Students with Disabilities - School & Work

Next Topic: Four Types of Transition Plans

Why Plan?

Photo of a young girl with a developmental disability being held by her teacher. Anything works better if it is planned. Besides, it’s the law. There are many ideas, services and technologies for people with disabilities and planning can put them within reach. For example, creative planning can open the door to assistive technology, additional services or expert advice that may give a student more freedom and personal power in adult life.

Students in special education are required by federal law (IDEA) to have an Individualized Education Program (in Florida this is called an Individualized Education Plan or IEP). As adulthood approaches, the law also requires transition IEPs (TIEPs).

The IEP defines the type of education and goals a student needs, along with the support services and accommodations required to achieve it. Later plans – both transition and vocational — deal with the student’s goals and needs for adulthood.

Students with disabilities who are not covered by IDEA — that is, students who need accommodations in education but do not need specially designed instruction — have a plan similar to the IEP. Covered by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, it is usually called a "504 Plan."

Begin Planning Early!

The planning for a child’s education should begin when he or she enters school or is discovered to have a disability. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that school-based transition planning begin by age 16.

Youth with disabilities need everyone to plan ahead. The list includes parents, caregivers, caseworkers, teachers and other supportive adults who understand how they learn, how much they can learn (often more than teachers think), how they can prove what they’ve learned and how they can use that information as adults. They also need adults to understand what skills they will need to live in the community and plan for how those skills will be acquired.

The earlier the transition team understands a student’s needs, the more likely they are to be fulfilled.

If you need to begin at age 14 or before, insist on early transition planning. Although the law requires that students covered by IDEA begin their transition services no later than the year that the IEP will be in effect when the child is 16, planning can begin at age 14 (younger if deemed necessary).