within reading and writing, the focus should be on sight word vocabulary, spelling, and handwriting (Levinson, and Palmer, 2005). The reasons that the IEP team should work so hard to plan the best post-high school job experiences, and prepare the students for this time in their life is that that the odds are sadly against these students.

Additional Sources:

Self Advocacy Lesson Plans
National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center Resources (evidence based transition information and resources)

Future Research, Directions or Controversies

Despite all students receiving a free appropriate public education, many struggle with life after high school. Many more so struggle because of having a disability. In 2004, new transition provisions were created and included into the IEP because the law recognized that many young adults with disabilities were experiencing failure in transitioning into appropriate societal roles (NCSET 2007). A recent unofficial survey, conducted by Dr. Michael Fagella-Luby, concluded that 49% of students who graduated high school with a disability attended a 2 or 4 year college. After the second semester, this number plummets. According to data from the National Longitudinal Study for Youths with Disabilities, in 2005, 46% of students with disabilties enrolled in postsecondary education, with 26% continuing to attend after enrollment. (Data) Undoubtedly, this transitory period is stressful all persons with and without disabilities. However, to remediate these difficulties, students with disabilities are to be prepared for leaving high school, as federally mandated through IDEA 2004, via effective transition programs, goals and experiences as pertinent to the students interests and strengths. Unfortunately, upon graduation of high school, IDEA is no longer applicable to the student (See IDEA 2004, Section 601(d(1)(A)Lawon purpose of IDEA).

The following section will discuss some of the larger issues concerning the future of transition planning:

Life after IDEA
The Future of Documentation: Summary of Performance
Crafting Appropriate, Measurable Transition Goals
Avoiding Misconceptions of Continuing High School up to 21

Life After IDEA

By the time a student with a disability reaches the age of 21 or graduates high school with a regular diploma, IDEA no longer is the law governing his or her education or work experiences. By this time, he or she should be prepared to self advocate about his or her specific needs in a work or school environment. This shift in the laws can create uncertainty and unrealistic expectations for the student and the family. After exiting special education, IDEA does not govern schools, employers, or other adult services to be responsible for accommodations or modifications. Instead, civil rights based laws, such as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title II) (which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability) shift the task of self advocacy for accommodations and modifications to the student.
Note: (See: The US Department of Education (U.S. Department of Education, Wrightslaw and Kutztown University for examples of the differences between IDEA, 504, and ADA.)

In practical terms, this means that students must be aware of their disability and be prepared to become self-advocates to receive necessary supports that will promote the greatest successes possible outside of high school. For example, students in a post-secondary education environment must know the available options (per request) for standardized testing. In order for students with disabilities to receive any type of change to their test, (e.g. extended time, less items on a page, large print, or a private room), students will need to provide evidence of their disability to the institution or testing service (OCR, 2007). For many, this shift creates confusion, upset and distress, which should be better addressed in the transition planning process.

Additional Sources:
For a website for a student planning for the future, including careers and/or college, click here
For Postsecondary planning requirements and what a student with a disability should know and do, including their rights, click here

Future of Documentation: Summary of Performance

A Summary of Performance (SOP) is a document created by the special educator upon a student exiting special education. The SOP provides a student with a summary of his or her academic achievement and functional performance as well as recommendations on how to assist the student in meeting his or her post-secondary goals (IDEA, 2004(614)(c)(5)(/B). The purpose of this document is to create a link between the student’s special education experience and his or her future employment, education, or living requirements. However, the SOP is controversial in that the exact legal requirement or format for this form has not been precise. This means that an SOP from one state to another and one school to the next is not consistent and often contains different information. This lack of consistency on a crucial piece of documentation creates a potential problem (Samuels, 2009), but also room for growth. Currently, 9 states have adopted a template developed by a national taskforce however, 90% of 43 states surveyed developed forms that included elements of the law, but were not consistent with the taskforce’s template (Samuels, 2009). Thus the potential impact and full power of a students SOP is lessened by inconsistency. In all, there is room for growth so that this tool can be used most effectively by students, colleges, community programs, and employers in a uniform and consistent manner.

