"Planning for Life After Special Education"


A Transition Services Online Manual










December 2012, Second Edition


Written By Law Office 15, Northeastern University School of Law

Legal Skills in Social Context Social Justice Program


First Edition edited by the Disability Law Center, in conjunction with the Federation for Children with Special Needs, the Institute for Community Inclusion, and Massachusetts Advocates for Children. Second Edition edited by the Disability Law Center.


©2012 By Disability Law Center, Inc., 11 Beacon Street, Suite 925, Boston, MA 02108

All rights reserved.


Planning for Life After Special Education: What’s New in the Second Edition?

Since the provision of transition services is a rapidly developing area of educational law and policy, we have added several substantial changes to our first edition of this Planning for Life After Special Education Manual , first published online in the Fall of 2011.  Along with revisions made to content in the 2011 edition, we have added new information on the following topics:

·         Managing public benefits for transition age youth and young adults seeking employment. 

·         Developing appropriate transition services for students with severe developmental disabilities.

·         Preparing for your student’s college admission and success.

·         Helping your student transition successfully into the adult work force.

·         Personalizing transition services for students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

·         Knowing various diploma options are available for special education students, and evaluating which option may be best suited for your student.

·         Challenging your student’s high school graduation.


In addition, the Second edition of the manual also includes:

·         A substantially revised Table of Cases and Case Summaries to provide a more up-to-date and comprehensive picture of important developments in special education law.

·         Thirteen new informational videos on topics including transition tips, managing public benefits for students seeking employment and resolving legal problems associated with your student’s individualized educational plan.   (These videos are in English, ASL and Spanish).

·         Additional, specific suggestions on how to develop comprehensive post-secondary vision statements, IEPs and transition plans. 


    Finally, sources cited by the manual have been updated and verified, additional links for further information have been added on specific topics, and broken links directing readers to additional outside information topics have been located and repaired.  As always, we hope you find this information helpful and welcome any feedback you may have on how we can continue to improve our next edition of this manual.  Happy reading!


Editors of Planning for Life After Special Education, 2nd Edition

December 2012

 Table of Contents

How to Use this Manual 1

Introduction to Transition Services 1

Disclaimer 2

A Message for Students 2

Resources for Students Who are Deaf, and for their Families

Important Things to Remember 3



Developing Transition Services  5

Overview of Transition Services 5

Your Legal Rights 6

Who is Eligible for Transition Services 6

Getting Started – The IEP Process 6

Requesting Transition Assessments 8

Creating Measurable Post-Secondary Goals and Objectives 10

Getting Transition Services 20

Community-Based Transition Services 28

Getting Adult Agency Services Through Chapter 688  29

Transition Planning Timeline  33

Additional Concerns for Transition Planning for Students on Autism Spectrum


Resolving Problems  36

Facilitated IEP  36

Mediation  36

Hearings 37

Program Quality Assurance Services 37


Student Decision-Making  38

Decision-Making After Your Student Turns 18  38


Leaving Special Education  41

The End of Special Education Rights 41

Graduation  42

Non-Special Education Rights for Students with Disabilities Through Section 504  46


Managing Public Benefits


Supplemental Materials  49

Effective Practices 51

Individualized Education Program Supplement 54

Transition Assessments Supplement 58

State Law Supplement 65

Federal Law Supplement 68

IDEA Monitoring and Enforcement of Transition Services Under 20 U.S.C. § 1416  68

Indicator 13: What It Means 69

Indicator 14: What It Means 69

Table of Cases 71


Reference Materials  95

Glossary  95

Forms 100

Letters 103

Additional Resources 120

Contact Information  123


Acknowledgments 129


Additional legal and policy materials may also be found in an Appendix to this manual.

Please let us know how to improve this Manual by using our feedback form.


How to Use this Manual


How to Use This Manual (Español)

Introduction to Transition Services


A Message for Students

Important Things to Remember


 Back to Table of Contents



Como usar nuestro manual de transiciόn (Español)


Padres y estudiantes que su primera lengua es español pueden mirar éste video de lenguaje español por el consejero de educaciόn Tere Ramos, hablando como usar este Manual de Transiciόn, sus derechos para servicios de transiciόn, y su derecho para un intérprete.




Introduction to Transition Services

Students in special education have the right to learn more than traditional classroom subjects at school.  They have the right to make study social skills, job skills, and independent-living skills.  U.S. and Massachusetts law mandates these “transition services” to students between the ages of 14 and 22.[1A]  Transition services are part of, and not separate from, a school district’s responsibility to provide a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).  Transition goals and services should be in the student’s Individual Education Program (IEP) beginning in the year the student turns 14.  Transition planning should occur each year thereafter either prior to or at the annual development of the IEP.  Getting the transition services your student needs is not always an easy task. Transition planning should take place before the IEP meeting. Since it might involve assessment and multiple meetings there should be ample time and planning done before. It may take several meetings as part of the planning process. This manual will help you work (collaboratively) with your school to get the most appropriate services for your student.  Tips are spread throughout to help students get what they need—with and without the help of parents and other advocates.


You will learn:




This manual was written primarily for students, parents, and guardians.  The manual includes several tools to help you better understand the material.  In the Reference Materials you will find a glossary, sample forms and letters, and contact information.  Throughout the manual you will also find links.  These links will bring you to other sections of the manual and additional resources that relate to the information you are reading.  Some of the links are to supplement and provide more in-depth information on important subjects. 


Attorneys, legal advocates, and self-advocates will find statutes, regulations, policies, and other valuable information in the Endnotes.   Advocates may also wish to use the lengthy Appendix to this manual which contains questions and answers, state and federal statutes and regulations, policy documents and case law.


  Back to Table of Contents



This manual is general in nature.  It is not legal advice.  Each individual’s situation has to be considered independently to know how the law might apply.  The law can change quickly. Transition services rights are evolving very rapidly.  If it is not clear whether a source is current, check with an advocacy organization to confirm that the information is still valid.  If you need specific advice, please contact an attorney.  You can find one through legal organizations and local bar associations.  See the Contact Information section for more information.


Organizations wishing to refer students and parents to this Manual should link to the Disability Law Center (DLC) website, at http://www.dlc-ma.org/manual/ .   When possible, we are making periodic updates in-between formal editions, so it is best to use this Manual only through the DLC website, rather than in paper format.   Using the Manual online will also help ensure that the links to other websites and forms will work for you. 


Please tell us how this Manual can be improved by completing our feedback form.   We are planning on incorporating more video with captioning, including ASL and Spanish.


This Manual was written largely for students, parents, advocates and attorneys in Massachusetts.  If you live outside of Massachusetts, you should use this Manual with care, checking our “Endnotes” and the local practices in your state.   In some cases, state law in Massachusetts is different from federal law, and the law in other states.


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A Message for Students


As you go through school, there will be many opportunities when it is appropriate to advocate for yourself.  Self-advocacy can mean:


·       Knowing when you could benefit from asking for help

·       Asking for help in different ways from different people

·       Learning to tell others what you need

·       Realizing when you may need additional services

·       Thanking people who help you along the way

·       Understanding your challenges/disabilities and asking what you need.  


In a way, self-advocacy is one of the most important “transition” skills you can learn in school.  Nobody knows what you need better than you.  You alone know where you want to go in life.  People around you will be willing to help along the way.  But they have to know what you need them to do.  This manual will help show you what is available to you in school and beyond during the transition planning phase of the IEP process.


To help you get started, here is a video from Dan Harris, a former special education student, about the importance of transition services.




Dan Harris is now successfully enrolled in college. In this video, he offers a unique perspective on the value of transition services and the importance of planning your education around transition and parent student involvement. Dan candidly discussed his own challenges when he initially entered college. He urges students and parents to advocate relentlessly for the services, skills and community experiences their individual children needed to function successfully in the general community after they conclude their high school years.


We hope that students will find this Manual useful as they learn to advocate for themselves.   We also recognize that for many students, an adult other than a parent, such as another family member or guardian, may take the lead in advocating for special education services.   To keep the language of the Manual simple, we have using language which includes parents.  However, we hope and expect that students, other family members and advocates, and guardians will use it as well.


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Resources for Students Who are Deaf, and for their Families


Introduction to the ASL Video about a High School Student who is Deaf

For an ASL video with Louise Applegate about her experiences as a deaf student who, with an ASL interpreter attends high school in an integrated setting, please click on the video below:



Summary of the ASL Video about a High School Student Who is Deaf

Louise Applegate, a high school student who is deaf, speaks in ASL to share her experiences in an integrated classroom setting with hearing students.  She offers suggestions on how teachers, counselors and students can improve access for deaf students, to allow them to participate effectively in classroom discussions and access the curriculum.


Introduction to the ASL Transition Video

For a video in American Sign Language (ASL) by Rosa Lee Timm discussing transition rights of special education students, please click on the video below:



Summary of the ASL Transition Video

Rosa Lee Timm, a person who is Deaf, presents a summary in American Sign Language (ASL) about the transition rights of special education students and briefly describes the Disability Law Center’s on-line transition manual, available at www.dlc-ma.org.  She explains what transition services are, why they are important, how to advocate for them effectively, and how you can ask a school to communicate with you in your native language.  She concludes with information about how you can call the Disability Law Center if you have additional questions.


Introduction to the ASL Video on Resolving Disputes with the School  

For an ASL video by Rosa Lee Timm on what to do when you and the school disagree about your child’s special education services, please click on the video below:



Summary of the ASL Video on Resolving Disputes with the School      

Rosa Lee Timm, a person who is Deaf, speaks in American Sign Language (ASL) about what you can do when you and the school disagree about your child’s special education services and cannot resolve the conflict at a Team meeting.  She summarizes the procedural options, including mediation, resolution sessions, settlement conferences, and hearings at the Bureau of Special Education Appeals.  She emphasizes that parents have many options and need not give up immediately when they are not satisfied.


Introduction to the ASL Video with Special Education Tips

For an ASL video by Rosa Lee Timm with 5 important tips to advocate effectively for your child’s special education needs, please click on the video below:



Summary of the ASL Video on Special Education Tips

Rosa Lee Timm, a person who is Deaf, uses ASL to offer 5 helpful tips to make you a more effective advocate for your child’s special education needs.  She discusses the importance of keeping your records organized, writing letters to express concerns or ask questions; reviewing documents before signing them, finding expert support, and understanding the legal standard that applies to special education services.


Introduction to the ASL Video on MCDHH Services for Children Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

For an ASL video by Rosa Lee Timm on services for children by the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MCDHH), please click on the video below:



Summary of the ASL Video on MCDHH Services for Children

Rosa Lee Timm, a person who is Deaf, presents a summary in American Sign Language (ASL) of family and children's services by the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MCDHH). Children's specialists offer services free of charge on a variety of issues, including among things: communication access, dealing with discrimination and access barriers, information regarding Deaf culture, Chapter 688 Transitional Case Management, and how to advocate for your child's education.


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Important Things to Remember


Tips for Transition Services Planning[1C]


Throughout this manual, you will find tips and advice on each stage of the transition process.  Here are some general pieces of advice that you should keep in mind as you and your student go through the process together:


Keep the focus on your student.  The special education and transition services process is about meeting the unique goals and needs of your student. IDEA 2004 mandates that youth be invited to their IEP meetings each time transition services are discussed (Section 300.321).  Make sure that his or her desires, goals, and interests are at the center of the educational plan.  When your student enters the transition services stage, consider the most important ways to ensure his or her voice is heard  in the planning process.  Deciding how much the student participates in the transition planning meeting should be made on a case-by-case basis between the student and parent or guardian.  The student’s voice must be factored in the planning process and the parent or guardian should determine the most appropriate way for this to happen.  Direct participation in the meeting is just one way.


Start the process early.  Under Massachusetts law, your student is eligible for transition services beginning at the age of 14.  Before your student reaches this age, you can begin to ask questions about what your student wants to do after high school and what skills he or she may need to become more independent. The basic questions to ask are: Where do I want to work after leaving high school? Where do I want to work after leaving high school or postsecondary education? What do I want to learn after high school and where I can do this? There is often a limited amount of time for your student to receive certain services, so the earlier you start the better.


Put it in writing.  You will have many conversations, with many different people during the course of transition planning.  Make sure that you take notes on any conversations you have with your student’s teachers and school administrators.   It is very important that you keep a written record of phone calls, requests, etc.  It is a good idea to follow up with a brief email to confirm what you believe what was agreed to.  For example:

Dear Ms. Sped Director:  Thank you for meeting with me to discuss Robert’s desire to explore jobs in the automotive field.  The school has agreed to do X, Y & Z by November 29, 2011.  Thank you for your efforts on Robert’s behalf.  Sincerely,  Jane Doe.


Inform the school if you disagree with them.  Keep copies of any documents about your student.  This will help you stay on top of your student’s plan.  It will also be helpful if a problem arises between you and your student’s school.


Work cooperatively.  Your student’s well-being is vitally important.  There may be times when you feel the school is not doing enough for your student.  The best way to advocate for your student is to be cooperative while voicing your concerns respectfully. Best practice is collaboration. Research tells us without it, adult outcomes are compromised.


Remember you are an important part of this process.  The special education planning process can seem overwhelming.  There is a lot of information and a lot of different parts to the plan that you need to know.  Do not let the process or the “experts” intimidate you. Learning to work with the school builds skill that can be used throughout adult life. Do not be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something.  In fact, you are an expert.  As the parent or guardian, you know your student better than anyone, so you should always feel comfortable speaking up for your student.  You are your student’s best advocate.


Voice your needs.  Transition services should be tailored to your student.  Remember to speak up as soon as you have a question or concern.  Your thoughts are important.  Transition planning is driven by student interests, preferences and needs. You are an equal and invaluable member of the IEP Team.  Voicing your concerns and requesting a meeting to discuss the issue with the other members may be all that you need to resolve any issues. 


Introduction to English Language Video with Special Education Tips

For more general tips for family members and for an overview of transition issues, watch this video by Terri McLaughlin from the Federation for Children with Special Needs below:





Summary of English Language Video with Special Needs Tips

Terri McLaughlin of the Federation for Children with Special Needs, offers a summary of helpful information for students and parents regarding transition planning in a purposeful and scheduled way. She describes the steps in planning for your post-secondary needs, including tips on creating a transition portfolio, filling out the Transition Planning Form, discussing the expected graduation date with your school Team, and a movement from school into the community.


Introduction to the Spanish-Language Video with Special Education Tips

For those who prefer Spanish, here is a video on rights of parents by advocate Tere Ramos. Please click on the video below:



Summary of Spanish-Language Video with Special Education Tips

Tere Ramos, a parent and educational advocate, offers a summary of useful tips when you need to advocate effectively for you child’s special education services. She emphasizes the importance of keeping and organizing important documents, writing letters to ask questions and state concerns, reviewing anything you sign, and obtaining expert support at team meetings and hearings.  She also explains the concept of what is known as a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), the practical meaning of that concept, and what it means for your child.


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Developing Transition Services


Overview of Transition Services

Your Legal Rights

Who is Eligible for Transition Services

Getting Started – The IEP Process

            The IEP Team

            The IEP Vision Statement

Requesting Transition Assessments

            Formal and Informal Assessments

            Documenting Assessments in the IEP

Creating Measurable Post-Secondary Goals and Objectives

            Developing Skill-Based Post-Secondary Goals

            Measuring Your Student's Progress

Getting Transition Services

            Preparing for the Transition Process

            Using the Transition Planning Form

Community-Based Transition Services

            Community-Based Learning

            Choosing Community Settings for Instruction

Getting Adult Agency Services Through Chapter 688

            Preparing for Adult Agency Services

            Who is Eligible for Adult Agency Services

            Timeline for Requesting Adult Agency Services

            The Individual Transition Plan

Transition Planning Timeline


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Overview of Transition Services


Transition services teach students with disabilities life and work skills while they are still in school.  These services provide the student with a plan of what their best future could look like and instruction that moves the student forward towards those post-secondary goals. A federal law requires schools to provide these services.  The law is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, also called IDEA.  IDEA says that transition services must help students with disabilities move from life in school to life after school towards their goals. Transition services are tailored to meet a student’s individual strengths, preferences and interests.[1D]


Transition services can help your student:[2]


·       Develop self-advocacy skills

·       Learn Independent living skills

·       Explore  post-secondary education opportunities

·       Attain job skills for future employment

·       Improve social and relationship skills



Your Legal Rights


All students with disabilities must receive a Free Appropriate Public Education, also called  FAPE.  The government provides special education and services at no cost to families.[3]  This right is called an “entitlement” because your student is “entitled” to this education by law.  Students with disabilities are entitled to a FAPE until they graduate from high school or reach the age of 22.[4]  During that time, state and federal law gives students with disabilities specific rights, including a right to transition services starting in Massachusetts at age 14.


Introduction to the Video with Special Education Tips

For a video by Attorney Janine Solomon with 5 important tips to advocate effectively for your child's special needs, please click on the video below.





Summary of the Video on Special Education Tips

Attorney Janine Solomon discusses 5 helpful tips to make you a more effective advocate for your child's special education needs. She discusses the importance of keeping your records organized, writing letters to express concerns or ask questions; reviewing documents before signing them, finding expert support, and understand the legal standard that applies to special education services.


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Who is Eligible for Transition Services


Students between the ages of 14 and 22 who have Individualized Education Programs, also called IEPs, are eligible for transition services.[5]  Transition services make up a portion of the IEP.  The next section discusses how transition services are related to a student’s IEP.  For more information on IEPs in general, see the IEP Supplement.


Getting Started – The IEP Process


A Note on IEPs:  For more detailed information about the IEP process, see other helpful organization websites in the Contact Information section.  The information in this manual’s IEP sections does not fully cover the whole IEP process.  Additional information is also available in the IEP Supplement.  This manual should give you an overview of the IEP process but may not answer all of your questions.


Before developing an IEP, the school will evaluate your student.[6]   The evaluation will show if your student needs special education services.  If found eligible, transition assessments will be used to inform the transition plan and help to create measurable post secondary goals on the IEP. 


If your student qualifies for special education services, an IEP Team will design a program for your student.  The IEP is a written plan created by the IEP Team at least once a year in an IEP meeting (also called a Team meeting).  In this plan, the IEP Team decides the best way to meet your student’s educational needs.[7]  The IEP is a legal agreement between you as your student’s guardian and the school, where the school agrees to provide certain types of instruction, services, and/or accommodations for your student.  As you develop an IEP with the school and the IEP Team, keep records of all the communications with the school.  See the Federal Law Supplement for specific information on legal requirements for students with disabilities.


Your student’s IEP is individualized.  Encourage your student to think early and often about the future.  Ask your student, “Where do you want to live after leaving high school?" "Where do you want to work after leaving high school or after postsecondary school?" "What do you want to learn after high school and where can you do this?"  Include this vision in the annual IEP.  IEP goals will change and will become more detailed as your student explores and becomes more informed about his/her own strengths.   At age 14, the goals should also focus on life after high school.  The IEP Team will work from these goals throughout your student’s time in school.


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The IEP Team


The IEP Team meets at least once a year to review your student’s IEP.  The Team goes over student progress, student needs, and his or her goals.  The following people should be included on an IEP Team:[8]


·       The student

·       The student’s parent(s)/guardian(s)

·       The student’s teacher(s), including at least on regular education teacher and one special education teacher

·       The school’s special education administrator

·       Any specialists who work with the student (for example, a psychologist, doctor, therapist, independent evaluator, an Intensive Care Coordinator or lawyer)

·       Any person with special knowledge or who has a special relationship with the student (for example, coaches, classroom aides, and school nurses)

·       Any person the part/guardian or student would like to have present at the meeting (for example, a lawyer, an advocate, post-school agency staff, a trusted friend).


Students over age 14 must be invited to attend Team meetings.  Your student may also attend before age 14 if appropriate.[9]  You and your student should help the Team members understand your student’s needs and goals in conjunction with other reports, findings, assessments and evaluations.  Any transition services your student may need should be included in the IEP, even if the Team is not sure who will provide the services.[10]  See the Getting Transition Services section for more information.  At the beginning, the IEP may only include services that the school is capable of providing and willing to provide.[11]


The following section explains how the IEP is used to get transition services.  See the IEP Supplement for more information on IEPs in general.


The IEP Vision Statement


 All IEPs must have a vision statement.  A vision statement describes your student’s preferences and interests, future plans, and long-term goals. The post secondary goals drive the IEP and annualized goals. The post secondary goals help the Team create a program that fits your student’s interests, strengths, and preferences.  The more the IEP Team understands your student, the more specific the IEP goals can be.  Assessments are mandatory and help to better understand your student’s abilities.  Assessments are tests or evaluations of your student’s skills and abilities in different areas.  Assessments help create a better IEP for your student.  A well-written IEP can help teachers and support staff to plan your student’s school day effectively.[12]


The IEP vision statement will change as your student gets older.  By the time your student reaches age 14, your student’s IEP must address “postsecondary and working environments” and independent living when appropriate (see section of IEP form below). 

IEP Form-1


The vision statement should include things to help your student live independently, go to school, and work.  The Team will develop transition services that will move your student forward into adulthood towards his/her post secondary goals.  There is an official process for addressing your student’s post-high school vision discussed later in the manual.  See The Post-Secondary Vision Statement section for more information.


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Requesting Transition Assessments[12A]


Transition assessments are tools that are used to evaluate your student.  Unlike other IEP evaluations, transition assessments evaluate specific skills needed after leaving high school.  Transition assessments will help the IEP Team figure out what your student’s needs and interests are.  These assessments help the IEP Team identify the educational activities and services that are most useful to your student.  They can show how your student interacts in social settings.  The assessments can also identify a range of jobs for your student.  They may help to determine the type of living situation your student may need in the future.  This information is extremely valuable in setting goals for your student’s life after high school.


Transition assessments should be done as students’ interests and opportunities evolve as an ongoing process.  You can request assessments during IEP Team meetings.  If the school has not offered assessments, you may also request assessments by writing a letter to the school or signing an Evaluation Consent Form.  The school may give you an Evaluation Consent Form to sign indicating the assessments the school plans to perform.  If you think your student needs additional assessments not proposed by the school, you can request additional assessments on the Evaluation Consent Form.  The IEP Team may meet as often as necessary in order to be sure that your student is evaluated and to share results from these evaluations.[13] In addition to requesting transition assessments from the school, parents and guardians can also obtain independent evaluations in any area that the school has assessed.


The school is not required to provide transition services or assessments until your student turns 14, unless the Team decides it is appropriate to begin earlier.[14]  You should also discuss the transition process with your student and consider together the best ways for having his or her voice heard in the planning process. If you decide it is best for the student to participate in the IEP Team Meeting, you should prepare the student to participate in a meaningful way. Even though the school is required to provide transition services, it would be a good idea to request transition services at the first IEP Team meeting after the student turns 14.  See the Getting Transition Services section for more information.



Formal and Informal Assessments


Transition assessments can be either formal or informal.[15]  The Team should use both formal and informal assessments to help measure your student’s progress continually over time, and parents/guardians can specifically request both types of assessments.  Professionals usually perform the formal assessments.[15A] 


The IEP evaluation process can be a place to start formal transition assessments.  The differences between formal and informal assessments are discussed below.


Formal Assessments


A formal assessment is based on a standardized test that measures specific skills.  These tests compare your student to other students.[16]  Academic achievement tests are a form of formal assessments that students and parents might be most familiar with.[16A]  Schools usually give these tests to students at certain times during the school year.[17]


For a more accurate transition assessment of transition service needs, the IEP Team should rely on more than just the standardized tests given at school.  The IEP Team should also use other formal assessments that relate specifically to transition.  Examples of other formal assessment tests include: [18]


·       Independent living skills

·       Personality

·       Career preference tests

·       Vocational skills evaluations


Informal Assessments


Unlike formal assessments, informal assessments do not compare your student to a specific group of people.[19]  Informal assessments evaluate your student in different or non-traditional ways.  They are used to identify individual strengths and needs.[20]  Different assessments are used for different kinds of information.


The people doing the transition assessments might observe your student, if necessary, both inside and outside the classroom.  They may also evaluate the student at a potential jobsite.  This evaluation is also called a situational assessment.[21]  The IEP Team can use these assessments as a starting point in developing a transition plan.[22] 


Assessments involve a lot of people, which can be overwhelming.  Keep in mind that these evaluations are for your student’s benefit.  Everyone is there to help. 



Documenting Assessments in the IEP


Whenever an assessment is done the school should include it in the Key Evaluation Results and Present Level of Performance sections of the IEP.[23]  The assessments will also help the Team develop your student’s post-secondary goals.  Well-developed post-secondary goals will help the Team find appropriate transition services.  


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Creating Measurable Post-Secondary Goals and Objectives


Your student’s IEP must include:


·       Post-secondary goals based on assessments of your student’s skills

·       Transition services your student needs to reach those goals


See the Requesting Transition Assessments section and the Getting Transition Services sections for more information.


The IEP should help your student achieve more and more independence at school and in the community.[24]  Each goal in the IEP must build skills.[25]  The law does not limit the number of goals that can be included in a student’s IEP.[26] 


Post-secondary goals focus on (1) education and training, (2) employment, and, when needed, (3) independent living skills.[27]  The goals should consider what your student can reasonably expect to achieve by the end of each year.  They are for your individual student, not just any student.  The goals are also not just for special education classes.  They outline how your student will participate overall in life at school and in the community—including extracurricular activities.


