NICHCY is pleased to connect you with resources on transition services for youth with disabilities.

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), transition planning from school to adult life begins, at the latest, during high school. In fact, transition planning is required, by law, to start once a student reaches 16 years of age, or younger, if appropriate. This transition planning becomes formalized as part of the student's Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP is a written document listing, among other things, the special educational services that the child will receive. The IEP is developed by a team that includes the child's parents and school staff.

Transition services are intended to prepare students to make the transition from the world of school to the world of adulthood. In planning what type of transition services a student needs to prepare for adulthood, the IEP team considers areas such as postsecondary education or vocational training, employment, independent living, and community participation.

The transition services themselves are a coordinated set of activities that are based on the student's needs and that take into account his or her preferences and interests. The resources we've listed below will help you learn more about transition ---what the law requires, what information a typical transition plan contains, how transition plans are developed, and so on. Because transition is such an enormous topic, we have organized the information as a "suite" of pages that break the topic down into some of its distinct aspects. More pages may be added to the suite in the future. At the moment, the Transition Suite consists of:

None of these pages provides an exhaustive list of the resources available on this very important subject. Each is intended as a beginning list, to get you started in your search for information and connection.

Students in the Viewfinder

Why is transition planning so important? The law requires that transition planning begin for students with disabilities no later than age 16---why? And who are we talking about when we say "students in transition"? If you really turn the lens on this population of students, what picture will you see? The resources in this section are intended to connect you with the broad picture of "why?" and "for whom?"

  • Why sit up and take notice?
    This brief by the Arc does more than tell you why transition planning is so important for youth with disabilities. It also provides an overview of the process and the roles that parents, students, and school professionals play in that process.
  • Taking a 10-year national picture.
    The National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2) involves a nationally representative sample of almost 12,000 students who were 13 to 16 years old and received special education in December 2000. The study will follow them until 2010 in an effort to understand their educational, vocational, social, and personal experiences as they transition from adolescence to early adulthood. The information gleaned will help build a foundation for serving them well. The brief at the link above reports on the demographic characteristics of NLTS2 participants and, thus, a portrait of youth with disabilities in transition.
  • What's typical: What else is NTLS2 finding?
    The series of NTLS2 data briefs at the link above provides much more information about the nature and experiences of our youth with disabilities in transition. Do any of these titles appeal to you?
    The Characteristics, Experiences, and Outcomes of Youth with Emotional Disturbances

    Family Expectations and Involvement for Youth with Disabilities

    Social Activities of Youth with Disabilities

    Youth Employment
  • Graduation requirements and diploma options for students with disabilities.
    While we're profiling our nation's youth with disabilities as they verge on adulthood, why not take a look at the options they have for finishing high school. This paper from the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) examines the results of a national study on the current status of state graduation policies and diploma options for youth with disabilities. A shorter, less technical reporting of results can be found at:

What Does IDEA Require?

The 1990 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) carried the first requirements regarding the provision of transition services for youth with disabilities. These requirements were strengthened and broadened in the 1997 reauthorization of the law. The most recent reauthorization, which took place in December 2004, still requires that schools begin providing students with transition services no later than age 16. However, this latest reauthorization has made some changes to transition requirements. The full extent of those changes is not yet known, as the field awaits publication of final regulations for the 2004 amendments. Federal regulations typically provide guidance and detail regarding implementation of the law.

That said, we've chosen the resources below to span these last two reauthorizations of the law--1997 and 2004. It may seem that only information on the 2004 requirements would be necessary, but these inevitably discuss new requirements in light of what's different from the 1997 amendments. To understand what's required now, the starting point is very often what was required before. And where the 1997 requirements are consistent with those of 2004, the materials written to illuminate IDEA's 1997 transition requirements can be very helpful to understanding the law.

