What Transition Programs and Services are Available?
Results from outcome studies of adults with learning disabilities as well as adults with other types of disabilities (e.g., mental retardation, emotional or behavioral disorders) have done much to convince policy makers that major initiatives need to be directed toward transition programming. There have been a series of federal government initiatives to strengthen educational programming for secondary-school students with disabilities to enable them to make a more successful transition to adulthood.
Prior to the passage of p.L. 94-142 in 1975, public school programming for students with disabilities beyond elementary-school age was minimal. This law mandated that students with disabilities receive an appropriate education until graduation from high school or until 21 years of age. In the mid-1980s, the federal government announced the "transition initiative" (Will, 1984). Based on this call for action, Congress passed several pieces of legislation, the most important of which was IDEA (P.L. 101-476, passed in 1990 and amended in 1997 as P.L. 105-17), which mandates that schools provide transition services for all students with disabilities.
In order to ensure proper and timely planning for the implementation of transition services, the law requires that a transition plan be integrated into each student's individualized education program (IEP). IDEA requires the IEP to contain the following:
- beginning at age 14 and updated annually, a statement of the transition service needs of the child under the applicable components of the child's IEP that focuses on the child's courses of study (such as participation in advanced-placement courses or a vocational education program)
- beginning at age 16 (or younger, if determined appropriate by the IEP Team), a statement of needed transition services for the child, including, when appropriate, a statement of the interagency responsibilities or any needed linkages. (IDEA Amendments of 1997, Sec. 6l4(d)(I)(A)vii, p. 55)
By mandating that the transition plan be part of a student's IEP, Congress has underscored the importance of each student's need for a unique transition experience. With the wide variety of employment and postsecondary experiences, as well as the many living opportunities available, individualization becomes increasingly important as the student with learning disabilities progresses through secondary school. As Shapiro and Rich (1999) state, "transition programming must not only be comprehensive but individualized, based on personal needs, interests, and preferences" (p. 142). The needs of many will change as they progress through secondary school. Adolescence is a time of rapid physical and emotional alterations. Students at this age frequently modify their vocational and educational aspirations, as the following quote indicates:
I've wanted to be a teacher since I was in second grade, but when I met my friend, Ashleigh, and found out that her father writes for the newspaper, I thought I wanted to do that. Maybe it would be more fun to be a reporter on TV... I'm not sure...I would love to work with famous people.
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