It’s challenging for any parent to keep up with school-related activities and demands as students progress through high school and prepare to graduate. For parents of students with disabilities, the mental load of managing the day-to-day responsibilities, along with transition-related tasks and activities, may seem insurmountable.
This transition timeline can help you stay on track with paperwork, decision making, and engagement with adult service agencies. If you’re looking for more support, our Transition IEP Guide includes additional timelines and resources related to the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) process. It may also be helpful to use our transition glossary to familiarize yourself with key terms.
Transition planning: what to think about in middle school (under 14)
Obtain Social Security card and make available a copy of the birth certificate and health insurance card
Connect with family organizations and register with state agencies for services:
Request information from school on required transition activities
Encourage student to attend IEPs, or a portion, as young as appropriate; allow student to make personal connections with transition coordinators and community supports
Discuss transition at the IEP meeting prior to the student turning 14 to gain an understanding of transition requirements; IEP team should discuss and develop an awareness for long range transition goals
Develop an awareness of available extracurricular activities in your community
Transition planning: What to think about in early high school (Age 14-16)
Begin involving the student in the IEP process and all related transition activities.
Student and family develop understanding of what accommodations are needed to do well in school and at work
Consider consulting with a legal and/or financial professional regarding decision making options, estate and financial planning
Consider options related to decision making such as supported decision making, guardianship, health care proxy, durable power of attorney, adult foster care, etc.
Explore Pre-ETS funding and related activities
Research and educate yourself about adult services and supports
Make decisions around graduation requirements (i.e., state testing, certificate of accomplishments, etc.)
Transition planning: What to think about in late high school (Age 16-18)
Start the referral process for adult services. For Massachusetts residents, your school district should complete a Chapter 688 referral. This inquiry can be made during the IEP when the transition planning page is reviewed. Once an agency (or agencies) have been identified, obtain release and consent forms for adult service agencies’ involvement.
Research the age of majority in your state and make decisions about guardianship. Submit a copy of the decree of guardianship if applicable.
Apply for and create linkages to adult services
Apply for disability benefits (i.e., SSI and Medicaid) and speak with a benefits officer. This can be done earlier if the young adult is in a residential placement or if parent/guardian is considered low income.
Transition planning: What to think about from ages 18 to 22
Contact the Department of Developmental Disabilities (DDS) or the equivalent department in your state to explore day programming and residential options and create an Individualized Transition Plan (ITP). This should be completed no later than nine months prior to graduation, usually around the student’s 21st birthday.
In Massachusetts, the Chapter 688 liaison submits the ITP to the Transitional Advisory Committee (TAC) who will approve, modify, or reject the document. This decision can be appealed.
Explore day and residential programs
Meet and tour adult service agencies and select appropriate service providers. Note that places usually cannot be held this early (listed “by age 18 on this page), but it may be worth identifying appropriate agencies.
Stay in the conversation about post-secondary transition.
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