Post-secondary goals generally have three parts.[27A] First, they must be goals that your student hopes to reach after high school (“post-secondary”).  Second, the goals must be “appropriate.”  They must be goals that your student wants and that fit your student’s skills and abilities.  Third, the goals must be “measurable”.[27B]  This means the IEP Team has a way to see how much progress your student has made when the IEP is updated.[28]  See the Measuring Your Student’s Progress section for more information. 




 As you create each goal, ask yourself if it is (1) appropriate, (2) post-secondary, and (3) measurable.




Developing Skill-Based Post-Secondary Goals



Thinking about and creating goals will help you and your student envision the future.  These thoughts will help guide your student’s post-secondary vision.  See the Post-Secondary Vision Statement section for more information.


In setting goals, it can help to think about two questions:


·       What does your student hope to achieve? 

·       Which services will your student need to get there? 


Start by thinking about a day in the life of your student, from waking up until going to bed.  Can your student pack a backpack for school?  Can your student cross the street to catch the bus?  Can your student wait his or her turn to speak in class?  Can your student turn his or her homework in on time?  What activities does your student enjoy the most?  Make notes about your student’s current everyday interests and needed skills. Do not be afraid to be specific in setting transition goals, such as stating your student would like to become a veterinary assistant.  Remember, these statements can be changed if your student changes her mind. 


Do not allow others to say that your student’s goals are unrealistic.  Though it is often helpful for post secondary goals to inform the IEP, it is not necessary that the goals match the IEP.[28A] Any goals your student identifies will clarify his or her interests.  Try to match your student’s dream to his or her abilities and skills.  Explore all of the possibilities.[28B]



For example:

A student with a goal of becoming a train conductor may really just be very interested in trains.  He may be able to fulfill his dream in many other ways.  Think about ideas like working in a model train store, riding the train to work, or working at a train station.


Here are some questions to think about and discuss with your student before each IEP Team meeting:[29]


·       What are your student’s dreams? What job would he or she like to have one day? Where does he or she want to live as an adult?

·       What skills does your student need to reach his or her dream?

·       What is your student good at?

·       What skills need to be improved?

·       Where can your student work on these skills in school and in the community? 

·       When does your student expect to reach each goal?

·       Who, specifically, will be able to help your student reach each goal?


Your student’s goals are your student’s voice.  You also have your own hopes and dreams for your student.  Be clear about whose goals are whose.  Your goals are important but might differ from your student’s goals.[30]


The IEP Team needs the most up-to-date information about your student.  You know your student’s strengths, weaknesses, needs, and interests.  You, the parent, are one of the Team’s key experts in setting meaningful goals. 


The Team will use this information in the sections of your student’s IEP entitled “Present Levels of Educational Performance” and “Current Performance Levels.”  The “Present Levels of Educational Performance A:  General Curriculum” section lists your student’s current abilities in general classes (such as English, Math, and Science).   This section of the IEP form (shown below) will help the IEP Team create school-related goals for your student while in high school.


IEP Form-2





The “Present Levels of Educational Performance B:  Other Educational Needs” section lists your student’s current abilities in other settings outside of the general curriculum.  This section of the IEP form (shown below) includes transition age specific considerationstransition to post-school activities including community experiences, employment objectives, other post school adult living and, if appropriate, daily living skills.  Applicable areas include travel training and skill development related to vocational preparation or experience.


IEP Form





The “Current Performance Level” is listed under each goal in the IEP (shown below).  For each goal, the IEP Team must write how your student is currently performing with respect to that specific goal.  You know your student best.  Your input about your student’s performance is the most important tool for the Team.[31]  




For Example:


Specific Goal Focus: Clara will use stranger danger lessons by next year.

Current Performance Level: Clara speaks to everyone everywhere and will stop strangers to ask them questions.


Specific Goal Focus: Alex will work part-time as an activities assistant in a nursing home with support.

Current Performance Level: Alex has had very little work experience and has a hard time focusing on stationary, repetitive tasks but enjoys helping.




The IEP will include your student’s goals for high school and beyond.  Be as specific as possible about post-high school goals in the IEP Team meetings.  Education goals for each school year include the instruction your student needs to:


·       Complete classes and earn credits toward graduation

·       Succeed in the general curriculum

·       Make progress towards post-high school plans


Post-secondary education goals in the IEP will state if your student plans to attend college.  Younger students may not be ready to decide what their educational goals are after high school.  You student will be more likely to receive appropriate transition services if his or her post-secondary education goals are specific.[32]


Examples that need improvement:


Logan would like to go to college.




Maria is interested in learning about animals after high school.


Good examples:


Logan will do a 2-year associate’s program in culinary arts at Cape Cod Community College, with support services.


Maria will apply to the Massachusetts School of Pet Grooming.  




Independent Living Skills


Independent living skills are everyday things adults do.  Some examples are:

·       Preparing meals

·       Paying bills and banking

·       Doing laundry

·       Having good personal hygiene

·       Managing medications and health care

·       Maintaining a home

·       Traveling around town

·   Shopping

·   Eating out

·   Budgeting

·   Work out at a fitness center

·    Maintaining Safety

·    Identifying  when “friends” are trying to take advantage of the student


The IEP Team must think about how these skills relate to other post-secondary goals in education, vocational training, and employment.[33]


Schools might say that these independent living skills are not education-related and that the student should learn these skills outside of school.  But if the skills are connected to what a student needs to learn in order to have a job or live independently as an adult, then they are related to his or her education and the school must address them. 


You student can work on independent living skills goals by participating in activities like school sports, drama, or other clubs.  Sometimes students will also need specific instructions and/or services to learn these skills.  Schools might say that these are not education-related and that the student should learn these skills outside of school.  But if the skills are connected to what a student needs to learn in order to have a job or live independently as an adult, then they are related to his or her education and the school must address them.  You should observe your student’s friendships and social involvement.  Does he or she fit in with any particular part of the student body?  Participation in activities can be an excellent way for your student to make progress.


It is also important not to overlook teaching your student how to have fun. You can request your student be taught how to go to the library, go bowling or plan a dinner out with friends.





Examples that need improvement:


Logan will learn to take the bus.




Maria will learn to live independently.


Good examples:


Logan will learn to travel to and from work five days a week using the bus system. 



Maria will learn how to tell time, budget, and use a calendar to keep track of events and deadlines.





Vocational Training


Preparing for employment is an important part of your student’s post-secondary goals.  Vocational training teaches your student about a particular job and its needed skills that may interest your student.  This type of training can be very helpful in getting a job after high school.  If your student is involved in a vocational program such as cosmetology or mechanics, the IEP team should also consider the students educational needs in this program.[33A]



Vocational training should prepare your student for work in the real world.  The Team should think about work opportunities available in your community.  Experiences in the community can give your student the chance to gain skills outside of school.[34]


Examples that need improvement:

 Logan will get vocational training related to food.


Maria will get vocational training.   


Good examples:

 Logan will get a baking assistant vocational certification.

 Maria will get a veterinarian’s assistant vocational certification.  



 Back to Table of Contents



Your student must also have goals in employment.  What are your student’s interests?  What jobs match your student’s skills?  Consider a variety of work-based learning options such as work mentoring, volunteering, and internships.  Working during high school increases your student’s chance of job success after high school.  Your student can get valuable experience by working in the community.  This community-based work can give your student the chance to work with others to figure out his or her post-secondary goals.[35] Employment goals should be mentioned distinctly in the IEP and should be separate from other goals such as for independent living or education, to avoid confusion.  It also might be helpful to discuss scheduling and transportation with an IEP team and consider input from job coaches, supervisors or coordinators if they cannot attend the IEP meeting.


Examples that need improvement:

 Logan will work in a food-related job.


Maria will work with animals.   


Good examples:

 Logan will become employed as a full-time baker’s assistant.

 Maria will volunteer in a position that allows her to care for, treat, and groom pets.  





Although there is no specific requirement that the IEP include self-advocacy goals, self-advocacy is a very important skill for your student to develop.  Self-advocacy is your student’s ability to present his or her own interests.  There are many ways to learn self-advocacy skills during the IEP process. 


Your student’s voice needs to be heard in developing his or her goals.  Your student should be part of the IEP and transition planning process to the greatest extent he or she is able to participate.  When the student attends, she or she may find it useful to write a script for the meeting.  Your student may want to create a PowerPoint presentation or video to help guide the IEP meeting.  Another idea is to develop a portfolio with your student.  The portfolio can help to clarify what your student’s goals are so you can explain them to the school.  Finally, it can be very empowering to have your student run the meetings when he or she is ready.


Examples that need improvement:

 Logan will attend IEP meetings. 



 Maria will tell others what she needs.



Good examples:

 Logan will attend and participate in IEP meetings, perhaps using PowerPoint presentations.  He will lead his last IEP meeting. 


Maria will be able to communicate her accommodation needs to employers, service providers, and others.




Measuring Your Student’s Progress


The law requires the goals be measurable.  Measurable means that the IEP Team can keep track of your student’s progress.  All IEPs must have a description of how the IEP Team will measure your student’s progress.  The IEP must also say when the school will write reports of that progress.[36]


Goals can be measured by “objectives” or “benchmarks.”  Objectives are short-term steps towards a goal.  Benchmarks are major milestones towards a goal.[37]  Goals, benchmarks, and objectives can only be changed if the IEP Team agrees.  You must sign a new version of the IEP before any changes are put into effect.[38]


Examples of Objectives:


Goal: Pierre will develop independent cooking skills.

Objectives: (1) Pierre will pack his lunch independently by January 15th, (2) Pierre will prepare his breakfast independently by February 1st, (3) Pierre will independently cook one hot meal using the microwave by June 1st, (4) Pierre will make macaroni and cheese for dinner using the gas stove by June 15th, (5) Pierre will make dinner for himself three times a week by September 1st.



Examples of Benchmarks:


Goal: Gabby will travel to and from work using the bus system, by herself.

Benchmarks: (1) Gabby will learn to read the bus schedule and walk to the bus stop from home with assistance by the end of first quarter, (2) Gabby will learn to board the bus and signal the bus driver for her stop by the end of second quarter, (3) Gabby will learn to walk from the bus stop to her job by the end of third quarter, (4) Gabby will learn to take the return trip home by bus by the end of fourth quarter, (5) Gabby will take the bus to and from work by herself by next year.




After setting benchmarks or objectives for each goal, the IEP Team must come up with a “Data Collection Strategy.”[39]  This is how the Team decides whether your student has met his or her goals.


Formal tests cannot always measure your student’s progress.  You might use:[40]


·       Teacher evaluations of skills

·       Self-evaluations by your student

·       A portfolio of your student’s work

·       A checklist of things to be accomplished


Make sure the IEP Team makes a schedule that shows when the Team will collect this information.  You can measure monthly, quarterly, or on specific dates set by the Team.


You and your student should get progress reports from the school.  They should come at least as often as the reports for children who are not in special education.  They are usually sent out at the same time as report cards.[41]  You do not need to wait for a progress report if you have concerns.  Any time you feel that your student is not making progress toward his or her goals, you should request a Team meeting.  You should also request a meeting if you feel that the goals, benchmarks, or objectives need to be changed.[42]

Once you have your appropriate, post-secondary goals with a plan on how they will be measured, you will want to turn them into actual learning experiences.  The next section deals with getting transition services.


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Getting Transition Services


Preparing for the Transition Process


When a student turns 14, his or her IEP will change in many ways.  The Team must consider the student’s life after high school.  A post-secondary vision and post-secondary goals will be added to the IEP and will drive the transition planning process. 


Throughout your transition planning, here are questions you should ask:


·       Has the IEP Team encouraged your student to participate in Team meetings? 

·       Has he or she been involved in a discussion of his or her interests, especially as he or she approaches age 14? 

·       Has the Team listened to your student’s plans, dreams, and hopes for adult life?

·       Have the school and independent evaluators completed assessments?

·       Are those assessments up-to-date and reported in the IEP?

·       Are your student’s post-secondary vision statement and goals in the IEP?

·       Are you keeping written records of your conversations, emails, and letters with the Team members? 


You should frequently ask these questions as you plan for your student’s transition to adulthood.  Consider these questions as you write the Transition Planning Form.  This special Massachusetts form is used with the IEP.




On March 9, 2012 the Governor signed H. 3720 (formerly H.159) An Act to Promote the Successful Transition of Students with Disabilities to Post-Secondary Education, Employment and Independent Living into law (also known as the Transition Specialist bill). The new law is Chapter 51 of the Acts of 2012.


The new law requires the Board of Education to revise educator licensure regulations to provide a mechanism for current special education teachers and rehabilitation counselors to obtain a Specialist Teacher Endorsement in Transition Services. The new regulations which will be voted on by the Board of Education in December 2012 shall include details on coursework and field experience necessary to obtain the Transition Specialist Endorsement. This bill will provide school districts with trained personnel necessary to fully implement the transition requirements of federal special education law, and will improve competitive employment and independent living outcomes for students with disabilities ages 14 - 22 years old.



