Stay informed about Coronavirus — COVID-19. Learn more

¿No ve la función de traducción?
Special Education

Comprehensive System of Personnel Development (CSPD)Training Project

Module Three: Students with Disabilities
Transition from School to Adult Life

Success in adult life is a goal we have for all students. Depending on the disability and the support services required in adult life, successful transition from high school to adult life may require that planning activities begin in elementary school with students exploring their interests in middle school. Starting the process early prepares students with disabilities to think about what they want to be able to do in adult life. In high school, transition planning includes exploring post-secondary opportunities and employment options, living arrangements, social supports, and community access. It may include connecting with the adult service agencies that may provide them with services when they graduate school or turn 22 years of age.

Transition Servicesbegin at age 14 or earlier and update annually
Recognizing the need for students with disabilities to engage in transition planning, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that transition planning be part of the Individualized Education Program (IEP). Students must be invited to all educational meetings and allowed to participate actively when transition planning is discussed.

Linkages to Post School Optionsprovide transition services by age 14 or earlier and update annually
By age 14, the IEP's of all students must include appropriate, measurable postsecondary goals (i.e., the student's vision) and identify the transition services necessary to support that vision. IDEA defines transition services as … "a coordinated set of activities for a student with a disability that (1) Is designed to be within a results oriented process, that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the student with a disability to facilitate the student's movement from school to post-school activities, including postsecondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation; (2) Is based on the individual student's needs, taking into account the student's strengths, preferences, and interests; and includes (i) Instruction; (ii) Related services; (iii) Community experiences; (iv) The development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives; and (v) If appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and provision of a functional vocational evaluation."

Age of Majoritytransfer of parental rights to student at age 18
In Massachusetts, regardless of the severity of their disability, students are considered adults and competent to make their own decisions at age 18 (Age of Majority). Unless there is a court appointed guardian or the student has chosen to share decision making with his or her parent, the school district must seek the consent of the student to continue the special education program. Students at age 18 have the right to make their own educational and medical decisions and must sign all consent forms. Parents and students must be notified about the transfer of parental rights to the student at least 1 year before the student turns 18 years of age.

Interagency Collaborationdevelop supports and services necessary for adult life
The adult service system is complex and understanding it is essential for effective transition planning. When students with disabilities graduate from school or turn 22 years of age, they move from an entitlement to a non-entitlement system. While in school students receive services and supports mandated by federal and state law. As adults, while they may be eligible for services from adult service agencies, these services are not an entitlement, which means they are subject to the availability and funding of services. Consequently, it is essential that educators, parents and students understand the adult service system years before adult services need to be accessed. It is a sound practice to invite adult service agencies to speak to groups of students and individuals who live and work with students with disabilities in order to understand and begin the eligibility processes specific to each appropriate agency as well as the services that are available to adults with disabilities.

Adult Servicesmake Chapter 688 Referrals and general referrals
For students with disabilities who have immediate and ongoing needs, a Chapter 688 referral should be made to ensure that students who will require ongoing supports and services from one or more public agency are part of the eligibility process for receiving services and supports as adults. For other students who require fewer supports and services and may not meet the eligibility requirements for Chapter 688, a general referral for services can be made to adult service agencies.

Last Updated: March 28, 2014

Contact Us

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906

Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370


Disclaimer: A reference in this website to any specific commercial products, processes, or services, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public and does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.