Transition Services for Children With Disabilities (page 2)

By — National Dissemination Center for Children With Disabilities
Updated on Feb 17, 2011

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.
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