Having a child with special needs is complicated by the challenge of having to navigate an unfamiliar system. One such area of confusion: understands transition from high school and beyond and your rights to services. First let’s define the law:
§300.43 Transition services IDEA 2004 (a) Transition services means a coordinated set of activities for a child with a disability that—
- Is designed to be within a results-oriented process, that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the child with a disability to facilitate the child’s movement from school to post-school activities, including postsecondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation;
- Is based on the individual child’s needs, taking into account the child’s strengths, preferences, and interests; and includes—
- Related services;
- Community experiences;
- The development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives; and
- If appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and provision of a functional vocational evaluation.
Now that you know the law, how can you make sure your child is getting the services he/she deserves?
A special education student under an IEP, age 18 and considered a senior in a high school was confronted by his school district in his last year and was told he had to take his diploma and graduate high school. Doing so, would leave him without access to any special education services. The student had never undergone a comprehensive transition assessment or transition planning review. Hence, his IEP had focused solely on academic achievement (albeit with many, many modifications including a waiver for basic math).
His parents hadn’t received proper orientation to transition services and did not understand the regulations until the student was in 12th grade. The student had the desire (and ability with supports) to attend college, but there had been no preparations for this goal. The parents, late to game, demanded the school conduct a transition assessment to determine appropriate transition services. The school complied, but provided a non-descript report and general recommendations that included “work experience” but nothing regarding the child’s goal for a college experience, vocational evaluation, self-determination skills or postsecondary goal options.
Regardless of the lack of quality and on point accuracy of transition skills basis, the school disagreed with the finding, saying the student has progressed academically and the family was denying the student’s right to graduate. Essentially, the school district interpreted the regulations conveniently to understand that if a student has accomplished and met the academic criteria for graduation, that separation from school services through graduation had to occur.
However, the regulations clearly state that transition includes not only academic achievement, but functional achievement as well. Transition services must be determined by an age appropriate transition assessment. It does not say anecdotal information can be used, nor does it say the determination of services is based on the resources available within the district.
Hence, the student must be individually assessed in the areas of independent living skills (daily living, community access, social, and independence), work/career and training or education and services are determined based on NEED. ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT IS NOT THE ONLY CRITERIA FOR GRADUATION. WITHOUT ASSESSMENT AND TRANSITION SERVICES, THE IEP IS INCOMPLETE.
For a smoother and appropriate transition we recommend:
- Learn about transition beginning as early as middle school.
- Conduct age appropriate transition assessment and determine baseline skills in the three areas of transition so that annual goals can be created, tracked and measured for progress.
- Do not accept a diploma if transition assessment and transition services have not been determined. Academic achievement is NOT ENOUGH to separate the child from special education services!!!
At Transition Response we assist parents and students with a variety of services. From teaching them what the law requires and helping them ensure their school system abides by the law, to performing the proper assessments. Contact Us at 860-454-7494 to start your child’s path to a successful future.