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Special Education

Transition from School to Adult Life

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Transition Information

Realizing successful post-secondary outcomes 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. High school transition planning includes exploring post-secondary opportunities and employment options and may include connecting with the adult service agencies that may provide the student with services when he or she graduates or turn 22 years of age.

Statement of Needed Transition Services

beginning no later than the first IEP developed when the eligible student is 14.

Recognizing the need for students with disabilities to engage in effective transition planning, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that transition planning be part of the Individualized Education Program (IEP). Beginning no later than the first IEP developed when the eligible student is 14, the Team considers the student's need for transition services and documents this discussion. If appropriate, the IEP includes a statement of needed transition services. The school district understands that it must maintain documentation of a full discussion of the student's transition needs, whether or not such discussion identifies needed transition services for the IEP. Such documentation must be reviewed and updated annually thereafter. Students must be invited to all educational meetings and allowed to participate actively when transition planning is discussed.

Linkages to Post School Options

beginning no later than the first IEP developed when the eligible student is 14 and update annually.

Beginning no later than the first IEP developed when the eligible student is 14, the IEP's of students should include a post school vision statement as well as identify the transition services necessary to support the vision. IDEA 2004 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 post-secondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation;
  2. Is based on individual strengths, preferences and interest; and
  3. Includes instruction, related services, community experiences, the development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives, and when appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation. (P.L. 108-446, Sec 603 (34))

Transition Planning Form

Use the Transition Planning Form (TPF) 28M/9 for all students with IEPs who are 14-22 years of age. The TPF (28M/9) is a mandated form that is maintained with the IEP in the student's file but is not part of the IEP. The TPF is a flexible discussion guide that encourages the entire IEP Team to work together to assist the student in making a smooth transition to adult life.

Although the Department mandates that the TPF must be used by the Team to guide the transition planning discussion, what is written on the TPF itself does not spell out specific responsibilities for what will occur; the TPF is a planning tool and not the transition plan itself. Once the TPF is complete, the Team uses the TPF to create the transition plan that is formally documented in the IEP, specifying the services that the school will provide.

This inclusive planning process does not require that all identified actions will be the responsibility of the school's special education program. Instead, the entire Team - parents, the student, general education services, other agencies, community partners, and special education services - all work together to provide opportunities that will help the student to gain skills and move closer toward achieving the student's postsecondary goals (i.e., the student's vision for life after high school).

The Team should discuss and complete the TPF before completing the IEP form.

The students' postsecondary goals should be recorded on page one of the TPF in the "Post-Secondary Vision" box. Once the TPF is complete, the IEP Team transfers the postsecondary goals to the Vision Statement on IEP 1.

Also on page one of the TPF, the Team documents the student's disability-related skills that may require annual IEP goals and/or related services. There is no requirement that every disability-related need have a corresponding annual IEP goal. One year's IEP should contain only those annual IEP goals that a student can reasonably be expected to accomplish in one year's time. The TPF and IEP must be updated every year.

Discussing and mapping out the Action Plan on page two of the TPF can help the team to fully understand and articulate the intersection between the student's postsecondary goals, the student's skills and disability-related needs, and the supports and services that the student requires in order to achieve his/her desired postsecondary outcomes.

For a more comprehensive discussion of the TPF and IEP, please see Technical Assistance Advisory SPED 2013-1 and Technical Assistance Advisory SPED 2014-4.

Age of Majority

transfer 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 Collaboration

develop 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 not guaranteed. 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 with and work with students with disabilities in order to understand the eligibility processes specific to each agency as well as the services that are available to adults with disabilities.

Adult Services

make Chapter 688 Referrals and general referrals

For students with severe disabilities, 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.

Chapter 688


Appeals can be made to the Bureau of Transitional Planning (BTP) relative to decisions about eligibility and the ITP. For more information call BTP at 617-573-1722.

Council for Exceptional Children (Division on Career Development and Transition)
DCDT focuses on the career development of children, youth and adults of all ages and exceptionalities, including transitions and career development of exceptional children.

The National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET)
The National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET) coordinates national resources, offers technical assistance, and disseminates information related to secondary education and transition for youth with disabilities in order to create opportunities for youth to achieve successful futures.

National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth)
The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth) assists state and local workforce development systems to better serve youth with disabilities. The NCWD/Youth is composed of partners with expertise in disability, education, employment, and workforce development issues. NCWD/Youth is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP).

Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP)
Through the Department of Labor (DOL) The Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) provides national leadership by developing and influencing disability-related employment policy as well as practice affecting the employment of people with disabilities.

Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education is providing the information in this pamphlet to explain the rights and responsibilities of students with disabilities who are preparing to attend postsecondary schools.

National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center (NSTTAC)
NSTTAC assists states in building capacity to support and improve transition planning, services, and outcomes for youth with disabilities.

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Last Updated: March 12, 2015

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Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
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