Transition Planning

/ March 8, 2021

What Does High-Quality Transition Assessment and Planning Mean?

During high school, students, educators, families, and other members of the educational team begin the important task of developing a transition plan outlining the student’s postsecondary goals (see box) along with the educational services, supports, and linkages that will help him or her achieve those goals. Age-appropriate transition assessments are used to help identify which transition services are most essential for a particular student. Each student’s transition plan should be unique and tailored to the individual strengths, needs, interests, skills, and strengths of the student. At the same time, each plan should create a pathway for students to move from high school to valued adult roles, including work.

As Yogi Berra said, “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going because you might not get there.” A relevant and well-designed transition plan is crucial to ensuring students access the instruction, experiences, and supports they need to prepare for a good job or further education after high school. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act requires the IEPs of transition-age students to outline (1) appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based upon age appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and, where appropriate, independent living skills; and (2) the transition services (including courses of study) needed to assist the child in reaching those goals.

Why is High-Quality Transition Assessment Planning Important?

Teacher Watching Student Write

Despite the importance of involving students actively in this assessment and planning process (Carter, Brock, & Trainor, in press; Wehman, 2011), many teachers struggle to carry out transition planning in ways that fully engage youth, families, and other professionals in the process. Yet, the planning process itself is critical to transition success. For example, when young people are actively involved in writing their own transition plan, they are developing self-determination and self-advocacy skills. Unfortunately, almost one quarter of youth with an intellectual disability or autism are not even present at their own transition planning and nearly half participate minimally when they are present (Shogren & Plotner, 2012).

 How Do I Write a High-Quality Transition Plan?

Although transition planning should begin by age 14 (or earlier) in the state of Tennessee, the transition plan is not a static document. Instead, it evolves each year to match the emerging needs and goals of the young person. Opportunities for community-based work experience are an integral piece of the transition plan. Concrete goals and steps towards achieving those goals should be clearly outlined within the plan and based upon transition assessments. Quality transition planning involves the young person in developing their own transition plan. If young people feel as though their voice is included in their transition plan, they may be more likely be committed to the identified goals and steps.

Where Can I Learn More About Transition Assessment and Planning?

The following links include guides, stories, and other resources related to effective transition planning for employment among young people with IDD:

What Research Supports Effective Assessment and Transition Planning?

A number of research studies have identified important elements of effective transition assessment and planning to promote positive employment outcomes after high school. The following articles provide research-based support for the importance and benefits of writing comprehensive and effective transition plans for students with IDD in our state:

Specific Examples of Postsecondary Goals

  • Goal #1: After high school, Javier will work full time in food service at a local hospital or nursing home
  • Goal #2: After high school, Lexi will enroll in a community college program to receive training in cosmetology
  • Goal #3: After high school, Mason will successfully complete an apprenticeship program in carpentry
  • Goal #4: After high school, Aydin will work part time as a teacher’s aide at a local daycare
  • Goal #5: After high school, Alicia will enroll in classes in the local technical school


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