Q: My daughter turns 14 this year. I heard that the law recently changed and requires her special education plan to include “transition services.” What are they?
A: Transition services are activities designed to improve the academic and functional achievement of a child with a disability, and to facilitate the child’s movement from school to post-school activities such as postsecondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, and community participation. Transition services must be based on the individual child’s needs, and should include direct instruction, community experiences, and employment and other post-school adult living objectives. The school must conduct an evaluation if one is needed to identify the vocational or daily living skills to be addressed. Finally, the services should be specifically outlined in your daughter’s individualized education plan (IEP) in the year she turns 14 years old, two years earlier than was previously required. The school district’s obligation to provide transition services ends when the child graduates with a regular high school diploma or reaches the age of 22 and is no longer entitled to special education services.
Q: Who monitors transition services to make sure she gets what she needs?
A: Your local school district should monitor the implementation and success of each child’s plan. If you have difficulty with the agencies involved in your child’s transition plan, then the Ohio Department of Education may be willing to help facilitate monitoring and implementation.
Q: Will outside agencies be involved in developing transition plans?
A: Public agencies, designed to provide support or vocational training, may have to provide or pay for services that are also considered special education or related services, including transition services. The public agency and the school district should have an interagency agreement to coordinate these services. The agreement should specify which organization will be financially responsible for services to be provided, how services will be coordinated and how concerns or disputes related to those services will be resolved.
If an outside agency fails to provide or pay for services in accordance with the IEP and the interagency agreement, the public school district must provide or pay for the services. In such a case, the local school district may use the procedures for financial reimbursement outlined in the interagency agreement.
Q: I will be attending a meeting at my daughter’s school to review her transition plan. How can be an effective advocate for her?
A: Research ahead of time. Know about your child’s post-secondary goals for education, work, living environment, and community involvement. Network with other parents, families and social agencies to identify what adult services may be available. Ask the school to invite representatives from agencies that may service your daughter to discuss future options and planning at your meeting. At 14 years of age, your child is not too young for such a planning meeting; her IEP team should be discussing all of these options and potential services. It may take several years of appropriate transition planning to ensure that she reaches the post-secondary outcomes that the team has planned for her.
This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was prepared by Nessa G. Siegel and Kerry M. Agins, partners in the Cleveland firm, Siegel & Agins Co, LPA.