Secrets for a Successful Transition Plan
To paraphrase the children’s nursery rhyme, when transition planning is good, it is very, very good, but, when it is bad, it is pretty worthless. Before looking at what you can do to make it “very, very good,” it might be helpful to take a minute to see what transition planning is and why it matters.
Purpose. A transition plan is intended to be a structured way to help your child to have the resources and experience he or she needs to transition effectively to life after high school. By law, this should happen as part of the IEP no later than the year your child turns sixteen; in some states, the age is fourteen.
- The sooner the better. Actually, if the school agrees, transition planning can begin earlier. Because there’s a lot more to consider to enable a blind child to be successful after high school than there is for sighted peers, the sooner transition planning begins, the better.
- Transition planning really begins at birth. The school can play an important role in helping with the process, but it’s unfair and unrealistic to expect it to do everything. Many of the things that make for success after high school are begun many years before graduation by the family (work ethic, social skills, etc.).
Characteristics of success. Studies have found that successful blind and visually impaired people share some similar characteristics: positive self-image, good work ethic, good orientation and mobility skills, realistic goals, good communication skills, involvement in the community, and good independent living skills. Of course, not many of us, sighted or not, have these skills when we leave high school, but this is the target the IEP team should have in mind when considering the transition plan.
Child’s goals. The transition plan should evolve from determining the student’s goals and interests, and abilities. The transition services your child will need should be correlated with their individual goals.
- Your child should be encouraged to speak for himself. Doing this in a room full of adults will be challenging, but the IEP is an excellent opportunity for him or her to practice this life-long skill. After all, in only a few years, they will be on their own and will need to know how to advocate for themselves.
Needed transition services. The IEP must say what transition services are needed to help your child to prepare for leaving high-school. Major areas that should be considered include
- academic classes;
- community experiences;
- employment skills and experiences;
- daily living skills; and,
- if appropriate, functional vocational evaluation.
There are several important things to keep in mind when talking about these things.
- If the IEP team, including the parent and the student, agree that services are not needed in any of these areas, the IEP must say so and provide a rationale.
- Each of the recommended transition services should relate directly to what your child wants to do after high school.
- If appropriate, be certain that specialized vision-related services such as mobility instruction and assistive technologies are included in the plan. These are things that your child should have been receiving long before this, but this is a good time to insure that they will be at the level he will need after graduation. Be sure that the plan spells out in detail what services your child will receive. Remember that you are your child’s principle advocate. What services will be provided? How often? At what level? Who will provide the service? What is the background or professional expertise of the person providing the services? If what will happen isn’t spelled out in the plan, it may not happen.
- Don’t overlook the acquisition of daily living skills like management of transportation, shopping, etc. It may be necessary to identify agencies outside of the school to assist with this.
- If appropriate, begin to establish relationships with agencies serving adults like your child. This may include vocational rehabilitation services (VR), centers for independent living (CIL), or residential facilities. Many agencies offering adult services have eligibility criteria and waiting lists, and it’s to your advantage to become familiar with these resources prior to graduation. It’s appropriate to invite representatives of organizations you think you might be interested in to the IEP. Whether or not they will choose to come depends on the agency.
- You can invite anyone with knowledge or special expertise regarding your child and his goals to participate in the IEP. It’s preferable to let the school know whom you’ve invited prior to the meeting. I’ve heard more than one parent say that inviting someone like this has caused the school to take their requests more seriously.
- The transition plan should, at an absolute minimum, be reviewed at least once a year as part of the IEP. Again, the sooner the process begins, the better the opportunity to plan and make any necessary adjustments.
- Although one member of the IEP teams should be a school official familiar with community resources, no one, regardless how knowledgeable, can know about all of the potential resources available for your child. The more you have done to educate yourself ahead of time, the better.
Now that we’ve looked at planning for the IEP meeting, the meeting itself, and the development of the transition plan, we’ll conclude by seeing what you can do to insure that the IEP is followed in the way you anticipate.
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