If you or your child receive special education services, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) entitles you 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 you or your child in preparation 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 goals 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 should complete a Level I vocational assessment. This assessment takes information from interviews with the student, parent/guardian, and teacher and are intended to help students begin their planning for life after high school.
There are currently three (3) levels of career assessments available to students. Level 2 (II) and 3 (III) assessments are more comprehensive and take more time to complete. They can only be done if the level 1 (I) assessment cannot provide enough information to create a career programming decision.
By the age of 15, all IEPs must include the following pieces specific to transition from school to post-school activities:
- A list 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 these 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 been given to them if they need them) to one where they are eligible for accommodations and/or services (no matter how much they need services, the student will need to go looking for and arrange for the accommodations and/or services themselves).
Participating in Transition Planning
When planning what to do and where to go after finishing high school, it’s important to consider necessary steps towards completing the transition goals for you or your child. Students and their families should think about the things that interest them, things that they are is good at, and skills they can develop to determine what is right for them as individuals. Conversations with guidance counselors can be helpful, but think outside the box, there may be others who can help come up with a good plan. Once career goals or an educational pathway have been agreed on a plan to get there should be the next step.
Transition planning works best when students are involved, so prepare your child to advocate for themselves to the greatest degree possible.
What can students do to become more involved in their own transition?
What can students do to become more involved in their own transition?
- If you or your child has special education needs, try to familiarize yourself with your IEPs and transition plans, or ask for help with reading and understanding both.
- Work to better understand your disability or your child's disability and get familiar with your/your child's medical needs.
- Practice asking for the supports you or your child needs.
- Think about your/your child's strengths, weaknesses, interests, and goals. Which do you/they need to achieve sooner rather than later and which are more long-term goals? What do you think you/they will need to do to reach those goals? them.
- Find some adult role models with disabilities like yours/your child's.
- Practice independence.
What can parents do to help assure better transition plans?
- Inform your/your child’s teacher if you/your child wants to lead the IEP meeting.
- You/Your child 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/your child and get their help related to transition planning. Identify new possible resources to help with the transition to life after high school.
- You/your child can practice job interviews and/or asking for accommodations.
- For more information see Parent to Parent's information sheet, Addressing Chronic Health Care Needs in the IEP [PDF], which 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.
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. All students should know their 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). If capable, both parents and students should make sure they know the requirements for each option so they can work to make sure the student 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.
Whether and when students with disabilities would like to disclose information about their disability to employers and schools is up to them. Parents should encourage their children with disabilities to think about disclosure and should be supportive as their children make their own decisions. 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
Students thinking of going to college should explore their options and understand how the supports and services they get in high school will remain the same or change when they enter college:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 site Exploring Your Career Options is another good place 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:
- Covenant House provides job training for homeless youth interested in working as bank tellers or certified nurses aides, or in the culinary arts, construction, customer service, or computer fields. Open to people 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 young people who had IEPs as children will automatically qualify to receive services as adults. 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 rehabilitation 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, which is geared towards middle schoolers with hearing disabilities.
- 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: Works to help individuals with disabilities achieve competitive employment and offers support services for a wide range of disabilities.
- 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.
- Vibrant Emotional Health: (Formerly called the Mental Health Association of NYC) Ask about their Adolescent Skills Center, which prepares youth with emotional and behavioral challenges to succeed in the workplace through comprehensive training and programs.
- Sinergia: Ask about their Day Habilitation Program, which helps people with developmental disabilities to acquire educational, social, recreational, and vocational skills.
- United Cerebral Palsy of New York City: works to advance the independence, productivity, and full citizenship of people with cerebral palsy.
- Young Adult Institute (YAI): Ask about their Day Services.
- Department of Youth and Community Development: Has a Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) which helps people ages 14-24 to get work experience, life skills training, and income during summer months. Though not all applicants get accepted, youth with disabilities receive priority in the lottery.
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.
- 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.
- 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.