Using the Transition Planning Form


In Massachusetts, transition services must be recorded in the Transition Planning Form, also called the TPF.  The TPF will be discussed along with the IEP when your student turns 14.  It is a separate form from the IEP used as a planning tool.  It focuses specifically on your student’s transition to adult life.


The IEP and TPF are different forms.  But the IEP Team will use the IEP and the TPF together to plan for your student’s transition services.  The IEP is the school’s legal commitment to your child.  The TPF is your tool to put the transition services requests into the IEP.  To receive transition services, they must be documented in the IEP.[43]   


The TPF is a mandated form.  The TPF includes the skills your student will need to reach his or her post-secondary goals.  The TPF also states the services the school will provide to teach those skills.  When a post-secondary goal changes, you may need different services on the TPF.  Once your student has a TPF, it should be reviewed, changed, and updated every year by the IEP Team.  If your student has a “disability-related need” listed on the TPF that is not supported by an IEP goal, you should update the IEP.  Your student can only receive services for those goals on the IEP.[44]  Again, transition services must be included in your IEP. 


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The Post-Secondary Vision Statement


The TPF includes a new type of vision statement called the “post-secondary vision statement.”  It will help you make changes in the IEP which will focus on life after high school.  It is necessary to add these to the student’s IEP at age 14. 


For Example: 

Alan would like to attend a 4-year college.  Alan is interested in computers and does well in math classes.  He would like to be a math or computer science major.  He is interested in maybe becoming an accountant or a computer programmer.   

Another Example:

 Ana is detail-oriented and loves being outdoors.  She would like to work in a plant nursery.       


The TPF includes your student’s personal post-high school vision.  Use your student’s strengths, preferences, and interests to write the post-secondary vision statement.  The IEP Team and the student can create his or her vision for the future by imagining the student’s adult life.[45]





All Team members, including parents, should help your student connect his or her strengths and hobbies to long-term goals.  The IEP Team should start this process early.  You could otherwise lose services your student needs.  Your student’s post-secondary goals are very likely to change as he or she gets older.  But identifying these interests early will guide the process and help the Team make further adjustments.[46]  See the Creating Measurable Post-Secondary Goals and Objectives section for more information on writing goals.


For the post-secondary vision statement, Team members should consider[47]:


·       Education – Will your student continue his or her education after high school?

·       Employment – What kind of job would your student enjoy?

·       Skill development – What skills will your student need to begin his or her life after high school?

·       Adult services – Will adult social service agencies assist your student during adulthood?  Which agency and in what way?

·       Social development – How will your student continue to build social skills as an adult?

·       Housing – Where will your student live?  What living arrangement is a proper goal?  Living independently, in a community group home, in a nursing home, or some other arrangement?

·       Transportation – How will your student get from home to school or work?

·       Recreation – How will your student stay physically active?  What activities does he or she enjoy?


Your student’s post-school goals will change and become clearer over time.  Team members should continually update the post-secondary vision statement.  At every stage, your student should be talking about his or her strengths, interests, and long-term goals.[48]  You should update your IEP Vision Statement to include the ideas in your “Post-Secondary Vision” on your TPF.




Turning the Post-Secondary Vision Statement into an Action Plan


The TPF also includes a plan for your student called the “action plan.”  The Team will use the post-secondary vision it creates to write the action plan.  The IEP Team will develop the plan first by listing the skills your student will work on to reach his or her post-secondary vision and goals.  Next, the Team will state very specifically how other individuals and agencies will help your student develop the skills listed in the plan.[49]


Teachers, family members, adult service providers, and community members can help your student develop skills for adult life.  The TPF explains how this process happens.  The Team should consider your student’s individual strengths and interests when it creates the TPF.  The TPF should list courses of study in school, employment opportunities, work skills, and adult living experiences.[50]  Additional Team meetings may be requested to talk about these things.[51]


The “Disability Related Needs” section of the TPF (shown below) is where the Team will describe the skills your student needs to reach the post-secondary goals listed in the IEP.[52]  See Creating Measurable Post-Secondary Goals and Objectives section for more information on writing goals.  That section of the TPF should be transferred to the IEP whenever the TPF is updated.  See the Transition Planning Form for more information.




The “Action Plan” section of the TPF (shown below) is where the Team will match the skills your student needs to build (listed in the “Disability Related Needs” section shown above) with the transition services that will help him or her learn those skills.  The idea is that the action plan will help him or her achieve the post-secondary vision and goals. 


Identify the skills your student needs to reach those goals.  List the services that will help your student build those skills.





Here are some examples of transition services:[53]


·       Learning social skills

·       Learning language pragmatics

·       Completing a skills training class

·       Attending occupational training programs

·       Taking an assistive technology evaluation

·       Talking to job coaches

·       Getting mobility training at work

·       Getting a bank ATM card and learning how to use it

·       Visiting college campuses and scheduling meetings with disability coordinators

·       Looking into public transportation options to get to/from work or school (buses, trains, subways, etc.)

·       Learning to use the telephone directory and making a telephone call

·       Learning to use the washer, dryer, dishwasher, microwave, and TV

·       Creating a method to handle emergencies (who to call and what to say)

·       Learning about the Americans with Disabilities Act

·       Joining a class on self-advocacy

·       Practicing time management by scheduling and keeping appointments

·       Visiting the post office and using its services

·       Applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

·       Looking into housing assistance programs (HUD)

·       Researching local mentorship programs

·       Practicing daily grooming and other hygiene skills

·       Taking appropriate medication


See the Additional Resources section for more examples of transition services.



For Example: 

Another Example:


Post-Secondary Vision:
Beth would like to study art in college and become a graphics art designer.

Post-Secondary Vision:
Liz is not sure what she would like to do after graduating from high school

Post-Secondary Goal:
Take college preparation courses that include art classes.  Shadow a graphics art designer to learn the skills required to be a professional graphics art designer.

Post-Secondary Goal:

Develop basic independent living skills and complete career development courses to find her post-high school goals

Disability-Related Needs:
Develop skills for self-advocacy, independent living, and communication.

Disability-Related Needs:

Time management; ability to use credit cards; taking public transportation.

Action Plan:
Beth has difficulty articulating her needs and this makes it difficult for her to negotiate a college-like environment.  Because of her disabilities she will need to develop self-advocacy skills in order to meet her post-secondary goal of attending college.  Beth will explore taking a self advocacy course sponsored by Mass. Development Disabilities Council, and consider joining Mass. Advocates Standing Strong.

Action Plan:

Training on how to schedule appointments, keep track of time, make payments, and ride the train alone.

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Community-Based Transition Services


Community-Based Learning


Community-based learning takes place when a student learns skills outside of the school setting.  A community setting can help Team members and students identify appropriate transition services.  In a real-world setting, students can learn transition skills already identified by the Team.  They can also move toward post-secondary goals.[54]


Appropriate community-based learning experiences are required by law.[55]  These opportunities help students prepare for transition to adult life.  They provide work and life skills that may be difficult to teach in the classroom setting.  A transition plan that does not include community-based experiences is unlikely to fulfill the requirements of a FAPE.[56]


Choosing Community Settings for Instruction


When considering community-based experiences, Team members should use the post-secondary vision statements of the IEP and TPF to identify appropriate community settings for instruction.  As always, it helps to think about the day-to-day living needs of your individual student, as well as your student's strengths, weaknesses and preferences.  Adult living skills, transportation, employment, social skills, and recreation are all important considerations.[57]



With effective planning, your student will have access to a range of transition services.[58]  Some transition services will be provided at school, but the Team should seek out opportunities for experience in the community.[59]  The school and Team should involve local employers and community members in the planning process as much as possible.


The next section explains more about adult agency services and how you can start preparing for them before your student leaves special education.   



Getting Adult Agency Services Through Chapter 688


Transition services may not be enough to help your student make the transition to adulthood.  Your student may also qualify for “Adult Agency Services.”  These services are provided to individuals with disabilities outside of special education.  Services from an adult agency are not an entitlement like a FAPE.  You need to know how to ask for the appropriate help your student will need.


“Chapter 688,” also called 688, is one part of transition planning.  Some students with disabilities need services after they leave high school.  Chapter 688 is part of Massachusetts state law.  It is a process for getting services from adult state agencies, like the Department of Mental Health (DMH) and others listed below, after special education ends.  If your student might need services after he or she finishes school, it is important to begin planning for those services early.[60]


688 is not an entitlement.  A 688 referral is not a continuation of special education.  688 is not a part of a FAPE.  The law does not require any benefits to be provided to your student after special education.[61]  688 does not guarantee any services from any adult agency.  However, it is still a very important part of the planning process of moving from school to adult life.


Preparing for Adult Agency Services


The school will make a 688 referral if the team agrees that your student might need services after special education ends.  The school will contact the EOHHS agency they believe is most appropriate and could provide the services your student needs.  The student and/or parent or guardian may also request a 688 referral through the local school district.


In order for the school to send your student’s records to the EOHHS agency, the school must get permission.  The school will need the signature of your student if he or she is 18 or older.  If your student is younger than 18, you, the parent or guardian, will need to sign the referral form.[62]  See the 688 Referral Form for more information.


For a video of former DLC Attorney Hilary Dunn explaining the transition process to adult services for individuals with significant intellectual disabilities, please click here.




Your student’s information will be sent to the EOHHS agency that the school believes is the most appropriate to meet your student’s needs.  Chapter 688 referrals and supporting documentation are sent directly to the appropriate lead agency and a copy of the 688 referral form is sent to the Bureau of Transitional Planning (BTP).  If the school TEAM believes the student may need adult human services, but is not certain which agency is appropriate, the referral can be sent directly to EOHHS.  After graduating or turning 22 years old, your student might work with one or more of the following agencies:[63]


·       The Department of Developmental Services, also called DDS

·       The Department of Mental Health, also called DMH

·       The Department of Public Health, also called DPH

·       The Department of Children and Families, also called DCF

·       The Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, also called MCB

·       The Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, also called MCDHH

·       The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, also called MRC


See the Contact Information section for more information.


Introduction to the Video on Obtaining Adult Services for Students with Disabilities

For a video by Attorney Hillary Dunn on seeking adult services for people with severe disabilities, please click on the video below.



Summary of the Video on Obtaining Adult Services for Students with Disabilities


Attorney Hillary Dunn discusses services to consider for transition age students with “severe” “intellectual disabilities who will need adult services from the Department of Developmental Services (DDS).  She offers suggestions about necessary evaluations, assistive technology, essential IEP services, 688 referrals, applying for Social Security Insurance (SSI), and day habilitation.  She also explains how you can continue to assist an adult with severe disabilities by considering guardianship, a delegation of educational authority, conservatorship, durable power of attorney, any trustee involvement, representative payee for SSI, or a Health Care Proxy.





Who Is Eligible for EOHHS Agency Services


There are three categories of students with disabilities who are automatically eligible for a 688 referral:[64]


·       Students with disabilities who receive Supplemental Security Income, also called SSI

·       Those who receive Social Security Disability Insurance, also called SSDI

·       Those who are listed in the Massachusetts Registry of the Blind


Other students not listed above but who have an IEP may qualify for a 688 referral if they meet all three of the following requirements:[65] 


·       They received special education services in school;

·       They will need continuing services after school; and

·       They will be unable to work more than twenty hours per week because of their disability.


Even if your student already receives services from a state agency, they will still need a 688 referral to receive services as an adult-eligibility requirements are different for children and for adults.  The agency a school contacts with a 688 referral is called the “coordinating agency.”  The coordinating agency organizes services for the student from other agencies as well as its own.  The 688 process can be very helpful for students with multiple disabilities. 


EOHHS agency services are not guaranteed.  Funding can be a concern.[66]  You should make sure that a coordinating agency has been identified before your student leaves special education.  The coordinating agency will then have time to try to obtain funding for the student before he or she requires adult services.[67]


Timeline for Requesting EOHHS Agency Services


In Massachusetts, schools must begin the 688 process at least two years before your student leaves special education.  You and other IEP Team members can discuss 688 services before this two-year mark is reached.  You can also address the bigger topic of planning your student’s life after special education at any time as well.[68]


Students with disabilities and their parents do not need a 688 referral to talk to EOHHS agencies.  You can go to the local office of any agency and talk about your student’s future needs.  Adult agency offices are public places.  The 688 process was created as an official system for transferring people with disabilities to the care of adult agencies after special education ends.  This 2 year planning period allows enough time to determine eligibility for adult services and for an agency(ies) to include the anticipated cost of services for the student in the budget request which is submitted to the Massachusetts Legislature each year.


Chapter 688 referrals and supporting documentation are sent directly to the appropriate lead agency and a copy of the 688 referral form is sent to the Bureau of Transitional Planning (BTP). Referrals can be made to the Department of Mental Health (DMH), the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC), the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB) or the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MCDHH).


