What Are the Legal Requirements to Prepare High School Students for Transition
According to the IDEA 1997, by age 14, the individual education program (IEP) for students with disabilities was required to assure that they have access to educational and career–vocational programs congruent with their postschool goals. The IDEA amendments of 2004 revised the language to begin transition services at age 16, with the local option to begin earlier. The 2004 amendments define transition as a coordinated set of activities for a student with a disability that:
- Is designed to be within a results-oriented process, that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the child with a disability to facilitate the child’s movement from school to postschool activities, including postsecondary education; vocational education; integrated employment (including supported employment); continuing and adult education; adult services; and independent living or community participation;
- Is based on the individual child’s needs, taking into account the child’s strengths, preferences, and interests; and
- Includes instruction, related services, community experiences, the development of employment and other postschool adult living objectives and, when appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation. (Sec. 602, 20 USC 1400)
The IEP must include a statement, beginning no later than the first IEP in effect when the student is 16 and updated annually, of “appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based on age-appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and independent living skills.” The IEP must also include transition services, including courses of study needed to assist in reaching the postsecondary goal (IDEA, 2004).
Greene and Kochhar-Bryant (2003) identified four broad courses of study or transition pathways leading to four general postschool goals. These were (1) fully integrated into academics leading to a 4-year college or university, (2) integrated academics leading to a community college or vocational-technical school, (3) general and life skills education for competitive employment and semi-independent living, and (4) community and life skills education for supported employment and supervised living. Many states are defining different graduation options or pathways that result in several diploma options (Johnson & Thurlow, 2003).
For a student to choose from among different options or pathways such as these requires the involvement of special and general educators, counselors, and vocational educators who can explain the requirements of each pathway; advise students on their feasibility; and explain the course of study required to complete the pathway. It also requires the involvement of adult service and related service providers who can provide supports along the way. Students must be engaged in the planning process to ensure that the pathway best fits their goals and interests.
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