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Whether teaching and learning is happening in person, remotely, or a combination of both, supporting students through the transition planning process is still important. While COVID-19 will likely present challenges during this process, focusing on the key elements of transition planning will help students be successful as they transition to postsecondary life. From early intervention through adult transition programs, our school systems provide special education services for students who qualify. But what happens after graduation when these students exit the school system? Without an appropriate transition plan, they’re some of our most vulnerable citizens. After years of guidance, they could find themselves suddenly unsupported and unsure of what to do next.
Our ultimate goal for the students we serve is an appropriate level of independence, so whenever possible, transition planning should foster independence by developing student self-advocacy and self-determination skills. While the process requires time and effort, intentional, well-designed transition planning can become one of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of teaching in special education programs.
The 2004 reauthorization of the IDEA includes 20 indicators that states should use to determine their level of effectiveness and compliance with the law. States are required to collect and submit data for each indicator. Indicator 13 spells out the legal expectations for transition plans. Transition planning should begin by age 16 for every student with an IEP, although some states mandate starting as young as age 14. The plan should include an assessment, necessary services, and courses of study that will reasonably enable the student to meet postsecondary goals.
Three keys to help keep student interests and desires at the forefront of the transition planning process are:
- “My Dream,” which helps identify the student’s vision for life beyond high school.
- “My Self-Assessments,” which helps determine the student’s present levels of academic and functional performance.
- “My Student-Led IEP,” in which students identify adult services to support strengths, weaknesses, and needed accommodations.
When educators are able to expose students to career exploration by way of informational interviews, job shadowing or targeted online searches, students begin to establish more reasonable, informed and attainable postsecondary employment goals. To keep students from becoming overwhelmed, consider prompting them to narrow their ideas. This can be an effective way to lead and support expressive language skills.