  • Straight to the point.
    Legal Requirements for Transition Components of the IEP does not directly mention either IDEA 1997 or IDEA 2004, but what's discussed appears to be consistent with IDEA 2004. The article goes beyond legal summaries and places transition within the broader context of the "how and why" and offers perspective.
  • Transition requirements in IDEA 1997.
    IDEA 1997: Implications for Secondary Education and Transition Services comes to you, courtesy of NCSET, the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition. You'll find verbatim language from the regulations written for the 1997 law and brief explanatory comments to place that language in context.
  • Transition requirements in IDEA 2004: What's changed?
    Direct from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), U.S. Department of Education, is this list of precise changes made to the law's transition requirements in 2004.
  • Can't get much more specific than a side-by-side.
    In the left column, the 1997 requirements. In the right, 2004 requirements.
  • Purely transition and IDEA 2004.
    The National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET) focuses in on IDEA 2004 and transition in this jump page to more resources.
  • Need more?
    Try NICHCY Resources on IDEA 2004, a collection of materials analyzing the new law, including its transition requirements.

Other Laws Impacting Transition

While no law is as central to transition planning as IDEA, there are numerous other laws of great relevance. Here's a starter list of those laws and links to sources of much greater detail.

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
    The ADA directly affects transition primarily in the area of employment. Find out how in Workforce Discovery: Diversity and Disability in the Workplace, an in-depth training on disability awareness with the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) integrated throughout each training module.
  • The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.
    Visit TATRA (Technical Assistance on Transition and the Rehabilitation Act) and read more about the Rehab Act and the role that vocational rehab services can play in transition. TATRA provides technical assistance to six Rehabilitation Act Parent Training Projects and offers a range of transition info online.
  • WIA, Workforce Investment Act of 1998.
    The WIA is a broad overhaul of the U.S. job-training system to allow easier access to services, especially for groups who face serious barriers in seeking and gaining employment, such as youths and adults with disabilities. The centerpiece of the WIA is a system of One-Stop workforce centers designed to provide job training, education, and employment services at a single neighborhood location. Go to TATRA at the link above and read all about it.
  • Social Security Act.
    The Social Security Administration's Web site overflows with information. To zero in on how the Social Security Act and disability intersect and how this affects transition planning, at the home page, in the center column, select any of the issues listed beneath "Disability and SSI." Or use the drop-down menu at the top center to select "Disability." (p.s. Be sure you visit the Work Site portion of SSA, where you can find out about the Ticket to Work program, which can help to ensure the successful transition of youth with disabilities from school to work and adulthood through the provision of employability services, supports, and incentives. The Work Site is located at:
  • And all the rest....
    The laws listed above are the major ones besides IDEA. The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth) generously connects you with the many other laws with something to offer youth with disabilities in transition.

Transition Planning in Action

With the IDEA's transition requirements as foundation and impetus for action, what do you actually do when transition planning? Here are resources in plain English that encapsulate what we know of effective transition policy and practice after 15 years of experience. Please bear in mind as you use any of these resources that those 15 years of experience have been gained across three sets of amendments to the IDEA, where the legal requirements for transition have varied in certain details.

Note that materials specific to a particular audience (parents, students themselves, professionals) are identified in other pages within this Transition Suite (listed at the beginning of this A-Z page).

  • Laws don't make it happen. People do.
    This 15-page booklet includes information about the various roles in transition. Descriptions of several specific roles are provided, as well as suggestions for how different members of transition teams may participate in the transition process.
  • The team to assemble.
    Try NICHCY's Transition Planning: A Team Effort for a wealth of useful ideas about who to involve and what role they might play.
  • Focus on the components of transition planning.
    What kinds of activities might a young adult pursue when he or she leaves high school? What elements combine in shaping a full life? The components of transition planning speak to these: postsecondary education (whether that's vocational training, community college, college, or some other type of education after secondary school), community life (including independent living, leisure, and recreation), and/or employment. The guide at the link above examines each of these components, the course of study that a student might follow while still in secondary school to address that component, and how to provide transition services as a coordinated set of activities.
  • The components, stem to stern.
    This training packet, available from Seattle University, is virtually a step-by-step guide to transition planning. It takes a detailed look at each of the components to be planned, describes the options the student might consider upon leaving high school, includes forms you can use and resources you should tap, and is organized as a training on the subject, complete with a Powerpoint presentation. (Note: This is a large file and may take a few minutes to download.)
  • Write it all into the IEP.
    Transition planning fits naturally into the IEP process. Each student with a disability has an individualized education program that details his or her individual needs and the special education services that the school will provide to address those needs. When students reach transition age, or earlier if deemed appropriate by the IEP team, developing that IEP must include consideration of needed transition services. These must be detailed in the IEP and the school must then provide what's specified. So----read this suite of papers to find out more about the IEP as a vehicle for planning what a student needs to make a successful transition to the postschool world.
  • Start early.
    This paper focuses on preparing elementary and middle school students with disabilities for their transition to post-school activities. It describes why early career awareness and career development activities are important, provides the definition of transition services from IDEA 1997, and discusses the importance of incorporating student self-determination. The attributes of elementary and middle school career awareness programs are described, and descriptions and contact information for example programs are provided. Suggestions are given for choosing a commercially available program, and several such programs are described.
  • Person-centered planning can be a powerful tool.
    Person-centered planning focuses on the students and their needs by putting them in charge of defining the direction for their lives, not on the systems that may or may not be available to serve them. At the Person Centered Planning Education Site, you'll find an overview to person-centered planning and a self-study course covering the basic processes involved, a compendium of readings and activities for you to use on your own, and downloadable resources.
  • And when person-centered planning is applied to transition...
    This NCSET brief provides a concise description of person-centered planning and an explanation of the benefits of this process.
  • A workbook to guide you through.
    This workbook uses a person-centered approach to identify student strengths and facilitates a problem-solving approach to develop a plan of action and a vision for the future.

Organizations That Can Help

The organizations mentioned throughout this Transition Suite are the same ones that offer a wide range of other information, assistance, and services. But, to make life a little easier, here's a quick, consolidated list of places to visit, in alphabetical order, divided out by those organizations that cover the transition spectrum and those that focus in on a specific aspect of it. Our apologies to anyone we've neglected to list!

Organizations Covering the Transition Spectrum

  • Division on Career Development and Transition (DCDT).
    DCDT is a membership organization for teachers, other professionals, and families of students with disabilities who are interested in successful transition and positive post-school outcomes for students with disabilities. DCDT is a division of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). Lots of resources online at DCDT's Web site, especially (but not exclusively) for professionals.
  • 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. They have a truly impressive collection of easy-to-read publications covering the transition spectrum.
  • National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center (NSTTAC).
    The recently funded NSTTAC operates to help states build capacity to support and improve transition planning, services, and outcomes for youth with disabilities. NSTTAC is also posting the research synthesis papers emerging from the What Works Transition Research Synthesis Project.
  • Transition Coalition.
    Located at the University of Kansas, Department of Special Education, the Transition Coalition focuses on professional development and transition at the national, state, and local levels.
    "Childhood meets adulthood at" This is a very interactive site for youth to use to start thinking about what they want to do with the rest of their lives, designed to help youth plan for the future. (Psst! Good for adults, too.)

Organizations Focused on a Specific Aspect of Transition

  • Adolescent Health Transition Project.
    The Adolescent Health Transition Project is designed to help smooth the transition from pediatric to adult health care for adolescents with special health care needs. This site is a resource for information, materials, and links to other people with an interest in health transition issues.
  • Cornell-ILR Program on Employment and Disability (PED).
    This center focuses on translating the statutes and regulations into effective practices and high quality transition programs that enhance the prospects that students with disabilities will find gainful and satisfying employment and become full participants in their communities.
  • DO-IT.
    DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) works to increase the participation of individuals with disabilities in challenging academic programs and careers. DO-IT Scholars is especially for college-capable high school students with disabilities.
  • Healthy and Ready to Work.
    Success in the classroom, within the community, and on the job requires that young people with special health care needs stay healthy. If special health care needs are involved in your transition conerns, then visit the Healthy and Ready to Work National Center, which provides information and connections to health and transition expertise nationwide.
  • HEATH Resource Center: Postsecondary education, anybody?
    HEATH is the national clearinghouse on postsecondary education for individuals with disabilities. Come here if you're looking for information about educational support services, policies, procedures, adaptations, and opportunities at American campuses, vocational-technical schools, and other postsecondary training entities for adults with disabilities.
  • Job Accommodation Network (JAN).
    JAN is a free consulting service that provides information about job accommodations, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the employability of people with disabilities. Visit JAN's Web site or give 'em a call at: 1.800.526.7234 (V/TTY).
  • National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth).
    The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth) helps state and local workforce development systems to better serve youth with disabilities. Materials are available for all here, families, youth, professionals.
  • National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC).
    NARIC offers an online gateway to an abundance of disability- and rehabilitation-oriented information. There are more than 67,000 resources collected here, including organizations, agencies, Internet resources, reports, and research projects.
  • Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP).
    The Office of Disability Employment Policy provides national leadership by developing and influencing disability-related employment policy and practice affecting the employment of people with disabilities. ODEP offers both an authoritative voice and extensive, very practical materials in the area of youth transition. On the home page, use the drop-down menu to select the "audience" of "Youth and Family" and go browsing for relevant resources.

