All special education high school students must have a transition plan included in their Individual Education Plan (IEP). This is the law. Any student aged 14 or entering 8th grade must have a transition plan included in their IEP. This article will discuss the main components of a transition plan.
A good transition plan will identify a student's strengths in three areas: employment, post high school, and independent living. Additionally, a good transition plan will identify a student's goals in all of the above three areas. Further, a good transition plan will map out a blue print for a student's course of study, aligning classes to help students meet the goals identified for each of the three transition areas. Last, but not least, a good transition plan will include three or more activities for each of the three main goals to help students achieve their goals for employment, post high school, and independent living.
Before a transition plan can be developed, a student's strengths need to be identified in the areas of employment, post high school, and independent living. Since many high school students do not work at an actual job, identifying strengths for employment can be a little tricky. However, if you look at a student's strengths in the classroom, you can usually tie in those strengths to skills employers are looking for and you can usually predict that the classroom strengths will carry over to the employment situation. For example, if a student shows up on time for classes, completes all work accurately and on time, respects peers and staff, and cooperates with staff, you can predict that these skills will transfer to the employment situation and would therefore list them as employment strengths. These would be skills that employers for which employers are looking. Post high school strengths would include skills that will help students achieve success after high school. Some examples are students have participated in a career interest survey, have identified careers of interest, have begun career exploration, have chosen a career pathway, have developed a high school plan, have identified college(s) of interest, have applied for college, have investigated finanical aid resources, or have begun accumulating credits to earn a high school diploma. Independent living strengths vary widely from student to student, depending on their needs. For most students, you would include mention of their ability to maintain grooming and hygiene, follow a schedule independently, drive (if applicable), cook a simple meal, do laundry, and advocate for their needs.
For each of the three main transition areas, a goal needs to be developed. For employment, the goal should be a realistic goal for the student. It could include a specific field of work such as medical field or it could be more specific such as a nurse practitioner. Often times, students are not sure what they want to do but they know they want to work, in which case you would include a goal of full time employment. The next goal would be for post high school and should be tied to the employment goal For example, if a student wants to become a nurse practitioner, the post high school goal would be to attend college. If a student wants to work full time, a logical post high school goal would be to receive on the job training. The last goal for independent living would include a student's goal for transportation (getting a driver's license versus learning a bus route), marriage and children, and living arrangements (living alone, with family, with a roomate).
Once the goals are developed, activities to help students achieve their goals need to be developed. In the case of a student who wants to become a nurse practitioner, reasonable activities for employment would include investigating the requirements to become a nurse practitioner, investigating job shadowing opportunties with a nurse practitioner, interview a nurse practitioner to learn more about the job, or investigating job prospects for a nurse practitioner. For a student who has a goal of working full time, reasonable activities would include filling out job applications, practicing interview skills, or visiting a job agency. For actvities for post high school, it is always a good idea to include a statement that the student will complete all high school credits to graduate with a high school diploma (or certificate if that is the case). Other activities would include investigating educational requirements for the employment goal, investigating college programs or job training for the employment goal, or visiting a job site or college program related to the employment goal. It could also include applying for college or applying or a specific job. Independent living activites to help students meet independent living goals are wide and varied. It is a good idea to include general activities such as register to vote, apply for driver's license, and develop a network of support. Other activities for independent living could include planning, shopping, and cooking a meal, visiting a rental office to view a lease, learning about the cost of owning a car (to include financing, maintainence, and insurance costs), and developing a budget for everyday expenses.
The final part of the transition plan is to develop a course of study that will help students achieve their transition goals. Obviously if a student wants to pursue a career that requires college, academic classes would be of high priority for that student. However, classes should also be aligned to the employment goal. If a student wants to be a nurse practitioner, that student should take as many science classes as possible to prepare for a career in the nursing field. If a student wants to pursue full time employment but does not know exactly what kind of job they want, classes should include business, technical, and vocational classes to prepare the student for a future job. If a student has a specific technical career in mind such as carpentry, then vocational classes should make up a large part of that student's schedule. These classes will be in addition to the required credits needed for graduation.
In summary, a good transition plan will include a student's strengths, goals, and activities to achieve goals in the areas of employment, post high school, and independent living. A good transition plan will aid in helping a student feel secure that after graduation, they have an actual plan in place.