Eventually, your child will leave K-12 education. Some children with disabilities graduate from high school at age 18 with the skills they need and move on successfully from there. Other children will need more services than the general education curriculum offers, especially as they transition out of school and into adulthood.
Children with disabilities might need help developing job skills, and there aren’t enough hours during the school day to get this help while also following the general curriculum. Some children will need help finding a college that fits their particular abilities. Some children need life skills like learning to balance a checkbook, preparing a meal, or building the social skills to be successful in the work world.
Ideally, your child will begin receiving these services early. Some children might begin vocational (job) training in middle school. Others might stay for an “18+” or “Transition” program after they’ve received a certificate of attendance instead of graduating with a diploma. If your child is receiving special education services, and it is written into their Individualized Education Program (IEP), they have the right to get help with all of these things from their school district. Your student may be able to keep getting services until age 21 or 22 (depending on which calendar month they turn 22), even if they received a certificate of attendance at age 18. Transition services are an important part of the special education curriculum. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires school districts to provide them. Children receiving special education services must have a transition plan as part of their IEP by age 14 or earlier, if their Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) committee thinks it is necessary.
But if your child is getting older, and you haven’t started thinking about your child’s transition yet, don’t worry. Take a deep breath and move forward from wherever you are.
There are certain questions that are helpful to ask when your child is in high school. These include:
Answering these questions helps your child get the right IEPs and transition plan. It will help them make choices that support what they want to do after high school.
Some school districts offer 18+ and Transition programs to help students who receive a certificate of attendance in place of a diploma. Many also offer vocational programs to help students experience a work environment, learn job skills, and decide on a career.
It can be hard to get into these programs. Different school districts have different rules. Your child’s ARD committee must decide to write these services into your child’s IEP.
Some of these vocational classes could take place at your child’s high school. In some districts, classes also happen at a specialized vocational school. These programs generally include both career classes and classes that teach specialized skills.
Titles of study programs could include:
Your school district can also connect you to community organizations and programs that might help with your child’s transition.
These might be:
To find out what your school district offers, you can look on the district website, call the district’s special education contact person, or try to connect with other parents in your area.
Remember that your child has the right to transition services that: