Teens with ASD: Transition IEPs
The future depends on what we do in the present. - Mahatma Gandhi
What does “transition services” mean?
The term “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 instruction, related services, community experiences, the development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives, and, if appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation.
What is a “Transition IEP”?
A transition IEP is a regular IEP but includes expected outcomes and the goals for those outcomes for the child after high school ends. It will include information about your child's interests and skills and what needs to be done to get him/her ready for the post-school world or work or college, whichever is appropriate. It will also include which route to graduation, diploma or certificate of completion, your child will take.
One big difference is the shift from teacher-developed goals and activities to student-driven plans for the future. Transition IEPs are to include and emphasize the child's self-advocacy and self-directed vision for his/her future.
Preparing for the transition IEP starts with the parent, and child if able, to create a vision of the child's future. What would your child like to do? What would he be able to do? What skills would he need to develop between now and the end of school to attain those skills?
When do you do a Transition IEP?
IDEA says “Beginning not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the child turns 16, or younger if determined appropriate by the IEP Team” but in many states it's done when the child turns 14. Some districts hold a transition IEP meeting separate from a regular IEP meeting, and some do not. The full legal wording can be found here.
What should be included in a Transition IEP?
The IEP should include a student profile with a statement of current functioning covering all areas of performance including current academic achievement, current functional performance and recommendations for achieving post-secondary goals. Goals should be in these areas:
- Vocational/Technical Training
- Higher Education
- Social competence
What happens if a participating agency fails to provide the needed transition services?
The IEP team must reconvene the meeting to figure out alternative strategies on how to make sure the student receives the service. Ultimately the burden falls on the district to act as both a liaison between agencies and the student, and to ensure that proper services are being given.
What is the law governing Transition IEPs?
IDEA mandates transition IEPs but the 2004 revision places a stronger emphasis on improving student outcomes for life after high school. (34 CFR 300.43) (20 U.S.C. 1401 )
Who else should be included at Transition IEP meetings that haven't been included previously?
- Your child, who is generally not present before this age, will be invited to attend the transition IEP.
- A Vocational Rehabilitation counselor should be included in all transition IEP meetings, if appropriate.
- Career counselors should be included, if appropriate.
What else is a part of the transition process?
The Summary of Performance is designed to assist the students as they transition from high school to post-high-school life and includes summative information prior to graduation such as services that have been provided thus far and goals for the future along with necessary contact information for the next steps.
If your child has a 504 plan rather than an IEP, is there a Transition 504?
No, this only applies to IEP plans.
Post Secondary Education questions your child should be asking
If your child is planning to attend college, they will need certain skills that should be taught while they are still in high school. I have been asked many times by parents of kids with HFA or Asperger's if they should tell their kids about their diagnosis, and my resounding answer is YES!!! They are going to face challenges related to their diagnosis and they need to understand how their diagnosis affects them so they can build the skills necessary for them to succeed. Life, and especially not employers, will not give your kid a pass or make accommodations for them after high school so your kid needs to know what deficits they have, and how to cope and bypass them in whatever way works best for them. As a matter of fact, your kids are going to have to work even harder than a non-disabled peer to get through college, employment and life, especially since your child doesn't "look" different. You cannot shield your child forever, so remember, knowledge is power. Give them the tools to overcome their challenges, and start early.
In relation to college, during the transition IEP meeting, your child should be asking:
- Am I going to go to college?
- What are my strengths?
- Given my strengths, what are the logical fields of study for me to go to school for?
- What are my weak areas?
- How do we address my weak areas given my learning style? What modifications are needed?
- Is there an Office of Disabilities on campus at my local/chosen schools? What disability-related services will they offer, if any, to help me be successful?
- If I would live in a dorm, what skills do I need that I don't currently have?
Transition IEPs: A Curriculum Guide for Teachers and Transition Specialists by Paul Wehman
(this book has 300 pages of sample transition IEPs for autism, LD, ED, ID and physical disabilities. A great read!)
Autism & the Transition to Adulthood: Success beyond the classroom by Paul Wehman, Marcia Datlow Smith and Carol Schall
Growing up on the Spectrum by Lynn Kern Koegel and Claire LaZebnik
Transition Planning: Setting Lifelong Goals by Jennifer Graham and Peter Wright, Esq.
OCALI's Transition Website, includes Webcasts
Transition: Stacking the Deck In Your Favor by: Dena L Gassner (This presentation is aimed primarily at parents of teens with Aspergers and covers transition IEPs, OVR and applying for, and appealing denials for SSI.
What if my child is not high enough functioning to attend college?
Many children, like my son, will not be able to attend college, but there are many things for them to do. The "what" will depend on your child and you will start to address this in the Transition IEP.
Finding out what YOUR child likes to do is the key to their future. Thinking outside the box may require the whole transition team poring over your child's strengths and weaknesses and their list of recreational choices, i.e. what your child chooses to do during their downtime.
There are many traditional jobs, like stuffing envelopes, sorting nuts and bolts, filing, janitorial service, landscaping, shelving books at the library, stocking shelves, bagging groceries. However, with a good transition plan and support, the options are opening up to all new fields, especially computers and IT, and employers are looking at this population differently.
Studies show that hiring people with developmental delays pays off for the employer too. "There is dedication, reliability and a loyalty to the company with these (DD) workers. Their time and attendance records tell the story. Their numbers are far superior compared to those of employees who are not disabled. You can count on them. They're hard working and they deliver incredible customer service." Debra Lambert, SFGate.com
For my family, we have a plan to start a farm residence. I find this setting ideal not just for my family but also for people in general. It's a gentler, quieter life and with a kid who can get overstimulated by life, I believe a farm is the perfect place for us. Also, a farm setting has all the work that residents will ever need, built right in, without the need to make "busy work." No matter what the functioning level of a person with ASD, there is always something they can do on a farm. Always. There are always animals to be fed and watered, weeds to be pulled, something to be swept or raked, fences to be mended, food to be grown or cooked; not to mention all of the usual daily living chores like laundry and dishes. I don't think anyone would ever run out of things to do on a farm. More about farm living.