Additional Sources:
Connecticut Summary of Performance -Frequently Asked Questions
Connecticut's SOP form can be found on this site, click here

Crafting Appropriate Measurable Goals

When creating transition goals, the IEP team should make sure to always include the students' preferences, interests, and strengths along with instructional, service, community, and employment related, post-school objectives. Appropriate acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation is also included (Anderson). Transition goals should incorporate skills such as asking for help or developing self-organizational skills. The goal should crafted with observable and measurable terms.

A common transition goal is, “Upon completion of high school, Mike will attend a two or four year college program to obtain a secretarial position.” While this is appropriate if Mike’s interests and strengths are in line with secretarial work, a better more measurable goal would be, "Upon completion of the second quarter, Mike will apply to three post-secondary educational institutions that would develop his interest in management skills." Another example of an observable measurable goal is, "Upon completion of Culinary 101, Vanessa will apply to three food-service positions in the school cafeteria."

Goals should also incorporate principles of self-advocacy. An example of a goal that incorporates self-advocacy skills would be “Kyle will direct 10 minutes of his PPT during his annual review meeting.”

Crafting appropriate goals will assist the student to have a transition plan that is attainable and measurable and lends itself to successful transition planning. Professionals should see this as an area of focus and potential future improvement.

Additional Sources:
Writing Transition Goals and Objectives

Avoiding Misconceptions of Continuing School until 21

A student is legally entitled to stay in special education until the age of 21. Graduation decisions should be based on an individual student’s development in specific skill areas that facilitate a successful transition. These areas include further development of self–advocacy, social skills, vocational training, community skills, independent living skills, leisure and recreational skills (Parents Guide to Special Education). The decision to attend additional educational programming should be reviewed at the student’s annual PPT meeting as part of transition planning. Although there might be a stigma associated with staying in high school until 21, students participating in additional educational programming are at an advantage. For example, the students can take a more advanced class without the stress of a heavy course load. In other words, some school districts will allow and pay for students participating in additional educational programming in such venues as community colleges and even receive college credit (Parents Guide to Special Education) Also, consideration should be made as to whether all the goals of the IEP, including those of transition have been met, or would benefit from the additional time for education.

The delay in graduation can create issues for some students who would like to graduate with their peers. Some schools have developed alternative diplomas for these students. Issues arise on the value of these diplomas. Johnson, Stodden, Emanuel, Luecking, and Mack (2002) pose the question: "The question here is whether receiving less than a standard high school diploma may limit a student's access to future postsecondary education and employment opportunities" (p. 523). The opportunity to stay in school until 21 might allow the student to achieve more goals. Receiving a regular high school diploma often will mean that the student exits special education without the additional time that could be used for transition purposes ( Johnson, Stodden, Emanuel, Luecking, Mack, 2002). These options should be thoroughly discussed as part of the transition process.


In 2007, 1 in 9 students (Washington Post, 2008) or appoximately 13% who graduated high school were students diagnosed with special needs (NCSE). Once these students leave high school, the roles of the student and the parent drastically change. Educational transition describes this passage from school to adult life and can range from human services and community participation to post-secondary schooling and meaningful work. Transition planning can serve as a bridge between the security and structure offered by school and the opportunities and risks of adult life (Transition and your adolescent with learning disabilities: Moving from High School to Post-secondary Education, Training, and Employment).

The overall goal of good transition planning, however, is to provide a firm foundation for successful living in the adult world. A multitude of facets should be considered as part of the process. Also, collaboration between parties should be employed. Clear, observable, and measurable goals for post-secondary life can be developed.

Furthermore, students with disabilities who pursue higher education often experience difficulty in adjusting into the daily demands and large quantities of unstructured time in a post-secondary school environment. Knowing this, transition plans, goals, and objectives help prepare students for this change. Parents, students, and teachers should be asking themselves:

    • Is this program’s goals and objectives effectively preparing students with special needs and their parents for transition changes?”
    • If not, “How can goals and objectives change and better support both parties’ readiness for post-secondary life?”
    • “How can we promote measurable and observable success with our transition goals?”
    • “Are we promoting students who are self advocates of themselves and their specific needs?”

