District Office of Transition Services (DOTS)
Jaclyn Tolj, Coordinator
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is Transition?
Transition is a coordinated set of activities to facilitate the movement from school to post school life. This is an important rite of passage for all young people. It is a significant milestone for youth with disabilities as well. Work in particular helps define a person's self-concept and sense of participation in society. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the federal law requiring a free appropriate education for children with disabilities, recognizes that schools play an important role in preparing students for this transition.
- What does the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act specify about Transition Services?
Beginning in 1990, the IDEA required schools to prepare students for the transition to adult life by incorporating a statement of needed transition services into the students individualized education program (IEP) no later than age 16. The 2004 amendments to IDEA require "beginning not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the child turns 16, or younger if determined appropriate by the IEP Team, and updated annually thereafter, the IEP must include: appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based upon age-appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment and, where appropriate, independent living skills; the transition services (including courses of study) needed to assist the child in reaching those goals; and beginning not later than one year before the child reaches the age of majority under State law, a statement that the child has been informed of the child's rights under Part B, if any, that will transfer to the child on reaching the age of majority."
IDEA also states that "the coordinated set of activities shall be based upon the individual student's needs, taking into account the student's preferences and interests. "These activities include "instruction, related services, community experiences, the development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives, and if appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation. "
- Why is preparation for Transition so important?
Young people leaving the school system frequently find there is no coordinated adult system of services and supports to help them find work, housing and recreational and leisure activities. Many have difficulty finding jobs because they have not learned the academic, technical, and social skills necessary to find and/or maintain employment. Too many young adults end up sitting at home with very little involvement in their communities. The transition requirements of the IDEA are designed to help students successfully leave school to live and work within the community. Transition planning and activities cover the student's school years from age 14 until school completion, which may be through age 21 if there are continuing educational needs.
- How are Transition Services determined for each student?
The IDEA mandates that transition services be addressed for all students with disabilities, and as such, transition planning must be part of the individualized education program (IEP) meeting held annually for each student. The IEP is developed in a team meeting in which all members of the IEP team decide what transition services should be included in the student's IEP. The specific needs of the student for post-secondary services should determine who is invited to the IEP meeting. As the student approaches graduation, representatives of community agencies and organizations that provide adult services should be invited to the meeting. The student should always be included as part of the team. Some students may even be able to chair their IEP meeting, especially those who have been prepared to take the lead (Wehmeyer & Kelchner, 1997).
- What happens to the IEP process when a student reaches the age of majority?
When a student reaches the age of majority (age 18 in most states), the state may provide that all rights accorded to the parents under Part B of the IDEA will transfer to the student, with the exception of the right to notice which is both retained by the parents and transfers to the student. Beginning at least one year before the student reaches the age of majority, the IEP must include a statement that the student has been informed of those rights under the IDEA, if any, that will transfer to the student on reaching the age of majority. The school district must notify the student and the parent of the transfer of rights one year prior to the age of majority.
These requirements do not apply to students who have been determined to be legally incompetent under state law. If the state has a legal means to determine if a child who has not been legally determined to be incompetent is not able to provide informed consent, that state may establish procedures for appointing a parent or other person to represent the educational interests of the student. The regulations clarify this to apply only if the state has additional laws and procedures that allow for a lesser determination of competency for specific purposes. Like the guardianship procedure, however, these "lesser determinations of competency" are legal processes leading to some legal judgment about the individual's capacity to provide informed consent.
- What school practices promote transition from school to work?
All students need to acquire the skills necessary to live in their communities. They need to know how to shop, use the post office, go to the doctor or clinic and participate in recreation and leisure activities Students need to learn to drive or use public transportation. They need to learn how to manage their personal finances. They need to learn the skills for living in their own place and for maintaining personal health and safety. Schools can provide these learning opportunities to students with disabilities, at least in part, by providing an individualized education program that is functional and based on the student's unique characteristics and preferences.
Several school practices support the student's preparation for transition from school to work:
• Skill-building for enhanced self-determination. Schools can support the student's acquisition of skills leading to enhanced self-determination. There are a number of curricular materials designed to promote self-determination for youth with disabilities. They may contain components covering choice-making; decision-making; problem-solving; goal setting and attainment; independence, risk-taking and safety skills; self-observation, self-evaluation and self-reinforcements skills; self-instruction skills; self-advocacy and leadership skills. School instructional practices may also help students develop attitudes leading to enhanced self-determination, such as holding positive expectations, being aware of their own strengths, and believing they can control or influence outcomes (Wehmeyer, Agran, & Hughes, 1998).
• Job-seeking skills curriculum. Schools can offer instruction and practice in the skills necessary to obtain a job. This will help students know what to expect and be better prepared whether they seek a job on their own or receive assistance from a community employment program.
• Training at employment sites. Student develop skills for jobs and learn appropriate work and social behaviors through interactions with co-workers that occur naturally in a work setting Students who have work experience in several kinds of jobs will be better able to make decisions about the kinds of work they would like to seek when they lease school.
- What can parents do to prepare their child for transition from school to work and community life?
The road leading to a successful transition from childhood to adulthood begins much earlier than the teenage years. It starts when children learn about themselves, their strengths and weaknesses and, so doing, begin to value themselves. It ends when, as adults, these same children can take control over choices and decisions that impact their lives and take responsibility for their actions. This is called self-determination (Davis & Wehmeyer, undated).
Parents can be effective educators in communicating to their children the value of work and by teaching behaviors that develop their children's employment potential. Parents can provide opportunities for enjoyable community activities that allow children to see people at work in different settings. Parents can allow as much independence as possible, assign children responsibility of certain chores to help instill a positive work ethic, promote appropriate behavior at home and in social situations, assist their children in practicing good grooming skills, and emphasize the importance of physical fitness.
Parents can also support their children's development of self-determination skills by helping them learn to work toward goals, setting realistic but ambitious expectations for their achievements, and allowing them to take responsibility for their own actions. Parents should not leave choice-making to chance, but provide many opportunities for their children to make choices, ranging from what to wear to helping the family decide where to go on vacation. By being allowed the opportunities to make choices and decisions, to explore and take risks and to learn from experiences of success and failure, children will develop the abilities and attitudes necessary to be self-determined adults.
- What is the parent's role in collaborating with the school for their child's transition?
Parents are highly encouraged to participate when the IEP team meets for planning the transition aspects of their individualized education program (IEP). They can also assure that the IEP team considers all aspects of their child's future, not just work. The IEP team should consider where the student would like to live, how the student will manage transportation, how the student will manage financial affairs, and what types of leisure activities the student might pursue. Any future supports the student might need should be considered. This information will assist the team in developing the student's educational goals. The focus on functional, life-centered education for learners with disabilities requires information pertaining to the student's home and community experiences and skills. Parents have a wealth of information in this regard and should be active participants in defining the transition services to be provided to their son or daughter.
- What can schools do to help students as they prepare to leave school?
Schools can develop cooperative relationships with employers and adult human service agencies, so that students leaving school receive support in making the transition to their new life in the community. Vocational rehabilitation agencies, employment and training programs, transportation systems and other agencies should be included in the transition process. As the student's needs for supports and services are identified, services from each agency can be arranged and included in the student's transition plan. Many states are converting to systems designed to give the person with a disability the control over how funds are spent for adult supports. States are using the term "Self-Determination" to describe this new way of providing funding for what the person needs.
Los Angeles Unified School District ♦ Division of Special Education
333 South Beaudry Avenue, 17th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90017