Ideally transition planning should be going on whenever a student with disabilities is faced with the prospect of a major change in educational programming (starting at a new school, for example), and is especially important for children with disorders on the autism spectrum, who often don’t handle transitions well. However, I have the most experience with assisting students with intellectual disabilities and their families to prepare for the transition from high school to adulthood, so I’ll be focussing on that.
IEPs: An Introduction
In all of the Canadian provinces and territories, and across the United States, students that have a disability that causes them to need support or accommodation in school have that all documented in something called an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) in Ontario and the US. Many provinces also call it an IEP, although some provinces some call it by slightly different names (Special Education Plan, Individual(ized) Program Plan). These documents are different only in name and format from an IEP; they serve the same purpose and contain the same information.
The IEP lets school personnel know about what a student with disability requires to learn and function optimally in the classroom. Some students may need a laptop to take notes and longer to writer to write tests and exams. Other students may need to work on a modified curriculum is modified, and need the quiet of the Resource Room to do classwork. The IEP clearly spells out these needs. The IEP also makes them aware of any important medical information. For example If a student is prone to seizures and needs to have the ambulance called if they have more than one in a hour, this should appear in the IEP (as well as a Medic-Alert bracelet that the student wears, but that’s another story). Sometimes, if a student has a history of violent behaviour, a Safety Plan with specific instructions on how to handle this behaviour accompanies an IEP.
IEPs review happens once a year, and can happen more often should issues come up. The yearly meeting, referred to in Ontario as the IRPC (Internal Review and Placement Committee) is a place where parents can talk to their child’s teachers and other school administration about their child’s progress, and discuss changes that they’d like to make for next year. Students over 16 in Ontario are entitled to attend their own IRPC, and parents or the student can bring an advocate in. The IPRC is also is also an excellent opportunity to discuss another section of the IRPC: the Transition Plan section. The school should be assisting your son/daughter to develop a transition plan. Other agencies may be helping, but the school has a responsibility to do this. This is the same across Canada and the United States. School boards place a great deal of importance on transition planning and periodic review of the transition plan as it appears in the IEP.
The Importance of Good Transition Planning
Good transition planning is important. You and your student should be an active part of the process. to ensure that the school creates the best plan possible. After all, the plan is about your young adult and his/her life.
You don’t want to get to Graduation Day and be asking yourself, “What are we going to do now?
“Where is my daughter going to stay while I’m at work, now that she can’t go to school?“
“My son says he wants a job – how do I go about helping him to get one?”
“I know that I’m supposed to apply for some sort of government funding for my daughter, but how do I find out what it is and where I begin?”
“Where are we supposed to get a new doctor now that my son is 18 and the paediatrician won’t see him anymore?”
“My daughter says she wants to live alone, but I don’t think she’s ready, and I’m tired of fighting with her about it,”
Every one of those problems has solutions – but not on Graduation Day. Transition Planning has to start, much, much earlier. As we go through this series in the next couple of weeks, we’ll discuss why, and the best ways to partner with your school and community agencies to assist the young adult in your life to create the best plan possible.
More on IEPs: http://specialed.about.com/od/iep/a/IEP-Plan.htm Note: This is a very general resource. It doesn't mention transition planning or the transition plan section of the IEP.