Through examination of these questions, the future of transition planning is in in the hands of parents, students, and professionals. By playing an active role in this process, students are bound to be more satisfied as they prepare to leave high school and pursue such options as post-secondary life.

By using best practices, understanding the results driven goals of transition planning, and asking the right questions, professionals, parents, and students can implement effective, results-orientated transition planning. In turn, this will enable the student to move from school to post-school activities, vocational education, integrated employment, continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, and/or community participation through a process that truly is based on the individual's needs, strengths, preferences, and interests as mandated by the IDEA (Sec. 602(34))


Anderson, P. (2010). Connecticut State Department of Education. (n.d.).Connecticut State Department of Education. Retrieved November 30, 2010, from

Angell, Stoner, and Fulk (2010). Advice From Adults With Physical Disabilities on Fostering Self-Determination During the School Years. Teaching Exceptional Children. Retrieved from Teaching Exceptional Children

Bateman, Barbara B. (n.d). Legal Requirements for Transition Components of the IEP. Retrieved from

Benz, M., Yovanoff, P., & Doren, B. (1997). School to work components that predict postschool success for students with and without disabilities. Exceptional Children, 63(2), 151-165.

Blackorby, J., & Wagner. (1996). Longitudinal post-school outcomes of youth with disabilities: Findings from the National Longitudinal Transition Study. Exceptional children, 6, 399-413.

Circle of inclusion project, MAPS process, University of Kansas. (2002). Retrieved from

Field, S., Martin, J., Miller, R., Ward, M., & Wehmeyer, M. (1998). A practical guide to promoting self-determination. Reston, VA: Council for Exceptional Children.

Individuals with Disabilities Act, 1990.

Individuals with Disabilities Act, 1997.

Individuals with Disabilities Act, 2004.

IEP & Transition Planning: Frequently Asked Questions, Retrieved from

Johnson, D., Stodden, R., Emanuel, E., Luecking, R., & Mack, M. (2002). Current Challenges Facing Secondary Education and Transition Services: What Research Tells Us. Exceptional Children, 68(4), 519.

Kellems, R., Morningstar, M. Tips for Transition. Teaching Exceptional Children, 60-68.

Kohler, P., Field, S. (2003). Transition-Focused Education. The Journal of Special Education, 37 (3) 174-83.

Kuder, S. Jay. The Transition to College: Success for students with Autism/Asperger's. Autism Asperger's Digest (2009). Retrieved from

Landmark, Leena J., Song Ju, & Dalun Zhang (2010): Substantiated best practices in transition: Fifteen plus years later. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 33(3), 165-176.

Levinson, E., Palmer, E. (2005). Preparing Students With Disabilities for School-to-Work Transition and Postschool Life, 11-15.

Luecking, R. G. & Fabian, E.S. (2000). Paid internships and employment success for youth in transition. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 23(2), 205 - 221.

National Center on Secondary Education and Transition, (2004). Retrieved from

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Comparisons Across Time of the Postsecondary Education of Youth With Disabilities

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Connecticut Resources

Connecticut’s Transition Training Manual and Research Directory

An Educational Journey from Self Discovery to Advocacy: A Handbook for Students

Building Bridge A Resource Manual for High School Students

A Parents Guide to Special Education in Connecticut:

Writing Transition Goals and Objectives:

Post School Outcomes Frequently Asked Questions:

Connecticut Summary of Performance -Frequently Asked Questions:

Documents and forms, including Connecticut’s version of Summary of Performance, as well as links to Connecticut information on secondary transition, including Directory of Transition Services:|

Indicator 13 Compliance:

A checklist has been made to assist schools with Indicator 13 compliance.

Training material can also be found on the National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center website

Transition Planning: General Resources

Think College! College Options for People with Intellectual Disabilities

Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities

The DO IT Website by the University of Washington

U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs: Pacer

Laws and Transition: Resources

Wrightslaw on Transition

College Planning for Youths with Disabilities (has videos and questions to ask for person with disability) (students with disabilities who want to attend college—tools, resources, lists, financial aide, modules) (college training program for students with disabilities, including living skills)