IEP Transition Planning


One of the core objectives of IDEA is to prepare students for further education, employment, and independent living after high school. Transition services fulfill this objective, and the law requires them to begin the year the student turns 16 years old. This is an exciting time when students become part of the IEP team. They actively participate by sharing their goals and creating a transition plan that gives them the ability to live, work, and play in the community as fully and independently as possible.

In this article, you will find tips and suggestions for successful transition planning.

Person-Centered Planning

First and foremost, successful transition plans are person-centered. This means that plans are based on the student’s individual preferences, goals, and strengths.

  • Students are invited to attend transition IEP meetings beginning at 16 years old (some states begin at 14 years old).
  • Successful transition plans include SMART goals that reflect what the student wants to do or achieve after high school.
  • The law requires transition goals to cover the following areas:
    • Vocational training
    • Post-secondary education
    • Jobs and employment
    • Independent Living
  • Update transitions plans yearly to reflect changes in the student's preferences and interests.
  • Many students do not know what they want to do after high school.  In this circumstance, write goals about career exploration through vocational assessments and community-based work experiences.
  • Educational rights transfer to the student when they turn the “age of majority”, usually 18 years old. At this point, student consent is needed for changes to the IEP, placement, services or permission to evaluate. Each state differs slightly in transferring education rights to students. Read more from PACER about the transfer of rights at the age of majority.

Intra-Agency Responsibility

Second, successful transition planning requires community involvement outside of the school.

  • Outside agencies frequently invited to transition IEP meetings:
    • Vocational Rehabilitation: government agency in every state that provides job assessments, training, and placement.
    • Social worker
    • Job coach
    • Independent living center representative
    • College or technical school disability services representative
    • Career counselor
    • Person familiar with financial assistance benefits
    • Local public transportation representative
  • If an agency fails to provide the transition services agreed upon, the school district must find an alternative way to meet the requirements.
  • Once a connection is made between the student and an outside agency, it becomes the student or parents’ responsibility to remain in contact with the agency and coordinate any transition planning needs that will take place outside of the school. 

Preparing for Post-Secondary Transitions at Home

Finally, it is important for parents to work with their children at home in order to achieve post-secondary goals.

  • Discuss different options for post-secondary school, employment, leisure activities, and living arrangements with your child.
  • Visit friends at their places of employment or living space.
  • Volunteer or job shadow in your community to explore interests.
  • Explore hobbies and leisure activities that interest your child. Recreation and social opportunities are an important part of a balanced life.
  • Practice functional life skills at home.


In conclusion, transition planning is a team effort involving the school, outside agencies, parents, and most importantly, the student. Remember, if you couple thoughtful planning with targeted instruction and community experiences, you will cultivate the best possible environment for success.

Recommended Resources:
Additional Reading:

*All content in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for legal advice. Regarding matters of the law and policy – please consult an attorney or advocate on your child’s behalf.