Special Needs Transition Services from High School

Teens with special needs are eligible for a variety of transition services, once they reach the age of 16. Practical suggestions from a special education attorney for special needs transition services from high school for work, life skills and college.

By David A. Sherman, special education attorney and author of Autism: Asserting Your Child's Right to a Special Education.

The transition services discussed in this article involve transition to life after public school. The 2004 IDEA provides that the child should be prepared "for further education,employment and independent living."

Transition services should begin "not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the child is 26." [Section 614(d)(1)(A)(VIII)]. The purpose of transition services is to prepare the child for life after public school. This may include preparing the child to live on his own, adaptive skills, exposing the student to a variety of job-related experiences, taking into account the student's interests and/or higher education. Generally, these services can be provided up to the age of 21 years (unless your state provides for a longer period of time), when the student meets his goals and objectives or upon graduation from high school. An exception would be made for compensatory services.

Parents must be careful about drafting goals and objectives in the transition IEP (see sample on pages 109-110). Services must be provided through the age of 21 or until the goals and objectives are met. Thus, great care should be taken in preparing the goals and objectives. Once the goals and objectives have been met, the school may have no further responsibility. Although services generally will terminate when the child graduates, some cases have held that if goals and objectives have not been met, the graduation should be rescinded until they have been met. {Kevin T. v. Elmhurst Community School District No. 206, 36 IDELR 153 (2002), Livermore Valley Joint USD, SN 727-00 (California SEHO case)].

If your child is high functioning, consider what he or she needs to learn to go to college or learn a vocation. If you child is planning to attend college, the student may need special orientation services to assimilate to the college community. The child may need to gradually oriented to the college community or may need a "buddy" to help him for the first several months.

Other children may need to learn to drive a care or take a bus. Or, perhaps there are other transportation issues. It will be appropriate for some children to learn a vocation. If so, what are his interests? Are there vocational schools or classes available? Some children with autism may find tasks that are repetitive to be of interest. These can range from computer programming to mail sorting or washing dishes.

A parent may wish to make written requests for assessments by qualified personnel to help determine needed transition services, particularly if the school is not forthcoming with a full transition program. A parent can also make a written request fro a transportation assessment. Other request for assessments could determine appropriate training for employment considering the child's interest and an assessment to determine the appropriate living situation and'/or the independent living skills needed.

Some students may need to learn adaptive living skills. Sometimes apartments are set up for a number of young adults who learn skills such as making meals and cleaning clothes with a live-in adult who acts as mentor. There are numerous possibilities to explore. Think about what your child will need to live independently, or if that is not possible, in the least restrictive environment. What are your child's interests? How will your child get around? Will your child work? College? Vocations school? What vocational training will the school district provide?

Are there state agencies that can assist your child in transitioning? Check with your school district to see what help is available. If the state agencies can possible provide services, ask the school district to have a representative of the state agency at the IEP.

David A. Sherman, is a special education attorney. This article on autism and cognitive function is copyright to David A. Sherman and excerpted with permission from his book, Autism: Asserting Your Child's Right to a Special Education.