If a student receives special education services, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) entitles him or her to certain rights in planning for transition to life after school. Make sure you are familiar with those rights and consider ways you can help assure the most successful transition planning for your child as he or she prepares for life after high school.
The transition planning process
Under law, a transition plan to support successful post-school employment and education must be developed for every student with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) by the time they reach the age of 15. The plan must include a statement addressing the transition to adult life and information on the student’s unique needs, preferences, and interests. The plan should lay out goals with regard to training, education, employment, and independent living skills necessary for success as an adult.
Students' rights in transition planning
At the age of 12, students must begin to receive vocational assessments, which take information from interviews with the student, parent/guardian, and teacher and are intended to help students begin their planning for life after high school.
At the age of 15, all IEPs must include the following pieces specific to transition from school to post-school activities:
- A statement of the student’s needs.
- Age-appropriate, measurable goals for post-secondary life based on appropriate transition assessments that relate to training, education, employment, and where appropriate, independent living skills.
- A list of activities to help the student achieve those goals.
- A statement of responsibilities expected of the student, family, school or other agencies to promote the student’s transition plan.
In the year the student exits or graduates, the school must complete a Student Exit Summary detailing present levels of performance, any accommodations or supports the student will require, post-secondary goals, and a list of agencies to provide support to achieve those goals. All students with disabilities have a right to stay in school or return to school until the year they turn 21, or achieve a Local, Regents, or Advanced Regents Diploma (see below for more detail).
After students complete high school or turn 21, they will no longer be entitled to special education services under the IDEA, but they will be entitled to accommodations for disabilities as well as services from certain government agencies listed below under other laws. This is an important shift, as it signals the young person’s move from a system where they were entitled to services (services should have found them) to one where they are eligible for accommodations and/or services (they need to seek out the accommodations and/or services).
Participating in transition planning
In helping your child plan what to do and where to go when he/she finishes high school, help him/her consider next steps and what they will need to achieve transition goals. Think about the things that interest him/her, things that he/she is good at, and skills he/she can develop to determine what is right for him/her as an individual. Young people should talk to their guidance counselors, but they should think beyond that, too. Once your child has decided on a career or educational pathway to explore, you will need to help him/her think about what to do to get there.
Transition planning works best when students are involved, so prepare your child to self-advocate.
- Encourage young people with special education needs to read their IEPs and transition plans, or assist them with reading and understanding both.
- Help your child understand his/her disability and medical needs, and teach your child to ask for the supports he/she needs. Parent to Parent's information sheet, Addressing Health Care in the IEP [PDF], explores how an appropriate transition plan for students with on-going health care needs should include attention to health care responsibility and the development of self-advocacy skills.
- Help students identify their strengths, weaknesses, interests, and goals. Encourage students to think about long-term goals and what they need to do to reach them. Introduce students to adult role models with disabilities, and encourage experience and independence.
What can parents do to help assure better transition plans?
- Inform your child’s teacher if your child wants to lead the IEP meeting. He or she can always ask for help during the meeting if it gets too tough.
- Communicate with the rest of the IEP team early about assessments required under law for developing transition plans. Urge transition planning to begin earlier than age 15.
- Talk to agencies already involved with your child and get their help related to transition planning. Identify new possible resources to help your child transition to life after high school.
- Practice job interviews and/or asking for accommodations with your child.
Diploma options in New York State
In thinking about life after high school, it is important to think about a student’s educational path in high school. Every student should know his or her diploma goals. New York State currently offers four different diploma options: Advanced Regents Diploma, Regents Diploma, Local Diploma, and non-diploma options that include the Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) Commencement Credential and the Skills and Achievement Commencement Credential (SACC). Make sure you know the requirements for each option so you can work to make sure your child is on track to complete those requirements before turning 21.
The New York State Education Department has a document answering frequently asked questions on the safety net options for students with disabilities. Advocates for Children of New York also has two helpful fact sheets, one on Graduation Options for Students with Disabilities [PDF] and another on High School Credential Options for Students with Disabilities [PDF].
Post-secondary education and career options
As students begin to think about life after high school, they need to consider all their options. Whether a student plans to go to a college or a trade school, or find a job right away, here are some resources for information and support during that transition period.
