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Why Is Transition Planning Important in Special Education?


Life is never stagnant — we are all transitioning at one time or another. For the special needs child, however, “transition” has a very specific meaning. It is part of the overall Individualized Education Program, or IEP, and it defines the move from public school to adult life. The IEP transition plan, as it is called, is required by law for students with a learning disability.

What Is Transition Planning?

The law that governs the individualized transition plan is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which aligns with the No Child Left Behind Act. As stated in the IDEA, transition services are to be available as part of the IEP. This includes assessments of the child by a team, resulting in goal-setting in the following areas:

  • Training
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Independent living skills if necessary

Schools must offer transition services leading to fulfillment of these goals, which must be set by the time the child reaches age 16. That means transition planning really starts before the child turns 16. In some states, the IEP transition plan is required by an even earlier age. Texas, for example, requires a transition plan by the age of 14.

The needs of the student, the relevant goals, and the plan of action to fulfill those goals must all be documented and kept on file at the school. Parents must also be informed on the progress of the student toward meeting those transition goals.

Why Transition Planning Is Important

All students need guidance in order to make the leap from high school to the next step. Students with learning disabilities, however, need even more help because their leap is that much greater. The IEP transition plan tries to ensure not only that these children will be able to function as adults in the real world but also to increase the likelihood they will pursue post-secondary education. In 2020, a total of 24% of college students reported select disabilities or health conditions.

In other words, the IEP transition plan goes beyond simply finding a place for LD students after high school. It provides a personalized course of action based on students’ strengths, desires and dreams for a fulfilling life.

Learn more about Lamar University’s online M.Ed. in Special Education program.


Statista: Percentage of U.S. College Students That Reported Select Disabilities or Health Conditions As of Fall 2020

Texas Project FIRST: Transition in the IEP

U.S. Department of Education: IDEA: Sec. 300.43 Transition Services


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