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Transition Planning For Students With Learning Disabilities

PlaceholderTransition planning is required, by law (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act - IDEA), to start once a student reaches 14 years of age or younger, if appropriate, and becomes part of the student's Individualized Education Program (IEP).  Transition services are intended to prepare students to make the transition from the world of school to the world of adulthood.  In planning what type of transition services a student needs, the IEP Team considers areas such as postsecondary education or vocational training, employment, independent living, and community participation.

Transition Team

A number of individuals come together to help the student plan for transition.  The student and his or her family are core members of the Transition Team.  Other members include those normally on the IEP Team (special education and general education teachers, related service providers, administrators, and others as appropriate), plus transition specialists, who may be well informed about resources and adult services in the community.

In addition, representatives that have traditionally provided post-high-school services should be involved, including: Vocational Rehabilitation Agency; service agencies for students with mental retardation or mental health concerns such as the Mental Health Agency; independent living centers; and the Social Security Administration.  

Other individuals or agencies may serve as one-time or ongoing consultants to the team, sharing a particular expertise or insight, while others may be valuable sources of specific information that helps the team plan and make decisions, including the following: postsecondary education and training providers; Department of Labor job services agencies; School to Work Opportunities Act program representatives; community leaders (religious leaders, directors of recreation programs, and county extension agents); community recreation centers; and employers who can provide training and job  opportunities and who can explain the expectations that the business community has for future workers.

Transition Plan

After the IEP Team identifies the student's preferences and interests and the agencies and resources that may be helpful in planning the student's transition, a transition plan is developed.  Every transition plan should include: plans for employment, plans for education and/or training after high school, and plans for living independently.

Taking the first steps in transition planning includes:


  • Write down your long-term goals and what you think you need to do to reach these.

  • Read your IEP and transition plan and decide if the plan is being implemented.

  • Tell your teachers you want to lead your own IEP meeting and ask them to help you learn what to do.

  • Learn about your civil rights under the law, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.

  • Learn about your disability, how to explain to people your strengths, and how to ask for reasonable accommodations.

  • Practice job interviews and/or asking for accommodations.

  • Talk with your doctor and parents about your health care needs so that you will be ready to assume this responsibility.

  • Ask your teacher how to get involved with your community's transition team.

Family Members:

  • Observe your son's or daughter's independent living skills, work behaviors, social involvement, dreams, and hopes.

  • Call your child's teachers and ask that transition services, including financial planning, be addressed at your next meeting.

  • Help your child learn about his or her disability and how to ask for the supports he or she needs.

  • Give your child responsibility for chores at home.

  • Role play different situations with your child (e.g., interviews).

  • Introduce your child to adult role models with disabilities.

  • Look in your phone book and Yellow Pages and identify three new possible resources to help your son's or daughter's transition to adult activities.

School or Agency Administrators:

  • Evaluate transition services in your system.

  • Look into establishing or strengthening your community transition team.

  • Make a phone call to develop a new community agency contact.

  • Find some funding to share across agencies or for service development.

  • Set up a meeting with staff members to learn each person's expertise in transition.
  • Develop a cooperative agreement with another agency specifying how to coordinate transition.

  • Encourage your staff to be creative in problem solving.

Special Educators

  • Talk to students and families about transition services.

  • Ask to attend a conference, workshop, or other learning opportunity related to transition.

  • Teach students about their civil rights under the law, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.

  • Pledge to conduct collaborative, needs-based IEP meetings that empower youth and families.

  • Provide youth with step-by-step activities that familiarize them with the IEP process and prepare them to take active roles.

  • Call the local rehabilitation counselor or mental retardation case manager and coordinate a meeting.

Vocational Educators/Educators:

  • Contact a special educator and find out when IEPs are scheduled for your current or future students.

  • Offer to provide a tour of your program and share your knowledge and expertise in job competencies, job development, and job placement.

  • Identify one student receiving special education services and work with him or her to provide vocational counseling to help define realistic career goals.

  • Develop a plan to coordinate your work-study program with all the special education community-based work programs.

Guidance Counselors:

  • Create a workshop for students on self-advocacy skills that would promote success in postsecondary education or employment settings.

  • Ask to attend a workshop, inservice, or other training to learn about community agencies and resources.

  •  Ask a college representative about services for students with disabilities.

Community Agency Service Providers:

  • Attend a workshop, inservice, or other training to learn about community agencies and resources.

  • Develop a folder that contains some of the wealth of information you have about community resources and how to access them, and share with IEP Team members, transition councils, families, students, and administrators.

  • Identify three things that could help you actively participate in the IEP process when appropriate, and share these with the high school administrator or special educator/transition specialist.

Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors:

  • Schedule regular office hours at schools that you work with.

  • Support activities and use of assistive technology for students in high school that result in employment.

  • Serve on a local transition committee.

  • Share your knowledge of the job market and job assessments

Any of the Above:

  • Identify two ways you can add to the collaborative transition planning process; share this with administrators, special educators/transition specialists, or other service providers.

  • Offer to take the lead to develop a community transition resource directory for your community.

  • Most of all, take any one proactive step in your community towards collaborative transition planning and observe the results.

This information is adapted from a publication of the National Dissemination Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY) entitled, "Transition Planning: A Team Effort," (1999; resources updated 2002) by Sharon H. deFur, Ed.D., College of William and Mary. For the complete publication, contact NICHCY.


Visit the LDAT College page for more information on transitioning to college

College For All Texans
Information about Testing, College and Financial Aid

Going To College
This new website contains information about living college life with a disability. It is designed for high school students. The site provides video clips, activities, and resources that can help them get a head start in planning for college.

 Job Accommodation Network (JAN)

National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY)
English website:
Spanish website:

NCLD Checklist for Transitioning from High School to College 
Includes PDF Checklist for transitioning from high school to college

Parent Tips For Transition Planning (PACER)
Information on transition planning (TP) which helps to prepare young people for their futures. TP is required in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) for students with a disability by age 16. Provides tips on how to prepare a student for transitioning from school to further education, employment and independent living. This link opens a PDF document.

Project FIRST
Family, Information, Resources, Support and Training

U.S. Department of Labor / Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP)
Resources for Youth

Texas Education Agency / Special Education Division
Special Education in Texas, Index A-Z
Secondary Transition in Texas
Secondary Transition Guidance
Post Secondary Education in Texas

Office of the Texas Comptroller

Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities
Resource Guide on Higher Education for People with Disabilities
The Next Step - Higher Ed Video

Texas Governor's Information
Texas Key Laws and Resources
Transitioning from High School to College (PDF)

Think College
College Options for People with Disabilities

U.S. Department of Education
OSER'S Questions and Answers on Secondary Transition
Know Your Rights and Responsibilities (OCR)
College Affordability
Auxiliary Aids and Services (OCR)

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