When the EOHHS agency receives the 688 referral, the agency decides whether your student is eligible for services.  The agency will request a lot of information from the student or parent.  Organizing this information early can be very helpful.

Paperwork that an adult agency might request includes:[69]


·       Records of psychological and IQ tests

·       Behavioral assessments

·       Doctors’ reports

·       Medical assessments

·       Developmental evaluations

·       Statements of diagnosis/diagnoses

·       Counseling or therapy records

·       Legal documents, like proof of guardianship


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The Individual Transition Plan


An agency will decide if your student is eligible for adult services after special education.  The adult agency will begin discussions on appropriate services.  If your student is eligible, the adult agency may be included in IEP Team meetings.  They will talk to you and your student, along with other members of the IEP Team.[70] 


The adult agency then begins the Individual Transition Plan, also called the ITP. This is a separate plan from the student’s IEP of the Transitional Planning Form discussed above and created by the school.  You are not responsible for creating the ITP but you and/or your student should participate in the process of creating the ITP.  The ITP includes plans for vocational or day programs and for residential and support services.  The ITP is approved by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services and signed off by the Secretary.

This plan sets out specifically what services each agency will be responsible for upon graduation or termination of special education.[71]



For Example:

 The Massachusetts Commission for the Blind provides a list of services for independent living.  These may include low-vision evaluations, peer support groups, and teaching new ways of performing day-to-day tasks.  The services may also include devices to assist daily living like reading lamps, large print calendars, and clocks.


Adult agencies may have many different kinds of programs and services for people with disabilities.[72]  Programs and services are planned based on an individual's needs.  Services can often be combined.[73] 


Your student's ITP will discuss his or her vision for the future.  Accommodations can often be made for a student’s special interests and abilities.  Make sure to discuss your ideas early and regularly.



If you think your student may need continuing services after special education:[74]


·       Ask your school for a 688 referral at age 16 (or at least two years before leaving special education).

·       Sign the 688 referral and keep a copy for your records.

·       Discuss your student's needs and vision for his or her life after school with your IEP Team and the EOHHS agency representative.

·       Participate in preparing an ITP and include plans for any day services, vocational training, residential services, support services, and transportation.

·       If you disagree with a 688 eligibility determination or an Individual Transition Plan, you have the right to appeal.  Appeals can be made to the Bureau of Transition Planning.  See the Resolving Problems section for more information on appeals.


The many steps needed to receive transition services and adult agency services can be confusing.  You may find it helpful to see the steps set out in terms of the age of your student.  The following section starts at age 14.  It takes you through age 22 and beyond.


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Transition Planning Timeline[75]


Age 14 Age 16 Age 16-18 Age 17 Age 18 Age 22
Request transition assessments Use TPF to document services           Consider college course requirements if applicable


Consider legal decision making options Continue work and community experiences, consider college prep SPED eligibility ends at 22
Talk to your student about goals       Develop post secondary vision Clarify transition goals   Apply for SSI Continue work and community based services

Follow up to make sure transition Services are given. consider community/ work based experiences


See 688 Referral  

Chapter 688 referral is appropriate 2 years before student leaves special education


Gradually phased out special education


Prior to Age 14:


·       You and the school evaluate your student’s abilities.  You should talk with your student about his or her goals in order to plan for transition services.

·       Your student’s abilities and developmental needs are assessed.  See the Requesting Transition Assessments section for more information.

·       Your student’s interests and goals must be identified to prepare the first Transition Planning Form, also called the TPF.

·       Communications with IEP Team members should be thoroughly documented.  You should keep copies of all letters, emails, forms, and other documents related to transition planning.


Age 14:


·       Your student must be invited to participate in all IEP and transition planning meetings.

·       Transition planning begins with the development of the TPF.

·       The Team will begin using the TPF to plan transition services your student may need.  See the Getting Transition Services section for more information.

·       The Team will work together to develop a “post-secondary vision statement.”  This fits into a specific plan for your student’s transition to adult life beyond high school. See the Using the Transition Planning Form section for more information.

·       Make sure all services listed on the Transition Planning Form that the school will deliver are incorporated into the student’s IEP

·       Community and work-based services that the Team has listed in the IEP begin.  See the Community-Based Transition Services section for more information.


Age 16-18:


·       At annual IEP meetings, the Team will discuss your student’s interests and abilities.  As these change, or become clearer, the IEP and TPF should be refined and updated.

·       Development of your student’s post-secondary vision statement continues.  Your student is free to change his or her goals at any time.  See the Using the Transition Planning Form section for more information.

·       The school should consider submitting a 688 referral.  The Team should coordinate with any relevant adult agencies.  See the Getting Adult Agency Services Through Chapter 688 section for more information.

·       Community and work-based services that the Team has listed in the IEP continue.  See the Community-Based Transition Services section for more information.


Age 18:


·       This is the age of legal majority.  At age 18, your student is legally responsible for his or her own decision-making. See the Student Decision-Making and Graduation sections for more information.

·       The Team may discuss whether your student needs a legal guardian to make decisions for him or her after age 18.  The decision to seek guardianship is made by the parents and professionals working with the student.  See the Legal Guardianship section for more information.

·       Community and work-based services that the Team has listed in the IEP continue.  See the Community-Based Transition Services section for more information.

·       You or your student should apply for Supplemental Security Income, also called SSI, if appropriate.  Although your student may not have been eligible for SSI when they were under 18 because of your income, when they are 18, the parents’ income is no longer counted- only the student’s.   (The amount of SSI benefits may still be affected by money, shelter or food given by the parents or anyone else to the student.)  See the Social Security Administration website for more information on applying for SSI in Massachusetts.


Age 18-22:


·       Updates to the IEP continue if your student is still in special education. 

·       A 688 referral may be appropriate two years before the student leaves special education. See the Getting Adult Agency Services Through Chapter 688 for more information.

·       Community and work-based services that the Team has listed in the IEP continue.  See the Community-Based Transition Services section for more information.


 The FAPE entitlement ends at age 22 if your student has not already graduated.



 Final Transition Tips:

 1.  Start Early:  Transition planning starts at age 14 in Massachusetts (age 16 under federal law).  Don't wait until junior year to get the process started!

 2.  Write it down:  If it is not written in the IEP, it does not exist.  There must be Transition Planning Goals in the IEP.  The Transition Planning Form itself does not obligate the school to do anything.  The school's only obligation (unless there are transition goals in the IEP) is to fill out the Transition Planning form.

 3.  Be specific:  Do NOT allow general statements in the IEP transition goals.  Statements such as the following should be avoided:

a.  “Employment – Bobby is encouraged to meet with a career counselor who can help him explore various career options that would fit his interests and aptitudes.  Such career counseling/exploration is available through the guidance department."

b.  “Community Experiences/Post School Adult Living - Bobby will be encouraged to meet with his guidance counselor more regularly.  Bobby is encouraged to continue to explore the available options for extra-curricular/social activities to help improve his social functioning."

For examples of stories of special education students and specific transition plans, please see the Transition Plan Examples in the Supplemental Materials.



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Additional Concerns for Transition Planning for Students on Autism Spectrum


Studies show that students on the autism spectrum tend to be more underemployed than other special education students.[75A] For example, one study published in Pediatrics, on May 14th stated that one in three young adults with autism have not had paid job experience or college or tech. schooling nearly 7 years after graduation.  This study highlights need for better school based job training services for Special Education students in this group particularly.[75B] 


Some tips for addressing the needs of this group of students on the autism spectrum include:



Specific Tips for college-bound students:



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Resolving Problems


In This Section:

Facilitated IEP



Program Quality Assurance Services


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The IEP Team has to work together to help your student achieve his or her goals, visions, and dreams.  But sometimes the school may not provide the services you may be entitled to and were promised in the IEP.  At other times, the IEP Team may disagree on what services your student needs or what goals are in your student’s best interest.


If you have these problems, the first step to take is to call a meeting with the IEP Team.  You can do so when you have concerns or face a problem with your student’s IEP.  You do not have to wait until the next planned IEP Team meeting to voice your concerns.  If the IEP Team cannot agree on how to solve the problem, asking other school personnel to join the meeting may help.  The principal, special education administrator, or superintendent can attend.  You can also call advocacy organizations for advice.  See the Contact Information section for more information. 


Introduction to the English Language Video on Resolving Special Education Disputes

Do you have a dispute with your school district? For a video by Attorney Pamela Coveney on what to do after you and the IEP Team disagree, please click on the video below:



Summary of the Video on Resolving Special Education Disputes


Attorney Pamela Coveney discusses what to do when you and the school disagree about your child’s special education services.  She explains the importance of writing letters to explain your concerns as a first step.  She then summarizes the need to move on by using other available tools, such as mediation, resolution sessions, settlement conferences and the final step of requesting a hearing at the Bureau of Special Education Appeals.


Introduction to the Spanish Language Video on Resolving Special Education Disputes

For a video in Spanish by Tere Ramos on what to do after you and the IEP Team disagree, please click on the video below:



Summary of the Spanish Language Video on Resolving Special Education Disputes


Tere Ramos discusses what to do when you and the school disagree about your child’s special education services.  She explains the importance of writing letters to explain your concerns as a first step.  She then summarizes the need to move on by using other available tools, such as mediation, resolution sessions, settlement conferences and the final step of requesting a hearing at the Bureau of Special Education Appeals.




Facilitated IEP


If you feel the IEP Team is not making progress in building the IEP, adding a neutral person who will not side with you or the school may be helpful.  The State’s Bureau of Special Education Appeals, also called the BSEA, can assign a person to come to your Team meetings at no cost to you.  This person is called a facilitator.  He or she is trained to guide meetings.  Facilitators do not take sides and can help the IEP Team come to an agreement.  Both you and the school can call the BSEA at (781) 338-6443 to ask for a facilitator.  You can schedule a facilitated IEP meeting and have the facilitator join the meeting to help the IEP Team try to work through any disagreements.[76]




If you are still having problems, you have other options.  At any time you, your student, or the school, can contact the BSEA to ask for a mediator.  A mediator, like a facilitator, is a Turning the Vision Statement into an Action Plan section for more information.neutral person who helps work through disagreements.  The mediator is not limited to helping you with IEP meetings.  They can help you with any major disagreements about special education.  Both you and the school must agree to mediation.  Mediation sessions are confidential and are separate from the IEP Team meeting.[77]  For more information on mediation, see the BSEA website or the Federation for Children with Special Needs website.  Please keep in mind that the mediator’s job is to help reach an agreement of the parties, and not to advocate for you.  If you are not satisfied with the proposed agreement, you have the right to reject it and to ask for a hearing.




If you disagree with the school about disability supports, services, or placement, you may request a hearing.  A hearing is more formal than asking for a facilitator or a mediator.  Parents and guardians do not have to be represented by an attorney or an advocate at hearings, but it is highly recommended that you seek representation if you feel a hearing is necessary.  At the hearing, a Hearing Officer will listen to what you have to say and what the school has to say.  He or she will reach a binding decision.[78]  If you are unhappy with the decision, you can appeal to the court.  For more information on hearings and the right to appeal, see the BSEA website or the Federation for Children with Special Needs website.


Program Quality Assurance Services


A different way to solve a problem is to contact the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Program Quality Assurance Services, also called the PQA.  The PQA monitors school districts to make sure that they are not violating federal or state legal educational requirements.  People sometimes contact the PQA if they believe the school’s failure to provide a FAPE is breaking the law.  The PQA can investigate your complaint.  A complaint is a formal way to voice your concerns about the school not complying with state or federal education requirements.  The complaint must be filed with the PQA within one year of the disagreement over services.  The PQA will resolve the complaint within 60 days and will send you a copy of the decision.[79]  



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Student Decision-Making



Decision Making After Your Student Turns 18

Transfer of Decision Making Rights to Your Student

Shared Decision-Making

Delegated Decision-Making

Court-Appointed Guardianship



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Decision-Making After Your Student Turns 18


Transfer of Decision-Making Rights to Your Student


When your student turns 18 he or she is legally considered an adult under Massachusetts law.  Turning 18 is called reaching the “age of majority.”[80]  When your student reaches the age of majority, he or she is responsible for all decisions.[81] Your student will also have the right to agree or disagree with parts of the IEP and to request a hearing if necessary.[82] 


If your student is not ready to take on full decision-making responsibility when he or she turns 18, there are other options:[83]


·       Students can choose to share decision-making responsibilities with a parent, or other willing adult

·       Students can choose to delegate decision-making responsibilities to a parent, or other willing adult

·       Parents may file a petition with a court for a court-appointed legal guardianship

·       Parents may file a petition with a court for a conservatorship


The Team should start talking about whether your student will be ready to take on decision-making authority at age 17.[84]  The Team should also discuss the other options explained below at that time. 


