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IEP Help Understanding Transition Meetings

Understanding that the word “transition” is used in a variety of ways in special education can eliminate a lot of confusion for parents. One of the ways it is most commonly used is for transition to represent a change from one activity to another, within the school environment.  An example of this would be transitioning from a preferred activity, such as PE, to a non-preferred activity, such as math class. Some children also experience difficulty transitioning from a structured activity, such as a lesson, to a non-structured activity, such as group work. When these transition needs affect a child’s ability to access the curriculum, a goal needs to be written to help the child with the areas of transitioning that they are struggling with.

Besides the meaning of moving from one activity to another, there are also different types of transition meetings.These are natural transition points in a child’s special education programming when IEP meetings are held to address the child’s transitioning from one placement to another. These natural transition points are:

  • Part C (0-2 years of age) to Part B (3-21 years of age) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  • Preschool to Elementary School
  • Elementary to Middle or Junior High School
  • Middle or Junior High School to High School
  • High School to Post-Secondary Activities

If, at any point, the child no longer requires special education services then an exit meeting must be held, instead of a transition meeting.

Part C to Part B

The earliest of these transition meetings is when an infant moves from Part C  (0-2 years of age) of IDEA to Part B (3-21 years of age). This meeting should be held no fewer than ninety days before the child’s 3rd birthday. If the child continues to need specialized services, the service coordinator from the lead agency must notify the State Education Agency (SEA) and the child’s Local Education Agency (LEA). Instead of an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP), an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) will be written to address the specific needs of the student. The parents can request that the service coordinator from Part C be part of the initial IEP meetings. This will ensure a coordinated effort between the two agencies as they collaborate to develop a comprehensive IEP that addresses the child’s needs.

Topics of Discussions for Transition Meetings

Each natural transition point has its own specific concerns but there are general topics that should be addressed at all transition meetings.

  • Clear and Measurable Goals
  • Specialized Equipment
  • Transportation Needs
  • Accommodations and Modifications
  • Health Needs
  • Mobility Concerns
  • Extended School Year (ESY)

Some specific concerns that the IEP team should address as a child transitions into middle and high school are:

  • Going from one primary teacher to numerous subject teachers
  • Increased workload and homework
  • Opportunities for extra-curricular activities

Transition Plan for Adult Life

When a child is approaching the age of 16, IDEA becomes extremely specific about the district including transition services as part of the child’s IEP. These transition services include the areas of instruction, community experience, employment and other post-school living objectives. In the academic year that the child turns 16, these services must be documented through the IEP. The child must be invited to attend the IEP meeting and should participate as much as possible in the development of their transition plan.

When developing a transition plan, the IEP team should develop a results oriented process that will improve the student’s academic and functional achievement to assist the student in adult life. Each child will have very specific needs based upon their abilities and their interests. A student’s individual preferences, accomplishments, and skills must be considered when developing a transition plan.

The transition plan should address any training the student may need to successfully bridge their final secondary years with the first years of their adult life. Areas that should be considered while developing this plan are post-secondary education, vocational education, integrated employment, continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, and community participation.

IDEA mandates that IEP teams develop measurable post-secondary goals in the areas of training, education, employment, and independent living skills. These should help the student transition to adult life with the needed services and supports in place. It is also mandated that the district invite a representative from any agency that may be providing or paying for transition services to the IEP meeting. This will support a smooth transition as the representative can address specific skills that may need to be developed before entering certain programs.

Depending upon a child’s date of birth, their services may be provided through age 21 or 22. The exception to this is when a special education student achieves a general academic diploma. With either circumstance, an exit IEP meeting that provides current assessment information must be held. This may provide a college bound student with a current IEP to assist them receive the services they need in college, or it may provide an employment bound student with a 504 plan to assist them in acquiring the needed accommodations so that they may be successful in the work environment.

Additional Transition Help

If you find yourself in an IEP meeting and you are uncomfortable about what the district is offering, you do not have to sign the IEP. You may request time to review the IEP and have a special education advocate review the document before signing. A special education advocate will review the document, find any areas of concern that may need to be addressed through an additional IEP meeting, or they will be able to put your mind at ease knowing that the document is appropriate for your child.

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