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Transition (14-22)

Young woman and parents

In today’s society, leaving high school to enter “the real world” is a daunting prospect for all teens or young adults, not least of which is people with Down syndrome. Successfully transitioning from student life to adulthood requires thoughtful and deliberate advance planning, especially for people with disabilities and their families.

We are fortunate in Massachusetts that state and federal law have conspired to require that transition planning for people with disabilities begin early and be managed in a way that helps them and their families effectively navigate this exciting, though challenging, process.

Federal Law
On the federal level, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the statutory driver for protecting the educational rights of students with disabilities. Among other mandates, IDEA guarantees that every child with a disability receive appropriate transition services. IDEA defines transition as “a coordinated set of activities” that does the following:

  • Uses a results-oriented process focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the child.
  • Facilitates the child’s movement from school to post-school activities, whether 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
  • Includes instruction, community experiences, development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives, and if appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and provision of a functional vocational evaluation.

According to IDEA, transition planning takes place as part of developing a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), the so-called road map for public school education for students with disabilities. It is the IEP team – made up of the student, parents, teachers, administrators and other service providers and supports – that is responsible for developing, reviewing and revising the IEP, including the transition plan.

State Law
In August 2008, Governor Deval Patrick signed important legislation that lowers the age in Massachusetts at which transition services must begin. While federal law only requires that it begin at age 16, students with disabilities and their families must begin getting these services starting at 14. We thank the Legislature and governor for recognizing how critical those two years are to helping students with disabilities make this transition successfully.

Click here for additional Transition resources. 

In addition to these resourses, MDSC routinely invites local and national experts on transition to speak at our annual conferences.