Shared Decision-Making


Your student can choose to share decision-making responsibility with you, or another wiling adult, instead of taking on the responsibility alone.  Choosing this option allows a parent to co-sign the IEP after the student turns 18.  If your student would like to have you or another adult share decision-making responsibility, your student must make this choice in a Team meeting.  The decision to use shared-decision making must be in writing.  If there is ever a disagreement between your student and the adult sharing responsibility, your student’s choice will be followed.[85]  Your student can stop sharing decision-making at any time.[86]


Shared decision-making is a self-advocacy tool used to support your student in his or her decision-making responsibilities. It does not change the fact that your student is fully responsible for making decisions when he or she turns 18.  The adult sharing responsibility is there to help and encourage your student to make his or her own decisions as much as possible.  No one makes decisions for your student.  This makes it different than delegated decision-making or a guardianship.[87]  There is no need to ask the court to approve this relationship.  Students and parents can make this choice for themselves.[88]


If your student elects to be his own decision maker but is worried about “signing away” his rights, he could still notify the school in writing that he does not intend to make decisions without first consulting with his parents and that forcing them to decide without this consultation would not be “willfully” and “knowingly”.  The student can authorize the school district to release his educational records to parents for their review if he would like their input on a decision regarding his special education services. 


Delegated Decision-Making


Your student can also choose to delegate his or her decision-making authority.  This option means that your student will give away his or her right to make decisions for special education to you or other willing adult.


If your student is not ready to take on decision-making responsibilities when he or she turns 18, this might be an appropriate option.  To choose delegated decision-making, your student must make the choice in the presence of a school district representative and another witness.  The decision to delegate must be in writing and kept in your student’s record.[89]  Your student can end delegated decision-making at any time.[90]


Court-Appointed Guardianship


“Court-appointed guardianship” is used for individuals considered “legally incompetent.”[91]  Merely having a disability does not mean that a person is legally incompetent.  Only individuals who have mental health, intellectual, or medical disabilities so serious that they cannot make informed decisions for themselves will be places under someone else’s guardianship.


Court-appointed guardianship gives all decision-making rights to a parent or other adult called the “legal guardian."[92]  You must file a petition with the court to create a guardianship.  See the Guardianship Petition Form for more information.  Medical doctors, psychiatrists, or social workers may have records of your student’s assessments that will make this process easier.  A lawyer can help you create a guardianship for your student. See the Additional Resources section and the Senior Partners for Justice website for more information.




Conservatorship involves choosing a person to make financial decisions for your student.  This person is called a “conservator.”  The conservator is appointed by the court and is usually a parent.  Like court-appointed guardianship, you must file a petition with the court to create a conservatorship.  See the Conservatorship Petition Form for more information.  Unlike court-appointed guardianships, conservatorships allow your student to make personal decisions.  A court order states which decision-making responsibilities belong to your student and which responsibilities belong to the conservator.[93]        


Conservatorship does not affect your student’s responsibility and right to make decisions about special education when he or she turns 18.  Your student will still be responsible for making special education decisions even if he or she has a conservator.



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Leaving Special Education



The End of Special Education Rights


Passing the MCAS

MCAS Appeals Process

Meeting All Local District Requirements

Delaying and Opposing Graduation


Participating in Graduation Ceremonies Without Receiving a Diploma

Returning to High School

Change in Placement

Non-Special Education Rights for Students With Disabilities Through Section 504

 504 Plans


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The End of Special Education Rights


Generally, the right to special education ends when the student “ages out" or when a student graduates.[94]  Usually a student “ages out” of special education entitlement when the student turns 22 though in some states that terminate all education services at an earlier age, the student might age out at an age younger than 22.[94A]  Special education services stop the moment your student receives a signed high school diploma, even if your student has not made adequate progress on his or her post-secondary goals in the IEP.[95]  Since the right to a FAPE ends at graduation, transition services end at that time too.[96]  Parents and students (under the age of 22) may want to continue to work towards the IEP goals. 


Even though your student has not received a diploma, the IEP will not necessarily force him or her to stay in a high school setting.  He or she has options outside of high school as he or she approaches age 22.  For example, as long as an IEP is active, it can include community-based activities.  The IEP can also include classes with supports, coaches, and services if necessary (based on the student’s needs) at a local post-secondary school (usually a community college).  See the Turning the Vision Statement into an Action Plan section for more information.



 Balance the importance of receiving a diploma on time with continuing special education services.  Your student’s needs should guide your decision.






For a Massachusetts student to earn a high school diploma, he or she must take and pass the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System test, also called the MCAS, and meet all local district requirements.  This process is called meeting the “Competency Determination requirements,” or “CD requirements.”[97]


By 2012-2013 school year, the Common Core standards will be fully adopted for these subject matters.  For updates on the new requirements, please see Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website. Additionally, the student must have made adequate progress towards his or her transition goals.[97A]


Graduation eligibility is like a three legged stool.  The first leg is passing MCAS, the second leg is passing all local requirements in your city or town and the third leg is receiving appropriate and individualized Transition services based on a student’s vision for their future. Like the stool all three are required; no one leg is more important than the other to receive a high school diploma.[97B]


Also a student must have been informed of his or her expected graduation date at least one year prior to the intended graduation date.[97C] 


Passing the MCAS


Under Massachusetts law, all students enrolled in Massachusetts public schools, including those with disabilities and limited English language skills, must take the MCAS.  The MCAS measures how well schools and districts are teaching students the following subjects: English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science and Technology.[98]


Students must take the test in one of three ways:


·       The standard MCAS

·       The standard MCAS with accommodations

·       One of the MCAS Alternative Assessments


The IEP Team should decide how your student will take the MCAS. 


The MCAS-Alt allows your student to show through coursework his or her knowledge and skills based on the general education “Curriculum Frameworks.” Only about 1% of students in Massachusetts take the MCAS Alternative Assessment, also called the MCAS-Alt.[99] This progress is often shown with a portfolio of materials collected by your student and his or her teacher.  The items in the portfolio may include work samples, videotapes of student work, and other materials.  The MCAS-Alt is not a waiver of the Competency Determination requirements.  It is another method to show competency.[100]


MCAS Appeals Process


If your student does not pass the MCAS or MCAS-Alt, he or she can either retake the exam in any subject or request an MCAS Performance Appeal.[101]  The superintendent may submit the appeal, or you can ask him or her to appeal on your student’s behalf.[102]  The superintendent must file an appeal if a parent, guardian, or student aged 18 or older requests it.[103]  A separate application for appeal must be filed for each subject.[104] See MCAS Performance Appeal Application.  If the appeal is granted, your student will be treated as if he or she passed that subject.[105]

For additional information on the MCAS Appeals process, see the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website. You may also email the department at mcasappeals@doe.mass.edu or call MCAS Performance Appeals at 781-338-3333.


Meeting All Local District Requirements


Local graduation requirements are not the same in every school district.  Most Massachusetts school districts require high school students to take 4 years of English, 3 years of Mathematics, 3 years of Science, and 3 years of History or Social Science to receive a diploma.  To find out the local requirements for your student’s school, you can go to the school district’s website or contact the administrative office directly.  If you are still unclear about what the local requirements are, you can call the Massachusetts Department of Education office at (781) 338-3000.

It may be possible for a school to waive local requirements such as number of history courses needed.  To see if waivers are possible at your student’s school you can consult the school’s policy handbook.


Receiving Appropriate Notice of Intended Graduation


In addition to the Competency determinations, Student must have been informed of his or her expected graduation date at least one year prior to that date.[105A]


Meeting Transition Requirements


In addition to meeting the Competency Determination Requirements, in Massachusetts a student must also make sufficient      progress towards transition goals in order to graduate.[105B] “District shall ensure that options are available for older students particularly those eligible students of ages 18 through 21 years.  Such options shall include continuing education, developing skills to access community services, developing independent living skills, developing skills for self management of medical needs, and developing skills necessary for seeking obtaining and maintaining jobs”.[105C] If the student has not yet met goals set forth in his or her IEP you may be able to negotiate with the school that it delay graduation for the student until adequate progress towards these goals have been made.


Accessibility to Graduation Ceremonies


Your graduating student has a legal right to attend his or her graduation ceremonies.  If the school is planning a ceremony that makes it difficult to participate fully and safely in the ceremonies,  it is important to contact the school promptly to so that they can make appropriate accommodations.[105D]



Delaying and Opposing Graduation


The expected graduated date in the IEP is the day that your student will graduate unless you change that date.  Schools may choose a date based on your student’s class year instead of based on the IEP goals.  You must pay close attention to that date on the IEP.  Signing off on an IEP when you disagree with the expected graduation date can cause problems.  In fact, you may not be able to extend services beyond the listed graduation date. 


If you feel your student will not be ready to graduate by that date, express your concerns in the IEP Team meeting well in advance of graduation.  Do not wait until the last minute.  If the Team does not agree, reject the section of the IEP that lists the date.  By rejecting only the graduation date, you show that you agree with the services but do not believe your student will be ready to graduate by that date.  As long as your student has an IEP, even if you disagree with parts of it, he or she will continue to receive services.  See the Accepting and/or Rejecting the IEP section for more information. 


If your student is about to graduate and you feel that he or she is not ready, you must oppose graduation in writing.  Clearly state your reasons why your student will not be ready to graduate by that date.  See the advice on writing letters to your school in the Additional Resources


Convincing the school that your student needs a later graduation may not be easy.  In order to formally stop graduation, you will need to rely on more than conversations with school officials.  Writing a journal of conversations may help.  Keep copies of every letter you send to the school as well as any letters or emails from the school.



 Persuading the school that your student may not be ready to graduate is difficult.  Signed letters and forms tell the best story.  Put together a binder of important papers that show the skills your child still needs to learn.  Bring the binder to Team meetings.


Even if you push to stop graduation, the school may try to “force” your student to graduate.  If you can show that your student did not meet the IEP goals, you may be able to appeal the decision.[106]  See the Resolving Problems section for more information.


Alternative Diplomas


Students typically earn standard high school diplomas upon graduation. However there are GEDs and alternative diploma options available such as a certificate of individual achievement, that  will not terminate your student’s special education services.[106A] It is important to consider how these alternative diplomas are viewed in your local communities.  Sometimes receiving an alternative diploma can effect your students chances at obtaining a desired job.  Some employers can deny employment eligibility to individuals without high school diplomas.[106B] When looking to see if an alternative diploma should be sought, an IEP team should first consider  that all reasonable accommodations  for helping student to earn a regular diploma would not be effective.[106C]




Your student can still receive special education services if he or she has a General Education Development Credential, also called a GED.[107]  A GED is a separate certificate from a high-school diploma.  It is a national test that shows whether a student is at the level of a high-school graduate.



 Getting a GED can be an alternative to getting a diploma on time if your student wants post-secondary education but still needs special education services.


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Participating in Graduation Ceremonies Without Receiving a Diploma


If your student is not ready to graduate after completing the 12th grade, he or she can still participate fully in graduation ceremonies and related school activities.  This option is called “social graduation.”[108]  Your student may be able to celebrate and walk with the rest of his or her class, even if he or she does not receive a diploma at that time.


Your student will continue to receive special education services until he or she receives a diploma or turns 22 years old.  Your student is not required to participate in the graduation ceremonies if he or she does not want to.  The IEP Team should consider whether participating in the ceremonies and activities is a good choice.


The right to participate a "social graduation" is protected by state law. Students must have excellent attendance, be in good standing at school, and be unable to pass the standard MCAS.[109]  If a school attempts to prevent your student from participating in graduation ceremonies, you should write a letter to the school.  In the letter, you should state that your student wants to participate in the graduation proceedings and has a right to do so with his or her classmates.


Returning to High School


If your student leaves high school before graduating it does not mean that he or she loses the right to a FAPE.  But special education services are only required to be given to students with a current IEP.[110]   If your student does not have a current IEP when he or she would like to return, you should contact an advocacy organization for help.  See the Contact Information section for a list of these organizations. 


Change in Placement


Schools will use the words “change in placement” to describe a major change to a student’s educational plan.[111]  The most common change in placement is when a student’s right to a FAPE ends because he or she graduates.  The law protects your student by making the school tell you when your student might lose his or her right to a FAPE because of a change in placement.[112] The parent or student is required to approve this change in placement.[112A] Also, the principal and special education director are required to meet about this decision to change placement and must record their meeting in writing.[112B]


When a school decides to make a change in placement, you or your student (if he or she is at least age 18) must be notified.[113]  The school has to send you a letter explaining how the change in placement will affect your student.  The school must also tell you and your student what options you have to appeal the change.[114]  If the school does not send this change in placement letter describing your options, you and your student may be able to argue at a hearing that the school denied a FAPE.[115] 


If you do receive a change in placement letter, but do not want a change in placement to occur or do not like the school’s specific proposal, take action immediately.[116]  Notify the school district in writing that you reject the placement and ask the school district to review the decision.  See the advice on writing letters to your school in the Additional Resources section.  If the school district does not respond, you may need to contact the BSEA for mediation, advisory opinions, or a due process hearing.  See the Resolving Problems section for more information. 