Transition in Your State

  • Who's your state's transition coordinator?
    Visit our State Resource Sheets and find out. He or she will be listed in the first section, "State Agencies" under the title "Coordinator for Transition Services." (And hey, while you're there, look for other valuable state contacts, such as the "State Vocational Rehabilitation Agency" and the "Office of State Career and Technical Education.")
  • NCSET's state resources.
    You can also use NCSET's database to identify transition-related resources and education-related office contact information for states and territories in the United States.
  • If you're a parent, try your state's PTI for transition connections and resources.
    Also listed on your State Resource Sheet at NICHCY is your state's PTI, the Parent Training and Information Center. Each state has at least one, and transition is typically part of their concerns. They can put you in touch with what's moving and shaking in transition in your state. The link above takes you to NICHCY's state sheets. Find yours, go to "Organizations Especially for Parents," and the first listing should be your PTI.
  • Community-based transition programs for students ages 18-21: Is there one in your state?
    Courtesy of the Transition Coalition, the 18-21 Programs: Community-Based Special Education Programs database contains descriptions of over 100 community-based transition programs throughout the United States. At the link above, look in the column entitled "Tools & Resources" and select "18-21 Programs Database."
  • High School/High Tech.
    HS/HT is a national network of state and locally operated programs designed to provide young people with all types of disabilities the opportunity to explore jobs or further education leading to careers in math, science, and technology. Go to the link above to identify the HS/HT program in your area.
  • Other state transition resources.
    Numerous state transition offices shared their transition resources with readers of the NCSET Web site. Find manuals, toolkits, curricula, Web sites, and more for everyone involved in supporting the successful transition of youth with disabilities to adult life. Materials from the following states are available: AZ, CO, CT, FL, IN, KY, MT, NE, NY, OR, RI, VA, and WI.

Spanish Materials

  • Transition FAQs in Spanish.
    The Transition Coalition offers online versions in English and Spanish of Answers to Commonly Asked Questions about Transition Services and the IEP. The link above takes you to the publications page. Scroll down and find both versions, written with reference to IDEA 1997. Therefore, keep in mind as you read or share this document that certain aspects of transition described within are no longer completely accurate.
  • The Special Edge on transition, in Spanish.
    The Special EDge is a publication of the California Department of Education's Special Education Division. Several issues address transition-related matters. See, specifically, the Summer 2004 and Summer 2001 issues.
  • Family training on transition.
    Ventura County SELPA offers a wide range of materials in Spanish on transition. See what's available at the link above.
  • Person-centered planning explained.
    La Planificacion Centrada en la Persona: Una Herramienta para la Transicion provides a concise description of person-centered planning and an explanation of the benefits of this process. The brief also provides action steps for implementing person-centered planning, references within the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act that support the process, and a list of additional resources. (This is the Spanish version of the NCSET brief on person-centered planning mentioned above.)
  • The IEP for transition-aged students.
    This NCSET Parent Brief explains the requirements for transition under IDEA 1997, the composition and functioning of the Individual Education Program (IEP) Transition Team, and special factors for tahe IEP team to consider. It also outlines the roles of students, parents, educators, school staff, and agency staff on the IEP Transition Team.
  • Promising transition strategies.
    The National Institute for Urban School Improvement offers a number of publications in Spanish, including On Transition Services for Youth with Disabilities (Con respecto a los Servicios de Transicion para Jovenes con Incapacidades).
  • Accommodations in the workplace.
    The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) was mentioned above as a free consulting service that provides information about job accommodations, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the employability of people with disabilities. JAN offers many materials in Spanish, starting at the link above and can also respond in Spanish on its toll-free number: 1.800.526.7234 (V/TTY).