What is a Transition IEP?

Dear SeeMyIEP.com,

My son is a ninth grader this year and his special ed teacher keeps talking about the next IEP that is written will be a “transition” IEP. I am not sure what she means by that. Are there special things that happen when a Transition IEP is written? Thanks!

What is a Transition IEP?

Transition IEPs are required for individuals who receive special services when they have reached the age of 16. Some states require IEPs for younger students, especially those with the most significant needs. Most states will wait until the student has started high school before they develop a transition IEP. Transition IEPs are different from regular IEPs in that they have additional areas for planning and service delivery. Transition IEPs describe the instruction needed for the individual student for any given year, the pre-employment skills to be taught, the adult daily living skills to be taught and the community experiences to be explored during the school year. Each area has goals and benchmarks that will move the student closer to the goal of a dignified adult lifestyle. A colleague of mine, Tom Wermuth uses that term to talk about the vision the transition team should have for each student. The vision is for the student to become as independent as possible by the time they leave the public school system.

The first area to consider is the Instructional goals that will be in place during the year. The multidisciplinary team (MDT), in most cases, including the student, thinks about the instruction needed to meet the terminal educational goal. Does the student intend to go to college, a trade school, the university? Then the team needs to consider which diploma options would suit the student’s goals. Once the diploma option is selected, then the team considers what interim goals need to be met that year to allow the student to obtain that diploma. For example, if the goal is to earn a standard diploma, and the state requires all students to take Algebra 1 as a graduation requirement, the team will need to discuss what is needed to allow this student access to Algebra 1. The instructional objectives are linked directly to the classes or course work needed to meet graduation requirements.

The Pre-employment goals on a transition IEP consider the student’s goals for making a living or getting and keeping a job. For some students the goals in the area of pre-employment will include career exploration activities. Others may be beyond that level of preparation and will need pre-employment experiences like volunteering, or specific job training. The MDT d evelops a plan and sequences it so that the skills or experiences develop over time. In many cases, the MDT needs to think beyond the school day or the school grounds to help meet the pre-employment goals in a transition IEP. The third area in a transition IEP are the Adult Daily Living (ADL) goals. This set of goals include skills to be developed to help the student live as independently as possible. Typical areas within ADL include hygiene needs, transportation skills, social and communication needs, homemaking skills, etc. The MDT considers which of these skills needs are appropriate for the year and develop a sequence of steps to teach and learn each goal.

The last area is Community Experiences. The MDT discusses the things the student needs to learn or experience to be able to negotiate their world. Does the student need to be taught how to ride the bus? Does the student know how to register for community college classes? This area of transition planning is more than field trips. It is directly connected to the way the student will move about the community.

Regular IEPs and Transition IEPs vary in the type of annual goals and short term objectives or benchmarks written, but the central idea is the same. Both focus on student needs. Both use a multi disciplinary team to make decisions. The key difference is that the student must be involved and the planning considers needs at school as well as beyond the school.