Have your child give thought to whether and when he/she would like to disclose information about his/her disability to employers and schools. For more information, see the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability (NCWD)’s 411 on Disability Disclosure. College students with disabilities will need to self-identify and request services from their schools. Every college has an office of accessibility; Hunter College's Office of AccessABILITY has a particularly helpful website.
Preparing for college
If your child is thinking of going to college, help him or her explore options and understand how it will be different from high school:
- To learn about the rights and responsibilities of college students, see the website of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. You can also call the local Office of Civil Rights at (646) 428-3900 or the federal Office of Civil Rights at (800) 421-3481.
- NYC College Line supports New Yorkers in preparing for, getting into, and completing college by connecting them to New York City-based programs as well as useful web-based resources.
- Best Colleges has a page dedicated to Resources for Students with Disabilities.
- Think College offers information, resources, and strategies for students with intellectual disabilities. Other websites have lists of disability-friendly colleges for students with physical disabilities and students with learning disabilities that families may find helpful.
- We Connect Now is a website created by college students to serve college students with disabilities.
- Through the Looking Glass offers scholarships to students who are under 21 and have a parent who has a disability. The website also includes links to additional scholarship opportunities for students of parents with disabilities and students with disabilities.
For students looking for academic support as they head to college programs:
- The Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), available at colleges in the SUNY system, provides access, academic support, and financial aid to students who show promise for mastering college-level work, but who may not otherwise be admitted.
- The Door offers a number of college advisement and tutoring programs, as well as support transitioning to college life. Young people should start by becoming members. Walk-in Monday–Friday, 2:00 to 5:00 pm, or call (212) 941-9090.
- Goddard Riverside Community Center provides one-to-one college counseling, tutoring, and other assistance for students.
Exploring career options
- Career Zone, maintained by the New York State Department of Labor, is a good place to explore careers related to strengths, skills, and talents.
- New York State Job Zone is another online tool to help identify strengths, skills, and talents, explore occupations, and search education and training databases.
- O-Net Online allows an individual to search careers by keywords and find out the necessary knowledge bases, skills, abilities, education, technological skills, and employment outlook for jobs of interest.
- Career Cluster Videos can help students find out more about job possibilities.
- The How-To Career Resource Library is a good place to explore the typical path to finding employment in a number of areas.
- Disabled Person is a database where people with disabilities can search by job title, job description, key words, and location to find possibilities for life after high school.
- The federal government's sites Exploring Your Career Options and Kids.Gov Job Resources are two other good places to look.
Job training and placement
Students should consider going to job fairs run by their schools or the NYC Department of Education. Here are some other resources and programs; visit their websites for more information about eligibility and application processes:
- Center for the Independence of the Disabled (CIDNY) runs The Next Step, a transition program for Queens students with disabilities ages 14 to 24 and their parents. To find out more, contact Shireen Khan, Youth Transitions Counselor at (646) 442-1521 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Covenant House provides job training for those interested in working as bank tellers or certified nurses aides, or in the culinary arts, construction, customer service, or computer fields. Open to youth between 17 and 21 years old; offices in all five boroughs. Call (212) 613-0300 for more information.
- The Door offers work readiness training, paid internship programs, individualized coaching, and more. Young people should start by becoming members. Walk-in Monday–Friday, 2:00 to 5:00 pm, or call (212) 941-9090.
- Exalt is a 10-month intensive training and internship program for court-involved youth between the ages of 15 and 19 who are enrolled in school.
- Henry Street Settlement, based in Manhattan, has a two-week job training course and also provides job placement, job referrals, and help for ESL job seekers.
- Next Generation Center offers job training and placement for youth ages 18 to 24. Based in the Bronx; walk in from 2:30 – 4:30 pm or call (718) 589-4441.
- Non-Traditional Employment for Women (NEW) runs programs preparing women for careers in the construction, utilities, and transportation industries. Participants must be 18 and have high school diploma or GED; call (212) 627-6252.
- NYC Workforce 1 Career Centers, run by the City, offer job placement services, job listings, computers and printers, some on-site training in computer skills, and possible vouchers for additional job training. Offices in all five boroughs; call (718) 960-2458.
