Transition Planning

Why plan for transition?

The goal of transition planning for youth is to make the adjustment from high school to life in the community as easy and successful as possible.

Transition planning helps youth gain the skills and opportunities they need to do what they want to do in life.  Transition planning helps set youth up to be successful in adult life. 
The Special Education law, IDEA, encourages schools to set high expectations for students with IEPs.  Setting high expectations both at home and at school contributes to youths’ success as adults.

What is transition planning in general? 

The transition process is lifelong (occurs throughout life).  It starts at a very young age with families supporting children as they grow and gain skills that will increase independence and continues as they prepare for adulthood.  Parents, school staff and other service providers support children to learn new skills that match the youth’s age, skill level and goals. 

While planning for transitions, assessments should be used to determine:

  • The youth’s post high school plans for living arrangements, continued education, and work. 
  • What the student is currently capable of doing in both academic and functional areas and what to do to address the gaps.
  • Everyone’s journey will look different and will vary based on what skills a youth already has and what skills will be needed for their next steps after high school.

What is required under IDEA for students with IEPs?

Schools have an important role in transition planning.  The Special Education law (IDEA) requires schools to help students with IEPs to plan and prepare for life after high school. 

Under IDEA, transition planning must:

  • Start before the student turns 16 however in Iowa the law says it should begin by age 14;
  • Be individualized based on the student’s strengths, preferences, and interests;
  • Include opportunities to develop skills that are needed for community life, continued education and training, and work (living, learning and working).

What is the IEP team’s job in transition planning?

  • Identify the student’s vision for his/her life beyond high school;
  • Identify and then discuss what the student is currently capable of doing in both academic and functional areas;
  • Identify needs and age-appropriate, measurable goals based on assessments in the areas of living, learning and working after high school;
  • Establish services, supports, activities and accommodations designed to build on strengths and prepare students for their postsecondary expectations and identify needed accommodations;
  • View the Iowa Transition Model for more information.

Transition activities may include: 

  • Specially designed instruction- IEP goals and instruction
  • Related services- such as mobility training, self-help skills, communication skills, etc.  
  • Community experiences- like job shadowing, learning to ride the public bus, or grocery shopping
  • A functional vocational evaluation. This is an assessment of skills needed for working.  The process may include observations, or data (information) on how a youth completed a task.  The youth’s skills are measured in different situations such as at work or in the community.  A functional vocational evaluation can be completed by personnel from the school, Vocational Rehabilitation, or community partners. 

Transition Services Available Through Vocational Rehabilitation

Vocational rehabilitation agencies may provide services to students with disabilities who are transitioning from school to postsecondary education and employment.  These Pre- Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) are intended to increase opportunities to practice and improve workplace skills.

Through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), vocational rehabilitation agencies in  partnership with local high schools are required to offer the following Pre-ETS activities to students with disabilities:

  • Job exploration counseling;
  • Work-based learning experiences, which may include in-school, after school, or community-based opportunities including internships;
  • Counseling on opportunities for enrollment in post-high school transition or educational programs;
  • Workplace readiness training to develop social skills and independent living; and
  • Instruction in self-advocacy, including peer mentoring.

Pre-ETS activities are held at the high school, in the community, or virtually and are generally provided in group settings.  Students can participate in summer Pre-ETS programming beginning the summer after their 8th grade year.  To learn more about specific Pre-ETS activities occurring within a particular high school, please contact your Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services staff member to get a copy of the Local School Plan for your district.   In order for a student to begin participating in Pre-ETS, a Pre-ETS Agreement will need to be completed and provided to IVRS.  

Find out which IVRS staff is assigned to your school:  Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services High School Contact list

When does transition planning happen?

The Iowa Department of Education requires school districts to have an Individual Career and Academic Plan (ICAP) for all students grade 8-12.  A student’s ICAP will help to identify career options and goals and the classes that will be needed to meet graduation requirements and support their career goals.

The IEP Transition Planning process is required to begin by age of 14 or earlier in Iowa if determined necessary by the IEP team but families and schools work with children on a variety of skills throughout the years that contribute to successful transitions.

Some activities build from one to another.  Some activities may need to occur at certain points of time. The timing of activities will vary based on the student’s skills and abilities as well as what the student plans to do after high school.

Who is involved?

It is important to involve youth in planning their transitions as they get older.  The youth (the individual), Parents, school staff, service providers,  community members (organizations) will help create the plans for transition and experiences that help develop skills.

The people who are involved will vary throughout the process based on the activities and the skills that are being developed.  Parents and school staff, etc. help support learning that is appropriate for the student’s age.

A person-centered approach like Person Centered Planning is an ongoing problem-solving process that can be used to help people with disabilities plan for their future. In person centered planning, groups of people focus on an individual and that person's vision of what they would like to do in the future.

For transition planning the IEP team must include input/involvement from- The required IEP team members (the student, parents, school staff)  As appropriate- Adult service providers, case managers, health providers, Vocational Rehab, etc. 

The IDEA law requires the IEP team to invite the student to meetings where transition planning is discussed. When students can’t attend, the team must make sure their input is included.  

Go to the Transition Roadmap & Checklist