by Carolyn Sorenson, Stillwater High School - Work Based Learner Teacher

Our children have many transitions in life. There are the standard transitions from preschool to kindergarten, elementary to Jr. High, Jr. High to Senior High and onto college. Transition is defined as the movement, passage, or changes from one position, state, stage, subject, concept, etc., to another; change.

What does the word Transition mean in the world of special education?

Transition is required under federal law, specifically, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004. Federal law requires that transition planning begin when a student is 14, and it begins as a part of their Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP considers all areas, from post-secondary education, vocational training and employment, independent living and community participation. During grade 9, the IEP plan must address the student's needs for transition from secondary services to postsecondary education and training, employment, community participation recreation and leisure and home living.

The purpose of IDEA 2004 is to insure a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) that emphasizes special education and related services that meet a student's unique needs to prepare him/her for postsecondary education, employment and independent living. The Individuals with Disabilities EducationAct (IDEA), defines transition services as:

A coordinated set of activities for a student, designed within a resultsoriented process, which promotes movement from school to post-school activities, including post-secondary education, vocational training, integratedemployment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education,adult services, independent living, or community participation. The coordinatedset of activities shall be based upon the individual student's needs, takinginto account the student's strengths, preferences and interests, and shallinclude instruction, community experiences, the development of employment andother post-school adult living objectives, and, when appropriate, acquisitionof daily living skills and a functional vocational evaluation intendedto prepare students to move from the world of school to the world of adulthood.

How do we achieve this transition process and what does it mean for the student with a disability?

Planning for life after high school is an integral piece of quality education. We must align our efforts so our students benefit from both college and career preparation, learning the skills and knowledge necessary to be contributing members of our communities.

The transition process for students and the Transition IEP can look different for each student based on the student's individual educational needs, student preferences and IEP goals.

The three areas of transition are identified as the following and must be addressed at each annual IEP meeting

1) Education and Training

2) Employment

3) Independent lliving skills – where appropriate

18-21 Year Old Transition Services:

18-21 year old transition services are developed by local school districts. They provide opportunities for students with disabilities, 18-21, to gain independent living skills, transition skills, social and functional skills and self-advocacy in real-life settings and to participate in age appropriate activities in their communities.

Rationale: Some students with disabilities remain in high school until they are 21 years old. This means they are often receiving services in classrooms with much younger students. Also, since most high school students typically graduate at 17 or 18 and go onto higher education or employment, students with disabilities who remain in high school until the age of 21 have fewer opportunities to interacting with same age peers without disabilities. The 18-21 services are developed to increase the opportunity to interact with same age peers without disabilities. The 18-21 services are developed to increase the opportunity to interact with same age peers in age appropriate settings and provide further transition skills and employment opportunities in the community. They also provide a continued connection to a student's home community. The programming moves away from classroom instruction and toward integrated, hands-on implementation of skills learned in age-appropriate settings.

Goals of 18-21 Services:

The overall goal of these services is to provide students with disabilities, age 18-21, who have met the graduation requirements, a transition-focused program within community-based environments.

Who do I talk to for more information about Transition?

If you have a child who is on an IEP and is 14 years or older, you should be talking with your transition team to discuss IEP needs and goals in the areas of transition. From age 14 on, there are sections on the IEP directly related to transition and these are to be addressed at all annual IEP meetings. As students get closer to their senior year, the IEP team will address individual needs and the student's pathway to graduation. Will the student graduate on Carnegie credits and receive their diploma or will they graduate on their IEP and continue in a transition program for students age 18-21? All students do not necessarily need to go to school until age 21. This is an IEP team decision based on individual student needs and goals. Stillwater Schools offers the Bridge Transition Program to eligible students.

Carolyn Sorenson is a Work Based Learner Teacher at Stillwater High School in Stillwater, Minnesota.  Carolyn can be reached at: