Transition Planning: Looking Ahead to the Future

images-3Recently I have been more heavily focused on what the girls’ lives will look like when the day comes when neither my husband nor I are of this world anymore. An ominous reality, yes, but one inevitable all the same.

With new eyes I began observing both Jordynn and Jocelynn and made note of the parts of their day I directed versus those portions of their day they directed themselves. I began asking myself questions like, “Am I preparing them to be successful beyond just school and work? How will they fill their days outside of these environments? What quality of life will they live?”

All difficult questions, but questions that had to be faced. What I saw and the answers to questions I posed revealed that my efforts for the girls were narrowly focused. While I understood the importance of supporting them to live active lives and developing friendships, my efforts were largely centered around school and the world of work. As a parent of children on the spectrum such a narrow focus was insufficient to prepare my girls for life when neither my husband nor I were present to create opportunities for them. In short, my children make excellent students and will be tremendous employees. Unfortunately, based on the girls’ current trajectory, they are on the course to live largely solitary lives with few friends and social connections, and with limited outlets to relieve stress. With this new view, I decided now is the time for a shift; a seismic shift at that!

In order for my girls to be successful in any arena planning for that success must be deliberate and consistent. Having identified a gap in my efforts for my girls I once again turned to resources that supported me when I first set out on the journey of navigating the autistic spectrum. I found myself researching and reading, and attending workshops, webinars, and conferences to expand my understanding. This time around on my knowledge quest I have also contacted professionals in the field, both practitioners and collegiate resources, to leverage their knowledge and expertise to help assist me in advocating for my children.

What I uncovered is that both of my girls, who represent different segments of the autistic spectrum, needed a prescriptive transition plan. This transition plan is actually mandatedimgres under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) for all children with an Individualized Education Program (IEP). According to the federal mandate, transition plan must be established not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the child turns 16, however you can insist that one be developed for your child at any age before their 16th birthday if you and the other members of your child’s IEP team believe that it is appropriate. Note: Once established, this plan must be updated annually thereafter.

The purpose of the transition plan is to facilitate a child’s move from school to life after school including in employment, continued education, and community participation. IDEA requires that transitional planning:

  • start before the child turns 16;
  • be individualized;
  • be based on the child’s strengths, preferences, and interests; and
  • include opportunities to develop functional skills for work and community life.

My transitional planning for Jordynn (age 15) and Jocelynn (age 13) is currently underway. In hindsight I wish I had began this process at least three years earlier, especially for Jordynn who is more significantly impacted by autism. Through this current effort I have found the other members of my children’s IEP teams receptive to assume their responsibilities for transition, however they are tentative in their overall efforts to do so. To promote the full participation of all members of the girls’ IEP teams I share resources with school team members regarding transition planning and maintain a high expectation that this tool (i.e. transition plan) is developed for (and with) my children positively with fidelity and great skill.

I admit that I am by no means an expert when it comes to transition planning. I am learning more and more each day, and pray often for GOD’s guidance as we navigate these uncharted waters. Given my naivety in this arena, I welcome any resources or information others have to share, and I invite your feedback, comments and suggestions to this post.

Additional Resources for Transition Planning
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Download/Print Transition Planning Requirements of IDEA 2004 Info Sheet

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About ShaeBrie Dow

Life-long learner, mother, wife, educator. Dedicated to leaving the world a better place than I found it.
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