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Transition timeline: Where to start

Transition planning helps prepare students for their journey from high school to adult life. Here's a timeline of action steps for ages 14 through 22.

Transitions occur at many stages throughout an individual’s life and early planning is a helpful way to ensure that the student, family, school, and community are well-prepared. The transition process involves identifying the strengths, needs, and preferences of the individual, across multiple settings, including school, work, home, and community.

The transition from home-based early intervention to preschool is the first transition that many families experience in the educational system with their child, followed a couple of years later by the transition into Kindergarten. Moving on to middle school and high school will happen at different times, depending on the specific school district, but each time the student moves into a new classroom with a new team is a transition. While each of these transitions takes special planning, the focus of this article is on the postsecondary transition from high school to adult life.

Who should be involved in transition planning?

Transition planning is most effective when there is a strong partnership between the student, the family, school-age services and program providers, post-secondary services and program providers, and local community members. The process includes identifying the student’s strengths, interests, preferences, and needs, and then determining what services and supports he or she will need to achieve future success.

IDEA and transition planning:  What does the law say?

IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) ’97 requires that the student’s IEP include:

For all students, starting at age 14 (or younger, when appropriate) and continuing until the student is no longer eligible for special education services, the IEP team must:

Timeline for transition from school to adulthood

The Federal Government provides some guidelines for Transition Planning. Local districts or individual teams should determine which additional steps should be included in the transition planning process.  

*** Please note that these are just guidelines and often change.  Be sure to check on the specifics for your particular state.

Prior to age 14

By age 14

By age 16

By age 17

By age 18

By age 19

By age 21

See also “From School to College: A Transition Activity Calendar for Students who are Blind or Visually Impaired” from Mississippi State University.

Getting started with Transition Planning:

Transition Timeline: Where to Start

Student-Driven Transition Planning

Preparing for Transition Using an Activity-Based Self-Determination Curriculum

Preparing for College


Tools for Planning

Sample Forms and Assessment Tools

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