The preparation for further education, employment, and independent living is referred to as transition planning. Despite the clear directive of the law, transition planning is often overlooked, and sometimes even avoided, at IEP meetings. Below are 3 common myths about transition planning, and information to debunk each of them.
Myth vs. Reality : Three Common Myths About Transition Planning
Myth #1: Transition planning does not begin until twelfth grade.
Reality: Parents are often surprised to learn that New Jersey law requires that the initial elements of transition planning must be in place for the school year during which a student with disabilities reaches the age of 14 (or earlier, if appropriate). The IEP for the school year in which the student turns 14 must include:
- A statement of the student’s strengths, interests and preferences. (N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.7(e)(11)(i).)
- A program consistent with those strengths, interests and preferences, which is intended to assist the student in developing (and later achieving) postsecondary goals related to training, education, employment and, if appropriate, independent living. (N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.7(e)(11)(ii).)
- Information regarding outside agencies relevant to the student’s program. (N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.7(e)(11)(iii).)
- Consultation with outside agencies (e.g., the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (“DVRS”). (N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.7(e)(11)(iv).)
- Graduation requirements, and modifications to those requirements. (N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.7(e)(9).)
Appropriate identification of a student’s strengths, interests and preferences is critical, as it forms the basis for development of a comprehensive transition plan. For example, a teacher saying “Johnny is a pleasure to have in class” does not say anything about that student, and what he needs to do to be prepared for college or employment.
The IEP for the school year in which the student turns 16 “must include goals based on age-appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and, if appropriate, independent living, and the transition services including a course of study needed to assist the child in reaching those goals.” N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.7(e)(12).) Pursuant to the New Jersey Administrative Code, transition services shall include:
- Instruction (N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.7(e)(12)(i)(1));
- Related services (N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.7(e)(12)(i)(2));
- Community experiences (N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.7(e)(12)(i)(3));
- The development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives (N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.7(e)(12)(i)(4)); and
- If appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation (N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.7(e)(12)(i)(5)).
Myth #2 There is no such thing as a transition assessment, we just use the usual triennial evaluations.
Reality: The New Jersey Administrative code specifically states that the IEP “must include goals based on age-appropriate transition assessments.” (N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.7(e)(9).) A transition plan must be individualized, and address the student’s strength’s interests, and preferences. Therefore, those strengths, interests, and preferences must be assessed. This should be more than a vocational interest inventory. While that is an important tool, it should not be the only tool. The interest inventory will identify a student’s interests, but other assessments, such as an assessment of functional living skills, independent living assessment, and adaptive behavior assessment, will identify a student’s strengths and weaknesses, and inform the IEP team how to create appropriate postsecondary goals and objectives. Together, they can assist in crafting an appropriate plan that combines the student’s interests and strengths.
Myth #3 Your child is doing fine academically, and is on track to meet the graduation requirements, so no transition plan is needed.
Reality: As explained above, the purpose of special education and related services is to “prepare [students] for further education, employment, and independent living.” The IDEA anticipates that not all students will continue their education beyond high school, and that even if they do, they might still need support to gain the skills needed for employment and independent living.
A transition assessment will identify areas of weakness that are appropriately addressed in a transition plan. “Transition services” are defined by law to include instruction, related services, community experiences, development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives, and, if appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills. For example, a transition plan may: provide instruction in banking and budgeting; training in use of public transportation; assistance with hygiene, time management and organization; assistance with satisfying admission requirements for vocational/technical school, college, or other postsecondary educational setting; and vocational and/or pre-vocational training, including job sampling in local businesses or on school premises.
The purpose of special education and related services is to prepare students for life after they leave the public school system, which in some cases may continue until the school year in which the student reaches the age of 21. Therefore, transition planning should be results-oriented, and focus on the skills they need to reach their individualized post-secondary goals.
Please contact Manes & Weinberg, LLC, if you have questions about obtaining appropriate transition assessments and an appropriate transition plan for your child. (973)376-7733 firstname.lastname@example.org www.manesweinberg.com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Beth C. Manes, Esq., is a founding member of Manes & Weinberg, Special Needs Lawyers of New Jersey, LLC. She is licensed to practice law in New Jersey, where she has been practicing for over 25 years. Her practice concentrates in Special Education Law, Special Needs Planning, Guardianships and Estate Planning. Beth is also active in her community, raising puppies for the Seeing Eye of Morristown, serving as a member of her synagogue’s Accessibility and Inclusion Task Force, and serving as a board member of Planned Lifetime Assistance of New Jersey (PLAN/NJ), and Don’t Hide It Flaunt It. Beth resides in Essex County with her husband, several dogs, and whichever adult children are home at the time. Beth loves to travel; her favorite vacations are on a bicycle, in a tent, or observing animals not typically found in New Jersey. Beth started her career in corporate law but did not like the impersonal nature of the practice and decided to change direction. After a few more turns in her career path, Beth searched for the field of law where she could have the most impact and discovered a love for special needs advocacy and planning.
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