When the ARD/IEP team talks about writing a transition plan, they are not referring to attending a new school or becoming a High School Freshman. Instead, a 'Transition Plan' or ITP, is often the most overlooked part of the IEP: the plan for what happens after K-12. Regardless of what grade your child is in, this process and assessment must be completed by the time a child turns 14 and updated annually.
The definition of Special Education
Some parents will already have a plan for their child's future that they wrote with family involvement. Now is the time to share it with the school, or at least the educational piece of that plan. The overarching purpose of Special Education is to prepare a child for further education, employment and independent living. You may not have those words in any particular order; however, remember this description when you are discussing annual goals on the ARD committee. Your child's IEP is supposed to facilitate movement towards post-secondary goals (or PSGs). IEPs are not just for academic attainment but educational skill development, i.e. preparing a fully-rounded individual for the big, wide world, or as much as your child's disability can allow. In short, development of the ITP means that the ARD committee is establishing future goals that are the outcome of your child's education and, simultaneously making sure that the IEP's annual goals and instruction are in alignment- keeping your child on track. Like annual goals, PSGs must be measurable and specific: "Bobby will enroll in a 4 year degree program, majoring in Journalism..." The annual goals that may support this 'further education' goal would be written so that Bobby has grade level attainment in English Language Arts by graduation.
What is the basis of the ITP ?
Similar to IEP annual goals, there should be a PLAAFP that describes the present levels of the student's strengths, preferences and interests. For example, your child may want to be a physician, but have neither the aptitude or liking for STEM subjects. Aptitude and ability are essential considerations for developing realistic PSGs, especially where your child hasn't got a firm sense of where they are headed after high school. This planning process helps a student self-examine, assess future options and eliminate possibilities. Formal and informal assessments provide insight into career field clusters that may be good guidance for goals. Personality tests, Career Inventories and functional/vocational tests can also determine the ability to self-advocate. Schools use many tests and a parent can request specific tests if necessary. If daily living skills for independence are a concern, and your child has only filled out an interest inventory, the plan is bound to be unrealistic.
What's in an ITP?
There are required elements based on your child's individualized needs. Training or further education, employment and independent living goals may not be appropriate for every child's plan. However, they must be written if your child needs them. At least one of the options for IEP graduation in Texas, states that the child must "demonstrate specific employability skills..." In order to demonstrate those skills, there must be goals and services in the ITP. The National Technical Assistance Center on Transition has a checklist that parents can use to evaluate the ITP. Are courses of study listed? a functional-vocational evaluation? Does the student need a referral to the Texas Workforce Commission to develop a Job Plan with one of their coaches?
Don't underestimate the importance of effective transition planning
The transition plan can highlight holes in services or instruction in its close relationship to the entire educational program. If an annual goal is not ambitious and supported by services then the corresponding PSG is not achievable. Remember Bobby? It turns out that Bobby is presently below grade level in writing although he has the aptitude and ability to excel in English Language Arts. The team will need to reconsider how to get him ready for the post secondary environment with skills that will match the demands of college level classes and, later on, his chosen career. The transition plan needs to be meaningful and relevant to the purpose of the IEP contract. When you need help in writing an ITP, or need to review an existing plan, call your Special Education Advocate.