When the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was reauthorized in 2004, it revised provisions regarding “secondary transition” for children with disabilities. In particular, the preamble specifies that a free appropriate public education (FAPE) should prepare children with disabilities “for further education, employment and independent living.” The revised provisions also change the definition of transition services and indicate that IEPs for transition-age youth must include:
- “Appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based upon age-appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment and, where appropriate, independent living skills;
- The transition services (including courses of study) needed to assist the child in reaching those goals.”
Federal law and regulations require these items to be included in IEPs “beginning not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the child turns 16, or younger if determined appropriate by the IEP team.” As noted below, Massachusetts law requires transition planning to begin earlier, at age fourteen.
The 2004 reauthorization also changed the definition of transition services so that it now means “a coordinated set of activities for a child with a disability that:
- is designed to be within a results-oriented process, that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of a child with a disability to facilitate the child’s movement from school to post-school activities, including postsecondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation;
- is based on the child’s needs, taking into account the child’s strengths, preferences, and interests; and
- includes instruction, related services, community experiences, the development of employment and other post-school objectives, and, when appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation.”