As attorneys and advocates for children with disabilities, we often have issues with trying to enforce what to us seems to be pretty clear mandates in the IDEA regulations to provide age appropriate transition assessments and programming for transition age students with disabilities. As with the entire IEP, the legislative requirements are minimized by decisions by the Department of Education, hearing officers and court decisions by defining “appropriate” educational services as the “basic floor of opportunity”, “more than trivial” and other standards that translates into very limited view of what is necessary for FAPE and for transition programming.
This, in combination with low expectations about individuals with disability’s ability to work in the community leads to limited services and job training options for students with disabilities. In our experience, schools feel that so long as they fill in the required transition sections on the IEP properly, work on the goals they have on the IEP, and set up “work activities” in the classroom, that is all they need to do for transition. The state Department of Education focuses on ensuring the districts fill out the paperwork properly but does not seem to take the necessary steps to ensure appropriate transition planning is actually being provided to students with disabilities. We would like to see a move from focus on the procedural paperwork and technical compliance towards a focus on monitoring actual student outcomes from transition programming provided.
Our suggestions would be the following:
A. Regulations should include higher expectations for transition plans and detail required activities as part of transition regulations:
1. Define age appropriate assessments, “results oriented,” “coordinated program of transition services” by detailing in the regulation, the kinds of activities needed to develop an appropriate transition plan for a student.
2. Require the inclusion of certified/licensed vocational personnel to conduct the transition assessments and help the team develop a transition plan for students.
3. Require teams to conduct interest inventories and to develop protocols to obtain this information even from students who cannot communicate effectively (using research based methods for providing transition services to student with communication difficulties including taking students to different job settings to see what kinds of environments/jobs they prefer)
4. Require all intervention specialists and other staff working with students with disabilities on transition planning to receive ongoing training and be provided with needed evidence based instructional materials to in transition planning that focuses on community based vocational training.
5. Require community based instruction or experiences for all students with disabilities that are individualized to their unique transition needs.
6. Require vocational and career center programs and all educational agencies to be who receive IDEA funds to comply with the IDEA, subject to the due process and complaint processes, and require monitoring by the state department of education.
7. Change regulations to require schools to provide transition services with expectation for all students to work towards independence and employment in the community.
8.Require specialization/certification/licensure for vocational service providers, behavior specialists, travel trainers and other providers who may be involved in transition planning.
9. Require schools to provide parents and students with disabilities with understandable information and self-advocacy packets on the requirements of transition so they know what to ask for and what is required for transition.
10. Change regulations to allow for different agencies to pool funding for student to provide his transition planning.
11. Mandate transition services at age 14 and to have it imbedded in the curriculum.
12. Change policies to mandate that all states to begin providing transition services starting at age 14.
13. Require transition services to be provided in the least restrictive setting while also providing opportunities for adaptive behavior and social skills instruction and supports, including provide for assistive technology that is more age appropriate and using up to date technology.
14. Require all students to be taught the same core curriculum concepts as other children including requiring all students with disabilities to be taught with evidence based reading programs.
B. Policy Change for RSC:
1. Make sure policies don’t penalize RSC caseworkers for initiating services for transition age youth still in high school.
2. Suspend the requirement to be payor of last resort for agencies serving students with disabilities to provide incentives to agencies to collaborate and pool funds to serve students while they are still transition age.