Your student will likely be allowed to stay in his or her current placement while you appeal a decision by the school.[117]  The school district officials and lawyers may refer to this arrangement as a “stay-put provision.”  The stay-put provision prevents the school from removing your student from a classroom if your student would prefer to stay in the school.[118]  The stay-put provision protects your student’s interests.[119]


If the current placement is not an appropriate place for your student to stay while a decision is made, you and the school might agree on another arrangement.[120]  You may want to propose getting a tutor, attending another school, getting job training, or taking some other kind of classes.


Transitioning into College


Many colleges require a certain number of Math and English courses that could be more than a state’s graduation requirements.  So, it is often helpful for student to take both math and English courses during senior year of high school. To put student in the best position to gain acceptance to a choice college encourage your student to take standardized test preparatory courses, and to have student assessed using both the SAT and ACT scores which test slightly different academic skills.  Your student may also want to consider some colleges that do not look at standardized test scores as a criteria for admission. College-bound students could also benefit from learning and practicing active study skills as well as the self advocacy skill of being able to articulate exactly what the student needs to his or her disability director. 


It is also helpful to remember that your student can chose between a four year colleges or community colleges.  Though four year colleges can provide the most independence, they can also be a source of stress for certain students due to five class load, lack of structure, making new friends and adjusting to a new environment.  If your student is likely to find these changes stressful, you may want to investigate community colleges close to home or colleges that offer a reduced course load for your student. In terms of financing college experience, the federal government now grants financial aid to some students with intellectual disabilities.[120A]


Transitioning into Employment


People with disabilities as grossly underrepresented in the work force.  Approximately, 20 % disabled people are employed as compared with 69% non-disabled population.  Only 15% of disabled teenagers ages 16 to 19 work as compared to 26.3 % of their non-disabled peers are employed.  Of young adults, 26.7% of 20-24 year olds with disabilities as opposed to  61 percent for their peers work.[120B] 


One way to increase the employment of people with intellectual or developmental disabilities is to assist them with state of the art individualized job development strategies. One study shows that training on individualized job development strategies and follow-up mentoring of employment consultants can help job seekers with disabilities in reaching their employment goals.[120C]


In a transition plan a parent can request post-employment, “services necessary to assist an individual to retain, regain or advance in employment”.[120D] The government created Vocational Rehabilitation Services to assist individuals to “obtain employment that is consistent with their unique strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, and capabilities.”[120E]


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Maintaining Your Student’s Public Benefits



Many students with disabilities are eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  Your student may also qualify for other public benefits such as Childhood Disability Benefit (CDB) if the student had a previously employed parent who is now diseased or currently receives social security retirement or disability benefits) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) if the student has worked for a significant amount of time and is now disabled.  


Maintaining Eligibility with the Year 18 Review

The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses different standards for determining whether a child or an adult is disabled.  When an SSI recipient turns 18 years old, the SSA reexamines her to see if she is still disabled and eligible for SSI under the adult standard.  This process is called an “Age 18 Review”.  If your student is approaching the age 18 review, it is important to consider what medical professional can provide evidence of the student’s disability.  It is also important to consider whether your student’s income or resources will change (through inheritance or a new living situation, for example) , whether she is interested in saving money towards a college or vocational goal and whether she can manage her own finances to facilitate this review process. If SSA determines your student is no longer disabled after age 18, you may be able to appeal or apply for benefits under Section 301, a program designed to help people actively pursuing work-related goals.


Entering the Workforce and Public Benefit Concerns


The transition planning process provides a unique opportunity to focus on how work incentives through the public benefits system can help youth with disabilities plan a future that includes employment.   Work incentives programs made available to recipients of public benefits mentioned above can encourage your student to pursue work and future education by providing a financial safety net if the potential work opportunity is unsuccessful.


Supplemental Social Security Income Recipients

Your student may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits if he or she is 1) disabled 2) low income 3) has resources or assets less than $2000 ($3000 for married couples) AND 4) earns less than $1,000 per month (this earning requirement does not apply to those who are blind).   Under the work incentives program, a student eligible for SSI will see her cash benefits gradually go down as her income goes up. 

For example suppose an individual, “Casey” collects and SSI check for $788.39 per month.  Casey then takes a job and works 28 hours per week at 10 dollars per hour earning a gross amount of $1120 per month. Under the Work incentives program, Casey will be able to keep a portion of her SSI check in addition to her earnings.  This portion is calculated by excluding the first 85 dollars from the individual’s gross income then dividing the remainder by two and subtracting this amount from the individual’s SSI check.  In Casey’s case, she will get to keep $270 from her SSI check (1120 – 85 (1035 /2) plus her work earnings (1160) for a take-home amount of $1390.89 per month. Additionally, many working SSI recipients will be entitled to full MassHealth coverage or MassHealth CommonHealth medical coverage (if they are over the resource limit or make more than $36,000 per year). 


Methods for Maximizing Benefits

There are certain strategies your student can use to preserve her benefit eligibility and reduce the amount of money deducted from her benefits check.  For example,



These above strategies illustrate how your student can lessen the financial risk she may fear from going to work for the first time.   For further, more detailed information on the Work Incentives Program see Linda Long-Bellil, Melanie Jordan and Linda Landry, Going to Work: A Guide to Social Security Benefits and Employment for Young People with Disabilities. Work without Limits, (2011) available at http://www.communityinclusion.org/article.php?article_id=211 (or attached in appendix)


Introduction to the Video on Work Incentives under the Social Security Program

For a video by Attorney Linda Landry summarizing the work incentives for young people who receive disability benefits from Social Security, please click on the video below:



Summary of the Video on Work Incentives under the Social Security Program


Attorney Linda Landry presents an easy to understand summary of Social Security's rules that allow disability benefit recipients the ability to try work without jeopardizing their cash and health benefits. The summary helps you understand which benefit you receive and the work rules for that benefit.  Also included is information on your reporting obligations, ways to avoid overpayments, the Ticket to Work program, and additional resources you can consult.


Introduction to the Spanish-Language Video with Helpful Information about the Social Security Program

For a Spanish-language video by Hermin Miranda on helpful benefits under the Social Security Income (SSI) program, please click on the video below.



Summary of Spanish-Language Videos about the Social Security Program


In these two videos, Hermin Miranda of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission discusses several features of the SSI program, including work incentives, the student earned income exclusion, Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWEs), the Blind Work Expense exclusion, the Plan to Achieve Self Support (PASS), general reporting requirements, and whether your Mass Health coverage can continue.



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Non-Special Education Rights for Students with Disabilities Through Section 504


Section 504 is a federal law that requires schools to give students with disabilities the same opportunities to succeed as students without disabilities.  Schools may not discriminate against students with disabilities.[121]


Section 504 is different from IDEA.  IDEA provides services through special education for students with disabilities.  Section 504 also provides protections for students who are not in special education, but who still require accommodation because of their disabilities.  Section 504 also protects students in private schools and colleges.[122]  See the Federal Law Supplement for more information.


504 Plans


In Massachusetts, students in general education with special health needs or disabilities are given a 504 Plan.  Students in special education generally do not use a 504 Plan.[123]  Every school district must have a 504 Coordinator.  A 504 Coordinator works with a student's parents, school nurse, and primary care physician to create a 504 Plan.[124]


There are several steps in the process of creating a 504 Plan.  The school will make an evaluation.  The student’s doctor will be asked to write a letter to the school describing the disability, any related problems, and what medications or treatments the student needs.  The student’s physical and instructional accommodation needs will often be identified.[125]


A 504 Plan includes the accommodations a student needs to participate at school.  Accommodations might include making a classroom wheelchair-accessible, giving a student permission to type assignments instead of writing them by hand, or providing assistive technologies used at school.  Examples of assistive technologies are large-print books or adaptive computer software.[126]  


Students who do not have an IEP, but do have a 504 Plan, are not eligible for transition services.  Transition services are a part of the services provided in an IEP to students in special education.[127]  See the IEP Supplement for more information.


Content and Eligibility


A student may be eligible for a 504 Plan if he or she has a disability that limits one or more major life activities.[128]  Major life activities include:[129]


·       Caring for one's self

·       Performing physical tasks

·       Walking

·       Seeing

·       Hearing

·       Speaking

·       Breathing

·       Learning

·       Working  


Access to education is part of a FAPE.  In order to make school accessible, you may need a 504 Plan.  The 504 Plan also helps students learn more effectively.[130]  A 504 Plan is effective until a student with disabilities leaves secondary school.


For Example:

 A 504 Plan can include accommodations like:

  • Making a classroom wheelchair-accessible
  • Giving a student large-print books
  • Allowing a student to type assignments instead of writing them by hand



Protection for Students with Disabilities in College and Beyond


Public school districts are almost all covered by Section 504 because they receive money from the federal government.  Both private and public colleges and universities typically receive some funding from the federal government and are covered by Section 504 as well.


The Americans with Disabilities Act, also known as the ADA, also protects students with disabilities in colleges and universities.  Title II of the ADA applies only to public institutions, like state colleges and universities.  Title III of the ADA applies to those private schools that receive no federal assistance.  Even though section 504 does not apply to them, students with disabilities are still protected from discrimination under Title III of the ADA.[131]



 In order to receive accommodations in college under Section 504, a college may need evaluations of your disability and needs.  You may be able to avoid paying for these evaluations out of pocket by making sure that the evaluations are up-to-date before graduating from high school.


A student with disabilities who wants to go to college can speak with the 504/ADA Coordinator at the college.  The 504/ADA Coordinator can tell the student how the college makes itself accessible.  Colleges and universities must make “appropriate accommodation” for students with disabilities, both for academics and housing.[132] College students with disabilities are not required to inform the college of their disability.[133]  But you will not get services if you do not request them.


For Example:

 Examples of what “appropriate accommodation” might include:  

  • Recorded lectures
  • A note-taker in the classroom
  • Elevators in dormitories
  • Elevators in the classroom buildings
  • Additional time to take exams
  • Flexible attendance requirements


There are many resources for college students with disabilities under Section 504.  There are also resources for their families.[134]  See the document on Help for College Students with Disabilities in reference material for more information.


For Example:

 Kate is a student with vision impairment.  Kate had an IEP and received special education services in high school.  Section 504 also protects Kate from discrimination on the basis of her disability.  Her college must provide appropriate accommodations for her.  Those accommodations might include: Braille textbooks or adaptive computer software, which allows Kate to dictate her assignments for a computer to write down.

 Another Example:

 Matt has a physical disability that does not affect his ability to learn.  Matt did not need an IEP.  Matt was in general education in high school.  Matt had a 504 Plan which allowed him to type his homework assignments instead of handwriting them.  After graduation, the ADA still protects Matt from discrimination at work.



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Supplemental Materials



Effective Practices

Effective Practices for Parents

Parent-School Relationship

Effective Practices for Schools to Improve Transition Programs

Individualized Education Program Supplement

Your Legal Rights

Getting Started - The IEP Process

The IEP Team

IEP Content

Refining the IEP

Changing the IEP

Accepting/Rejecting the IEP

Transition Assessments Supplement

Formal and Informal Assessments

Formal Assessments

Informal Assessments



State Law Supplement

MGL ch.71B §2

MGL ch.71B §3

MGL ch.71B §12A

MGL ch.71B §12C

MGL ch.71B §16

Federal Law Supplement

The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, also called IDEA

IDEA Monitoring and Enforcement of Transition Services Under 20 U.S.C. § 1416

Indicator 13: What It Means

Indicator 14: What It Means

Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations

The Americans with Disabilities Act, also called the ADA

Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504

The Vocational Education Act, also known as The Perkins Act

Table of Cases


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Effective Practices 


This section deals with parents and schools and their relationship in building and implementing IEPs effectively.  Parents should follow the recommended practices for parents only, not for schools.  Parents may find it interesting to read the recommended effective practices for schools to understand the challenges schools face in implementing and improving transition programs.  But schools may not offer the services shown here.  The school-specific information is only a recommendation to school administrators and special education staff.  The purpose of the school section is to give helpful tips to the schools to improve transition services.


Effective Practices for Parents


You should think about transition and independence starting on the first day of kindergarten.  Keep your student involved in paying attention to details.[135]  For example, you should ask your student, “What bus are you on?” or “Do you have any homework due soon?”


