Overview of Transition Planning

  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that mandates that transition planning occur for students in special education.  IDEA defines transition services as a coordinated set of activities for a child that promotes movement from school to post-school activities.  The “coordinated set of activities” are individualized to the students’ needs, strengths, preferences, and interests.

    Transition planning supports the development of a post-secondary vision for students. Transition planning is a collaborative effort that involves students, families, school staff, and other important community members. The transition planning process revolves around the student’s vision for the future and identifies his or her preferences, interests, and strengths to develop a plan for the transition out of high school.

    In Massachusetts, the transition planning process for students in special education begins no later than age 14. By age 14, students must be invited to their annual Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings, the development of a Transition Planning Form (TPF) must occur, and the post-secondary (after high school) vision statement must be based on the student’s preferences and interests, indicating this or her desired outcomes in adult living, post-secondary, and working environments.

     Massachusetts Student Driven Secondary Transition Model

    Students must be involved in the transition planning process so the team can best understand their perspectives and preferences. The more involved students are in the transition planning process, the more successful students are. Self-determination involves students taking an active role in their lives and utilizing goal-setting, problem-solving, decision-making, and finding their own voice. The student’s voice and vision are essential for the transition planning process to be successful.

    Transition planning supports students to create a vision and plan for their future.  Transition planning promotes collaboration between families, the school, & the community in developing and implementing an appropriate, meaningful, and smooth transition to adult life for the student.

    The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) provides extensive information on the secondary transition process  online. Technical Assistance Advisories, training materials, copies of state mandated forms, including the Transition Planning Form (TPF), and links to additional resources can be found via the link above.

    DESE supported brochures on the Secondary Transition Planning Process, Self-Determination, Transition Assessment, and Age of Majority can be found at the Federation for Children with Special Needs.


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Transition Planning umbrella