While I was teaching high school, I became well-versed in transition plans. I wrote them yearly for my students, and I figured out ways to give a key role in the process to even my most impacted moderate/severe students. I view the transition plan as the culmination of the IEP process. If we aren’t planning for what a child’s life can be like after school is over, then what’s the point? Everything we do should be geared towards helping our children be the most independent and fulfilled adults that they can possibly be.
The transition plan starts out by discussing your child’s strengths, preferences, and interests. Usually this information is gathered via surveys sent home to you or interviews with your child. This information is then funneled into one of three sections: training and education, employment, and independent living. Training and education discusses your child’s goals with regard to post secondary education: will he or she attend an adult day program, vocational/trade school, 2 year community college, a 4 year university, or something else? What skills will your child need to learn to be able to achieve this goal? This is a great spot to discuss how your child can learn self advocacy skills, how your child will research his or her training/education options, and which courses your child should take while still in high school.
The employment section is where the IEP team should discuss what type of work your child wants to have as an adult. Does your child plan to work part time or full time? As a volunteer or in a paid position? Will your child need a coach or helper while on the job? How will he or she get to work? What other sources of income will your child rely on? What does he or she need to do to make sure those income sources are protected?
The independent living section is optional if the team doesn’t see it as an area of need, but in my own personal opinion, it doesn’t hurt to include planning for this section. Most teenagers could use some help preparing to live independently! This is the section where the team can discuss where your child plans to live, and who they plan to live with. How will your child pay for his or her living arrangements? Does your child know how to shop for groceries, cook a meal, pay bills, budget, clean, do laundry, and get around the community safely? If not, what can the team do to help your child learn about these things?
The post secondary goals discussed in each section should then be reverse engineered and broken down into smaller steps so that your child can start where they are and work toward those goals one step at a time. Of course, a fifteen year old rarely knows definitively what he or she will do for work, education, and living arrangements as an adult. And that’s ok! As your child gets older, the transition plan will become more and more detailed.
Throughout my years of teaching and advocacy, I’ve unfortunately seen the transition plan used as a dumping ground for post secondary goals with little oversight. While the progress of annual goals is reported on during every report card season, the transition plan is only reported on during each annual review. It’s easy for teachers, service providers, and parents to forget what is in the transition plan. Because of this, I recommend trying to link as many annual goals as possible to your child’s transition plan. Don’t forget to keep a log of the various transition services your child receives, and if you ever have any questions about a service or a goal, bring it up to the team sooner rather than later.
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