Teens with ASD: Transition IEPs

November 22nd, 2015

The future depends on what we do in the present. - Mahatma Gandhi

What does “transition services” mean?

The term “transition services” means a coordinated set of activities for a child with a disability that, according to IDEA:

  • "Is designed to be within a results-oriented process, that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the child with a disability to facilitate the child's movement from school to post-school activities, including 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; and
  • "Includes instruction, related services, community experiences, the development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives, and, if appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation."


What is the transition section of an IEP?

The transition section of the IEP includes goals and objectives related to expected outcomes for the student after high school ends. It should take your child’s interests and skills into account, and goals should focus on preparing the student for the post-school world of work or college, whichever is appropriate. It will also include which route to graduation, diploma or certificate of completion, your child will take.

One big difference with the transition section is the shift from teacher-developed goals and activities to student-driven plans for the future. The transition component must include and emphasize the child’s self-advocacy and self-directed vision for his/her future.

Developing the transition goals starts with the parent and child (if able) creating a vision of the child’s future. What would your child like to do? What can your child do? What skills are needed to achieve those goals?

When are the transition goals added to the IEP?

IDEA says, “Beginning not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the child turns 16, or younger if determined appropriate by the IEP Team.” In many states, it’s done when the child turns 14. The full legal wording can be found here.

What should be included in the transition section of an IEP?

Like all other IEP goals and objectives, transition goals should be based on the student’s present levels of performance, including current academic achievement and current functional performance. Goals should be in these areas:

  • Employment
  • Vocational/technical training
  • Higher education
  • Residential
  • Transportation/mobility
  • Financial/income
  • Self-determination
  • Social competence
  • Health/safety

What happens if a participating agency fails to provide the needed transition services?

The IEP team must reconvene to figure out alternative strategies on how to make sure the student receives the service. Ultimately the burden falls on the district to act as both a liaison between agencies and the student, and to ensure that proper services are being given.

What is the law governing transition services?

IDEA mandates transition IEPs, but the 2004 revision places a stronger emphasis on improving student outcomes for life after high school. (34 CFR 300.43) (20 U.S.C. 1401 [34])

Who else should attend the IEP meetings when transition goals are added?

  • Your child, who often is not present before transition goals are added, will be invited to attend IEP meetings.
  • A vocational rehabilitation counselor should be included, if appropriate.
  • Career counselors should be included, if appropriate.


What else is a part of the transition process?

The Summary of Performance, completed during the final year in high school, is designed to assist students as they transition from high school to post-high-school life. It includes summative information about the student’s level of functioning, postsecondary goals, and recommendations for meeting them.

If your child has a 504 plan rather than an IEP, is there a Transition 504?

No, this only applies to IEPs.

Postsecondary education questions your child should be asking

If your child is planning to attend college, he/she will need certain skills that should be taught in high school. I have been asked many times by parents of kids with HFA or Asperger’s if they should tell their kids about their diagnosis, and my resounding answer is YES!!! Students will face challenges related to their diagnoses, and they need to understand how their diagnoses affect them so that they can build the skills needed to help them succeed. The adult world, and especially employers, will not give your kid a pass or offer the same accommodations he/she had in high school. Students need to understand their deficits and how to cope and bypass them in whatever way works best for them. As a matter of fact, ASD kids will probably have to work even harder than non-disabled peers to get through college, employment, and life, especially since they don’t“look” different. You cannot shield your child forever, so remember, knowledge is power. Give your child the tools to overcome challenges, and start early.

In relation to college, the transition questions your child should be asking:

  • Am I going to go to college?
  • What are my strengths?
  • Given my strengths, what are logical fields of study for me?
  • What are my weak areas?
  • How do we address my weak areas given my learning style? What modifications are needed?
  • Is there an Office of Disabilities on campus at my local/chosen schools? What disability-related services will they offer, if any, to help me be successful?
  • If I live in a dorm, what skills do I need that I don't currently have?


Recommended Reading

Preparing for Life: The Complete Guide for Transitioning to Adulthood for those with Autism and Asperger's Syndrome by Dr. Jed Baker

Transition IEPs: A Curriculum Guide for Teachers and Transition Specialists by Paul Wehman
(this book has 300 pages of sample transition IEPs for autism, LD, ED, ID and physical disabilities. A great read!)

Autism & the Transition to Adulthood: Success beyond the classroom by Paul Wehman, Marcia Datlow Smith and Carol Schall

Growing up on the Spectrum by Lynn Kern Koegel and Claire LaZebnik

Transition Planning: Setting Lifelong Goals by Jennifer Graham and Peter Wright, Esq.

Wright's Law Transition Info

PEATC's Essential Transition Guide - PDF

OCALI's Transition Website, includes Webcasts

George Washington University HEATH Resource Center's Transition Guide - PDF

Transition: Stacking the Deck In Your Favor by: Dena L Gassner (This presentation is aimed primarily at parents of teens with Aspergers and covers transition IEPs, OVR and applying for, and appealing denials for SSI.


What if my child is not high enough functioning to attend college?

Many children, like my son, will not be able to attend college, but there are many things for them to do. The "what" will depend on your child and you will start to address this in the Transition IEP.

Finding out what YOUR child likes to do is the key to their future. Thinking outside the box may require the whole transition team poring over your child's strengths and weaknesses and their list of recreational choices, i.e. what your child chooses to do during their downtime.

There are many traditional jobs, like stuffing envelopes, sorting nuts and bolts, filing, janitorial service, landscaping, shelving books at the library, stocking shelves, bagging groceries. However, with a good transition plan and support, the options are opening up to all new fields, especially computers and IT, and employers are looking at this population differently.

Studies show that hiring people with developmental delays pays off for the employer too. "There is dedication, reliability and a loyalty to the company with these (DD) workers. Their time and attendance records tell the story. Their numbers are far superior compared to those of employees who are not disabled. You can count on them. They're hard working and they deliver incredible customer service." Debra Lambert, SFGate.com

For my family, we have a plan to start a farm residence. I find this setting ideal not just for my family but also for people in general. It's a gentler, quieter life and with a kid who can get overstimulated by life, I believe a farm is the perfect place for us. Also, a farm setting has all the work that residents will ever need, built right in, without the need to make "busy work." No matter what the functioning level of a person with ASD, there is always something they can do on a farm. Always. There are always animals to be fed and watered, weeds to be pulled, something to be swept or raked, fences to be mended, food to be grown or cooked; not to mention all of the usual daily living chores like laundry and dishes. I don't think anyone would ever run out of things to do on a farm. More about farm living.

Related Teenagers with ASD Articles

Teens - Introduction and Article Links

Teens - Social Skills

Teens - Life Skills

Teens - Puberty: What to Expect, Seizures, Anxiety, Sexuality

Teens - Biomed with an Older Child

Teens - How to Start the GFCFSF Diet with an Older Child

Teens - Self-Advocacy and Self-Esteem

Teens - Keeping Your Teen Safe

Teens - Transition IEPs

Teens - Testing for Adolescents

Teens - Extracurricular Activities

Teens - Driving

Teens - Siblings

Teens - Preparing for College

Teens - Been There, Done That: Advice from Parents

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