Transition Planning: It’s Never Too Early or Too Late!

January 15, 2018

parents and son

Whether your son or daughter is about to turn 21, or if graduation is still several years away, it is never too early to start thinking about the future and planning the next steps. Transition planning is a process that formally starts at age 14 (or even earlier). How can parents ensure that their child receives appropriate and beneficial transition services, and where can they find resources to help them navigate the process?

Autism New Jersey provides information and guidance about transition and referrals to resources to help families be informed and prepared.

What are Transition Services?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines transition services as “a coordinated set of activities for a student designed within a results-oriented process that promotes movement from school to post-school activities, including post-secondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation.”

The following are some suggested steps and resources to help you confidently prepare.

Review the IEP

Starting at age 14, the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) must address transition. For students between ages 14 and 16, the IEP must contain a statement of needed transition services, and from age 16, must contain specific and appropriate transition services.

A transition IEP is a long-range plan that emphasizes skills that are needed for adult life. In addition to the federal requirements under IDEA, the New Jersey Administrative Code (N.J.A.C. 6A:14 Special Education) stipulates that:

“… transition services shall include: (1) Instruction; (2) Related services; (3) Community experiences; (4) The development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives; and (5) If appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation.”

The student’s case manager is responsible for coordinating the student’s transition plan.

Identify Resources for Planning and Assessment

  • Referrals: Autism New Jersey provides referrals to various agencies that provide transition services. These referrals can be found under the category Transition Services in our online referral database.
  • Step-by-Step Guides: Autism New Jersey’s publication, Planning the Transition from School to Adult Life provides step-by-step guidance on preparation and accessing supports.  Autism New Jersey’s transition resources page offers links to information on educational rights, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVRS), the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) and links to published research and reports.
  • Assessment: Part of the transition IEP development process is conducting evaluations to identify a student’s strengths, preferences and interests. With the assistance of the student’s school case manager, identify appropriate assessment tools as well as agencies that can assist with the transition process. For example, schools can link families to DVRS, which provides Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) for students ages 14-21.
  • Planning: Every year, DDD creates a timeline for students whose educational entitlement will end due to turning 21 during the current school year. The timeline is a checklist of important steps to take between September and June to ensure that there is no delay in receiving Division-funded services.  In addition, DDD funds the Planning for Adult Life project, which offers training and resources for parents of transitioning students.

Establish DDD and Medicaid Eligibility

Over the past few years, DDD has made significant changes to its service delivery system, some of which are still evolving. One of the most significant is in how DDD pays for supports and services for adults with autism.  Because the Division has shifted from a contract-based system of service reimbursement to a Medicaid-based, fee-for-service (FFS) reimbursement system, it is important that adults with autism obtain Medicaid eligibility. While adults with autism cannot access DDD services until age 21, eligibility can be determined starting at age 18, and for most individuals, Medicaid eligibility can be established (typically through SSI eligibility).  Visit our adults section for more information about the path to services.

Need more assistance?

Transition planning takes time, patience and knowledge of available services. In addition to resources on our website, Autism New Jersey’s helpline staff is here to help with your questions and concerns. Contact us at 800.4.AUTISM, information@autismnj.org or chat with us on our website.