- STRIVE New York offers job training programs in green construction, light maintenance, office operations, and medical information technology. Call (212) 360-1100 for more information.
- Year Up is a one year intensive job training program (with pay) for youth between 18 and 24 years old who have achieved their high school diploma or GED; call (212) 785-3340.
Services for adults with disabilities
The definition of disability at adult agencies differs from that of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Please do not assume that a young person will qualify to receive services simply because he or she had an IEP as a child. Visit agency websites for more information about eligibility and application processes.
- The Office of Adult Career and Continuing Education Services (ACCES–VR): The state agency (formerly known as VESID) that provides vocational and rehabilitational services, including job training and counseling, for youth and adults with physical, psychiatric, mental health, or learning disabilities, and may provide support for individuals with disabilities while attending college.
- The Office of Mental Health (OMH): The state agency that serves New York residents with mental health needs. Programs overseen by OMH include inpatient and outpatient programs, community support, residential supportive housing, and family care programs.
- Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD): OPWDD provides services to eligible individuals, including supports for independent living, supportive and supervised residences, work and day activities, health care services and service coordination. Find information about eligibility, assessment, and housing initiatives on their website, or contact a center.
- The Social Security Administration (SSA) funds programs that provide benefits for people of any age who are unable to do substantial work and have severe mental or physical impairments. Apply online or call (800) 772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) for an appointment.
- Social Security Disability Income (SSDI): Adults with disabilities may qualify to receive social security disability income as a “child” benefit under a parent’s social security earnings record if they became disabled before reaching adulthood. A person who is eligible for SSDI will automatically become eligible for Medicare after receiving SSDI benefits for two years. This government publication [PDF] has more information.
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI): SSI benefits are available to adults or children who are disabled or blind. They are not based on prior work history. The applicant must have limited income and resources to qualify. SSI recipients qualify for Medicaid. This booklet has more information.
- PLANS To Achieve Self-Support (PASS): An SSI provision to help individuals with disabilities return to work by allowing individuals with disabilities to set aside money and/or other things they own to pay for items or services needed to achieve specific work goals.
- U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP): ODEP works to influence national policy and promote effective workplace practices to ensure that the workforce is inclusive of all people, including people with disabilities. ODEP’s website includes some helpful information for youth with disabilities seeking employment.
- AHRC offers a wide range of services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in all five boroughs.
- Center for Hearing and Communication: Ask about their Turning Points Program.
- INCLUDEnyc offers a variety of workshops on navigating the transition process and provides assistance to families and youth on understanding and accessing a wide range of services and supports.
- Independent Living Centers (ILCs) help people with disabilities to achieve and maintain self-sufficient lives within the community by providing information and advocacy services:
- Institute for Career Development
- Lighthouse Guild serves persons of all ages who are visually impaired, blind, and multi-disabled. They offer a broad range of programs, including: medical, vision, low vision, psychiatric, and rehabilitative services, managed long-term care, residential services, day health programs, schools and educational training programs for independent living.
- Mental Health Association of New York: Ask about their Adolescent Skills Center.
- Sinergia: Ask about their Day Habilitation Program.
- United Cerebral Palsy of New York City
- Young Adult Institute (YAI): Ask about their Day Services.
Other transition planning resources
- Advocates for Children of New York has a Helpline (866-427-6033) that you can call for additional advocacy support and parent information.
- The Autistic Self Advocacy Network has a comprehensive toolkit [PDF] to empower people with disabilities and their families to manage their own care as they transition to adulthood.
- Kids as Self Advocates (KASA), a national project created by youth with disabilities, has helpful tip sheets on education, work, health, and more.
- The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability (NCWD) has information about employment and youth with disabilities.
- The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services for the United States Department of Education issued A Transition Guide to Postsecondary Education and Employment for Students and Youth with Disabilities in January of 2017.
- The PACER Center has a page dedicated specifically to transition and employment.
- TransCen is dedicated to improving educational and employment outcomes for people with disabilities.
This web page represents only a partial list of organizations offering resources for people with disabilities. It is a list in progress; please feel free to contact our Coordinator if you have suggested additions. The ARISE Coalition does not endorse any of the websites or programs listed on this page.