A recent letter released by the United States Department of Education spells out the necessary steps an IEP Team must take to ensure that a child with a disability receives appropriate support to transition to life after high school. The following sets forth highlights from this letter:
As soon as a child turns 16, or younger if determined appropriate by the IEP Team, the child’s IEP must include: (1) appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based upon age appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and independent living skills (when appropriate); and (2) the transition services (including courses of study) to assist the child in reaching those goals. Once created, the transition goals and services must be updated annually.
34 CFR § 300.43 defines transition services as “a coordinated set of activities for a child with a disability that:
- Is designed to be within a result-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 support 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-
- Related services;
- Community experiences;
- The development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives; and
- If appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and provisions of a functional vocational evaluation.”
While it is up to the child’s IEP Team to determine the special education and related services that are needed to meet the child’s unique needs in order for the child to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE), the team must consider the child’s preferences and interests when developing postsecondary goals and transition services.
The IDEA requires that the public agency invite a transition-age child to attend his or her IEP meeting if the purpose of the meeting will be the consideration of the child’s postsecondary goals and transition services needed to assist the child in reaching those goals. 34 CFR § 300.321(b)(1). If the child does not attend the IEP meeting, the public agency must take other steps to ensure that the child’s preferences and interests are considered. 34 CFR § 300.321(b)(2)*.
Because it is natural for transition-aged youth to grow and develop different interests or changed preferences, the IEP Team should review and update the child’s postsecondary goals and transition services annually to reflect new or different activities necessary to provide the child a FAPE.
*This requirement only applies in case of post-secondary goals and transition services; it is not mandatory with respect to other IEP goals and special education and related services.