What's a "Transition" Plan?
Nudge your school district to create a transition plan for your child
When asked about his plans for the future, Ian promptly explains that he will own and operate his own independent computer game company. While Ian might have great tech skills, he does not currently possess the social skills to work in the mailroom of a business, nevermind the corner office. At the moment, Ian’s IEP states that he wants to be this gamer mogul, but does not attempt to explain how Ian will achieve this lofty goal. Nor does it explain how Ian might gains the necessary skills to hold a summer job or finish an Associates Degree. That’s not how things should work.
Legally, schools must create a transition plan — a set of realistic living and employment goals for every IEP student after age 14, along with steps about how to achieve those goals. Those plans must be reviewed and updated every year.
Like everything related to special education, there is theory and there is reality. And sometimes, legally mandated procedures still need a privately hired attorney to ensure enforcement. Bah. Don’t get me annoyed.
An example of a transition plan might be: Julie would like to become a hair stylist and live independently. To achieve that goal, Julie will complete high school and attend the local beauty school for two years. To complete her high school degree, Julie will need remedial help in English and math.
Or: Johnny will be employed part time at the supermarket stocking shelves and attend a day-program for students on the autistic spectrum. In order to work a part time job, Johnny must reduce his autistic behaviors by 50 percent. He will continue to receive ABA therapy three times a week to help him control his negative behaviors.
At an Autism Speaks presentation, one speaker once explained to me that the transition section was actually the most important part of the IEP. All goals for the student should emanate from the transition section. I have never been able to convince my school district to run a meeting like that.
A parent can nudge the school district to do the right thing even without a lawyer, if you ask the right questions. (Remember: if your child has an IEP, you shouldn’t let them graduate until age 21.)
Here are a sample of questions to use in your next meeting: What is a viable career for my son or daughter in the future? Can you give my child a career assessment test? Does that career require further training after high school? Is my child capable of attending and graduating from that program? What skills does my child still need to attain in order to complete that training program? Can the school district help my child attain those skills? What other deficits does my child face? Are social skills an issue? How will the school address those problems? What sort of living arrangement is possible for my child in the near future? What independent living skills can my son attain to make that future living arrangement possible? What kind of 18-21 program is most appropriate for my child? Can you connect us to programs, agencies, service providers that we might need after graduation? And so on.
If the school can’t answer those questions, you can tell them that they must bring in an outside expert to answers to those questions.
Schools don’t do a good job with transition plans, because staff usually isn’t knowledgable about careers or local opportunities for disabled people. Also, these transition sections might create more work for the school district. Potentially, they might even hold schools accountable for outcomes. What if Julie doesn’t pass her English class, can’t graduate, and go to beauty school? Can the parents sue the school district for failure to meet those goals? School districts certainly don’t want to put legal time bombs in an IEP, so they often create vague and generic transition plans. It’s up to the parent to make the district be more specific with targeted questions.
Schools really SHOULD be accountable for EVERY student, not just students with IEPs. They should provide each student with the tools to reach their goals, and guide students towards achievable goals. Sadly, that isn’t the case. But since the purpose of this newsletter is to champion the needs of the disabled community, I will have to leave that rant for another newsletter.
Of course, an IEP transition plan is just a piece of paper. Every parent must think through these issues independently knowing that a regular public school isn’t going to be very helpful. We think Ian can live independently with some support, and he can hold down a job in a tech field that has limited interaction with the public. With tech classes at the community college and social skills training at a specialize program, we’re hoping that he can achieve those goals.
Two articles about transition from NPR.
Here’s my latest from my eclectic newsletter, Apt. 11D:
For future gamer moguls, a book recommendation: Sid Meier’s Memoir!: A life in computer games.