I attended a couple of IEP meetings recently where transition services and plans were at the forefront of the IEP team’s discussions. There are some children with disabilities that require a functional curriculum and exposure to community based instruction as they move from elementary to middle and to high school. These children have moderate or severe intellectual disabilities or other disabilities that make it is very unlikely that they could ever master grade level curriculum or have a realistic plan to attend college or a university after graduation from high school. This does not mean these children cannot be productive as adults, secure gainful employment, and live as independently as possible. But it is important that parents be realistic about their children’s futures and plan way in advance of their graduation from high school to insure their children can live as independently as possible in the real world after graduation from high school. This means the children must obtain independent life skills, self-help skills, self-advocacy skills, employment or vocational skills, recreational skills, and other skills that will allow them to have a high quality of life.
According to the IDEA, transition services means a coordinated set of activities for a child with a disability that is designed to be within a results-oriented process that is focused on academic and functional achievement that facilitates the child’s movement from school to post-school activities such as vocational education, integrated employment ( e.g. supportive employment), continuing adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation. The transition services should focus on the child’s needs taking into account the child’s strength’s, preferences and interests. The transition services should include related services, community experiences, development of employment and post-school adult objectives, and when appropriate the acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation. 20 U.S.C. 1401(34). Transition services should begin not later than when the child first reaches age 16 years old, or younger, if it is determined to be appropriate by the IEP team. 34 C.F.R. 300.320(b). When an IEP discusses transition services, the child must be invited to the IEP team meeting if the purpose of the meeting is the consideration of post-secondary goals for the child and transition services needed to assist the child to reach those goals. 34 C.F.R. 300.321(b). The school system must invite a representative from an agency (e.g. Vocational Rehabilitation) to the IEP meeting that is likely to be responsible for paying or providing for transition services. 34 C.F.R. 300.321(b)(3). If the agency fails to provide the transition services described in the IEP, the school system must reconvene the IEP team to identify alternative strategies to meet the transition objectives of the child set out in the IEP. 34 C.F.R. 300.324(c).
These are a few of the statutory and regulatory requirements of the IDEA concerning transition services. But what this all mean? What are the practical implications of these requirements? As one example, it should be a goal of the IEP team to insure the child obtains employment after graduation from high school. To obtain employment, it will be necessary to invite a representative from the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation to the IEP meeting. This representative should invite the child and parent to complete an application for eligibility for vocational services and develop a plan for serving the child. The representative should be invited to the meeting no later than when the child reaches age 16 years old or ninth grade whichever occurs first. But in my experience this rarely happens. The school system will not invite a representative from the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation until eleventh or twelfth grade or not until the child reaches age 17 years old. It is pretty much too late at this point to successfully transition the child from high school to adult services at this age or grade level. Children with disabilities should be exposed to pre-vocational skills no later than middle school. Some school systems have a good community-based instructional program (CBI) in middle school that establishes pre-vocational skills for the child. Community-based instruction gives the child exposure to developing community skills for independent living, social skills and pre-vocational skills. Scientific based research in this areas shows that children with certain disabilities such as moderate or severe intellectual disabilities benefit from community-based instruction at an early age. They learn skills such as learning how to independently shop at a supermarket, purchase good and services at stores and restaurants, learn how to wash and dry their clothes, prepare meals, learn how to access public transportation, if available, or even secure a driver’s license. All of these skills are critical for a child with a disability to obtain if his parents’ goals are to insure the child can live and work as independently as possible when they leave high school. Otherwise, the child is not able to live and work independently as possible and the parents end up with the responsibility of caring for their child at home.
There is much more to discuss about transition services and planning. In the next post, I will share some ideas with you how your child can become as independent as possible through a well-developed transition plan and services.