In education the word "transition" is frequently used word by professionals and parents. In general, the term refers to the process of movement from one activity to another or one year to the next. For example, professional may talk about the difficulty a child challenged with autism has transitioning from one activity to another. For students with disabilities, the term has particular meaning. One meaning applies to the process of moving from an Early Intervention (EI) program for birth to three to Early Childhood Special Education (EC). Children with disabilities who are enrolled in EI programs have an Individual Family Service Plan ISFP), which indicates the special services to be provided the child, goals, and objective measures to assess progress. In the EI program, decisions about the IFSP are family driven. When a child with a disability turns three years of age, he or she transitions to the Early Childhood Special Education program.
Transition from Adolescence to Young Adulthood and Across the Life Span
The term transition has yet another meaning within special education. The Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act and 23 Illinois Administrative Code 226 use the term to refer to the process of moving from secondary education to post secondary opportunities. Discussion of this process with the student should begin about age fourteen. The conversations should explore what the student envisions him/herself doing after high school. At age 16, IDEA requires that transition plan be developed and included in the IEP. Transition to adulthood and post secondary opportunities should spell out the particular things the student needs to learn in order to successfully transition out of special education and into post secondary opportunities such as college, vocational-technical programs, or employment.
For people with disabilities, the process of making such transitions can be more complicated than it is for others. Since the transition from school to adult life is an especially big one, the federal and state governments have set up guidelines for planning. This [section? sub-section of "Autism in Depth"?? ] will focus primarily on ways to plan carefully and effectively for that time of life. We will also note some things to anticipate and steps to consider at other times of intense change.
Summary of Illinois Requirements
The Transition Services section of Illinois Life Span's Advocacy Toolbox includes a variety of useful information and links, including a brief piece on "Written Transition Plans in the IEP." The section includes a summary of Illinois law:
Currently, Illinois Special Education law 'requires that beginning not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the child turns 141/2, and updated annually thereafter, the IEP shall include: 1) appropriate, measurable, postsecondary goals based upon age-appropriate assessments related to employment, education or training, and as needed independent living; 2) the transition services that are needed to assist the child in reaching those goals, including courses of study and any other needed services to be provided by entities other than the school district.' *Providers outside of the school district can also be invited to attend IEP meetings for students who may need their services.
One place to start examining the formal process of transition for people with developmental disabilities is a publication produced by the Arc of Illinois in 2005 and revised in October 2008. It's called the Family Manual: Transition to Employment and Adult Services for Youth with Developmental Disabilities in Illinois (URL: http://www.thearcofil.org/secure/reveal/admin/uploads/documents/FamilyManualTransitionfinal10152008z.pdf )
The Family Manual Introduction, p. 1, states:
The purpose of this manual is to assist families of young adults with developmental disabilities with the transition from the school system and services for children to the world of work and adult services.
Transition planning is mandated to begin at the age of 14 and is an important part of the Individual Education Plan. The sooner you begin to plan for the transition to employment and adult services, the better. Make sure your goals are clear and in writing because, as you know, the Individual Education Plan drives the important services and supports your child needs. If it is not written into the plan, it is not likely to be implemented in the school program.
On page 5 of The Family Manual is a description of the basics of transition as described in a student's IEP under IDEA.
Getting started- transition basics
Section 300.29 of the IDEA regulations defines transition service as a coordinated set of activities for a student with a disability that:
Is designed within an outcome-oriented process, that promotes movement from school to postschool activities, including postsecondary education, vocational training, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation. Is based on the individual student's needs, taking into account the student's preferences and interests
Includes instruction; related services; community experiences; the development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives; and, if appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation.
As noted above,transition planning is an important component of the Individualized Education Plan. Remember that anything that is not written into the Individualized Education Plan is not required. This is the law. Use your special education mandate to build the skills and experiences your child will need when he exits the special education system.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Legislation Document
The IDEA legislation that pertains to transition planning in the IEP:
Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) Designing Individualized Education Program (IEP) Transition Plans
Ideally the transition plan is driven by the student and his vision of future employment and career opportunities. Parents and guardians of youth with developmental disabilities need to help them become ready to participate in their own IEP meetings and to partner with them in making plans for transition and adult life."
Resources and Links for Transitions