Attend the IEP Team meetings and ask questions.  Explore the different programs and options.  Research in depth what is available for your student.  Try to build a positive relationship with school staff.[136]


If appropriate make sure your student does not lose the right to stay in high school until age 22 or younger in some states that end education services earlier.[136A] Adult service agency budgets are limited.  The agencies are not able to provide the same services to your student that he or she received in special education.  You should make the most of your student’s high school experience.[137]


Parent-School Relationship


You and the school staff should treat each other with respect.  You are both there to help your student and to improve your student’s life in school and beyond into adulthood.  Your student should be the number one priority.  Do not assume that you will have a conflict with the school.  Open the door to conversations in order to build good relationships.  Schools should also encourage you to bring an advocate to meetings to help you tell your story.[138]


You should feel comfortable contacting transition staff.  If you have a good relationship with the school, you may be able to access the transition staff outside of school hours by phone or email.  Be respectful of their time.  The goal is to build a positive relationship.[139]


Effective Practices for Schools to Improve Transition Programs


Build relationships with adult service agencies.  Networking is really important.  Invite adult agencies to the IEP Team meeting by the time the student is a junior.  They should be aware of what services the student might need.[140]

Work with your administration to get their support for the transition program.  Try to develop a relationship between the special education department and administration.[141]  The transition program should change and evolve to provide better services to the student.  Training should be held for the high school faculty on transition services, including training on transition services laws.  District-wide special education meetings are a good setting to discuss transition.[142]


Special education students should be integrated into general education programs.  Try to build an offshoot of a program that already exists to cater to special education students.  When applying for educational grants, think about what portion can be allocated to special education.[143]


Develop an Adult Transition Program where students walk with their class but do not graduate if they are not yet ready to leave special education.  The students can then continue to receive services until age 22 if appropriate.


Develop a “post-graduate class” under the supervision of a transition staff member off-site from the high school if possible.   This class could teach academic skills for a portion of the day and conduct a vocational placement for the other half of the day. Transition staff at the high school could also rotate to teach classes at this off-site location.  This arrangement will be for students after they have walked with their class at graduation.  Try to combine transition classes with internships.[144]  Some schools have partnered with a local college in a mutually beneficial agreement.  For example, the college can offer a classroom to the high school for use as an off-site transition classroom; the school’s graduate students in social rehabilitation can supervise the students.[145] Schools can also set up "mock jobs" for students at other academic buildings, such as high schools and elementary schools, in the district. Any approach undertaken needs to recognize that law and best practices require real community-based experiences.


Try to make contacts in the community for potential internships for the students.  Call up establishments[146] and go door-to-door to ask if they are willing to host a student for an internship.  Check in with the student to get a feel for what they liked and disliked about the potential career.  Transition specialists and instructional assistants who are employed at the school should go to the internship with the student at first, and then check on him or her periodically.  The goal is to slowly fade away so the student can gain independence.[147] This program should be possible if you have sufficient transition staff.  A good working relationship between special education staff and school administration is essential.


Budget for and hire a career specialist for the high school (possibly through an Alternative Education Grant Funding).  A career specialist could go with the student on the first day of internship.  A job coach, employed by the school, could supervise afterward.[148] Apply funds to develop social skills programs or hire specialists in specific disabilities such as autism specialists.


Focus transition services on independent living, especially working on what the student needs to succeed on a daily basis.[149]  Hold the student to a higher standard of what the community would expect.  Train students to become self-sufficient in using transportation.  Slowly build up public transportation use, perhaps with the Americans with Disabilities Act Para-Transit System.[150]  The following websites offer additional information on public transportation in Massachusetts:


·       The RIDE (for communities served by the MBTA)[151]

·       Areas not served by the MBTA[152]


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Individualized Education Program Supplement


Your Legal Rights


Students with disabilities are entitled to a Free and Appropriate Public Education, also called a FAPE.  The law calls this an “entitlement” because your student is entitled to learn in a public school.  Students with disabilities are entitled to a FAPE until they graduate from high school or reach the age of 22.[153]  The government will provide your student’s education and other appropriate training and services at no cost to you.[154]  During that time, state and federal law gives students with disabilities specific rights, including a right to an Individualized Education Program, also called an IEP.  You will work in a group called an IEP Team to personalize this plan to your student’s needs.


Getting Started – The IEP Process


Before developing an IEP, the school will work with your student to decide if he or she qualifies for special education.  A group of professionals will evaluate your student by observing daily classwork and by reviewing the results of different kinds of tests.[155]  The evaluation will show if your student needs special education services.


If you disagree with the evaluation results, you may ask for an independent evaluation at any time.  The evaluation must be performed by a professional with proper credentials.[156]  You do not have to go to an evaluator that the school recommends.  Ask organizations familiar with your student’s disability, your student’s pediatrician, or other parents in similar situations for the names of evaluators with the right licenses and credentials. 


You may not have to pay for this independent evaluation.  The cost may be covered by your insurance, by the school, or the state.  When parents ask for evaluations in areas not covered by the school’s initial evaluation, or if parents do not qualify financially for public funding, the school may either pay for the reevaluation or proceed to the Bureau of Special Education Appeals, also called the BSEA, within 5 days to argue that the initial evaluation was appropriate.[157]  Please visit the BSEA website for more information.


If your student qualifies for special education services, an IEP Team will customize a program for your student.  The IEP is a written plan created by the IEP Team once a year in an IEP meeting.  In this plan, the IEP Team decides the best way to meet your student’s educational and social needs.[158]  The IEP is a legal agreement between you as your student’s guardian and the school.  In the IEP the school will agree to provide certain services for your student.  As you develop an IEP with the school and the IEP Team, keep records of all the communications with the school. 


The IEP Team


The IEP Team meets at least once a year to review your student’s IEP.  The Team goes over evaluations, your student’s needs, and his or her goals. 


The following people should be included on an IEP Team:[159]


·       The student

·       The student’s parent(s)

·       The student’s teacher(s)

·       The school’s special education administrator

·       Any specialists who work with the student (for example, a psychologist, doctor, therapist, independent evaluator, or lawyer)

·       Any person with special knowledge or who has a special relationship with the student (for example, coaches, classroom aides, and school nurses)


Once students turn 14, they must be invited to attend Team meetings.  Your student may also attend before age 14 if it is appropriate.[160]  You and your student should help the Team members understand your student’s needs and goals.  Any transition services your student may need should be included in the IEP, even if the Team is not sure who will provide the service.[161]  At the beginning, the IEP may only include services that the school is willing and able to provide.[162]


Schools must also try to involve representatives from adult agencies in the IEP Team meeting when transition services are discussed.[163]  Adult agencies are agencies that provide services for people with disabilities.  Adult agencies should be contacted early so they can send someone to the meeting.  They can be contacted directly by parents and advocates.


IEP Content


Federal law specifically states that every IEP should include:[164]


·       A statement about your student’s skills, abilities, and emotional behavior

·       A list of any special education services your student may need

·       Specific goals for your student that can be measured by testing

·       How your student will participate in statewide testing

·       What services your student will receive

·       How often and how long these services will be required

·       Starting at age 14, inclusion of transition services.

-   A separate portion for employment goals.[164A]  If your student will not participate in a regular classroom, this should be explained.


    You can request your student receive an extended school day if you can show that there is not enough time or class slots in the regular school day to provide your student all the services he or she needs.  The school cannot require your student to take special education services in place of required classes such as physical education in some states.[164B] The school cannot make your student miss classes if it would significantly impede the student’s academic progress[164C] or otherwise deny the student of FAPE by denying student access to elective courses or opportunities to develop social skills when these opportunities are necessary.[164D]


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Refining the IEP


You should be familiar with your student’s disabilities, the IEP process, and the curriculum offered at your student’s school.  Knowing how your student’s disability may affect him or her in the classroom will make it easier to imagine how your student can participate with his or her class as much as possible.[165]  Think about the steps your student needs to take to achieve his or her dreams.  Thinking of these steps before the IEP Team meeting will help the Team talk about IEP goals that make sense for your student.  Focusing on what is important for your student will help you decide what to ask for. 


A person-centered planning session, also called PCP, is one example of a tool you can request from the school to help identify your student’s preferences, visions, and dreams for the future.  PCP can help the Team think about the support and the services your student may need to achieve his or her goals.[166]


The school may create a draft IEP before the meeting.[167]  Be proactive and ask the school if you can receive a copy of the draft before the meeting.  The draft will tell you what the school will recommend and help you to prepare for the meeting.  You and your student may want to write down goals, activities, or services you think should be included in the IEP before the meeting.  The IEP Team should create the actual IEP based on the discussions at the Team meeting.[168]  All IEP Team members should work together to create an effective plan to help your student achieve his or her goals.  The IEP Team meeting should review what your student has done so far.  It should focus mostly on developing a plan to achieve your student’s future goals. 


It’s important to keep copies of all school reports.  Anything you get from the school, including records of your student’s performance, should be kept in a folder in your home.  Gather and keep any records you have about your student’s interests and achievements. 


The school must communicate with you and your student in simple language, using English and the primary language of your home if it is not English.[169]  If English is not your primary language, the school must provide an interpreter for you at no cost.  The IEP must also be translated into your primary language.[170]  If anything is unclear, you and your student should ask the school for an explanation. 


After the IEP Team meeting, the school must provide you with two copies of the proposed IEP.[171]  You have 30 days after you receive the copies to reply.  You can accept or reject the IEP, or you can accept some parts and reject other parts.  You can request additional meetings with the school to talk about the IEP you have received.[172]  The school must begin providing the services in the IEP you agreed to and measuring your student’s progress towards meeting the goals.[173]  The school must provide reports of your student’s progress whenever they provide progress reports to all other students.[174]


Changing the IEP


The IEP must be reviewed every year.  The Team can make changes to better serve your student’s needs.[175]  You can request a Team meeting at any time if you or your student feels that the IEP needs to be changed. 


You may want to create a special binder, also called a portfolio, of information.  Bring it to the Team meeting.  This can include information about the activities your student is interested in or future goals your student has talked about.  For example, if your student enjoys working with his hands, include pictures of the things he has made.  The binder may help the IEP Team to understand your student better and to create the best plan for your student.


Developing non-academic skills, including social interaction skills and daily living skills, is very important for your student’s future success and happiness. Think of what your student does throughout the day to find the areas where your student may need to work on additional skills.  Be creative in thinking of ways to achieve your student’s goals. 


Learn the types of services your school offers.  Talking to other parents and to special education teachers may help you find this information.  You can also still ask for services that the school does not provide now.  If new services are needed for your student to achieve his or her IEP goals, the IEP Team should think of creative ways to provide those services.


Accepting/Rejecting the IEP


You must approve your student’s IEP before it can be used.[176]  As a parent, you have the right to accept the IEP in full, to accept only certain parts of it, or to reject it in full.  At the end of the IEP form there is a section called “Parent Options/Responses.”  You will check one of the boxes next to the three options on the form:


·       If you agree with everything in the IEP, check the box next “I accept the IEP as developed.” 

·       If you disagree with the entire IEP, check the box next to “I reject the IEP as developed.”  Only use this option if you feel very strongly that everything proposed by the school for your student’s IEP is wrong. 

·       Usually, if you have a disagreement, you should reject only the parts of the IEP you disagree with.  You will check the box that says “I reject the following portions of the IEP….”  In the lines below this box, write out specifically the parts you are rejecting.  This action means you are accepting some parts of the IEP.  Rejecting only parts of the IEP means that your student will begin to receive some services immediately. 


Accepting some of the IEP will also go a long way in demonstrating your desire to work with the school.



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Transition Assessments Supplement


Transition assessments are tools to evaluate your student.  They help the IEP Team figure out what type of education is best for your student.  Transition assessments can show what types of living skills your student will need in the future.  You will be able to use the results to explore potential jobs for your student, both now and in the future.  The assessments can also help you understand how your student interacts in social settings.  This information is very valuable in setting goals for your student’s future.


A student’s abilities and interests change over time.  Assessments should begin early.  The process should continue from elementary school through high school.  The transition assessments help to show what types of learning are appropriate for your student based on ability and age.  Some assessments compare your student to other students of his or her actual age.  They are called “age appropriate” assessments instead of assessments measuring your student’s “developmental age.”[177]


If appropriate, the IEP Team should have different kinds of professionals evaluate your student.  The following people may help conduct appropriate transition assessments: [178]


·       You

·       Your student’s teachers

·       Teacher aides who work with your student (“paraprofessionals”)

·       Speech and language therapists

·       School counselors

·       Social workers who have been involved with your student

·       Family members

·       Vocational rehabilitation counselors (professionals who monitor your student’s progress, discuss options, and help develop and improve job skills)

·       Job coaches (professionals who match jobs to your student’s interests by spending time observing and studying a potential workplace and helping your student develop the necessary skills)[179]

·       Psychologists

·       School nurses

·       Physical therapists


These people’s assessments should focus on determining both short-term and long-term goals.  Assessments should consider goals in vocational training, education, employment and living skills.  Then consider the student’s strengths, preferences and deficits in each area.[179A]  If those goals are very clear, it is easier to identify the service or service agency that will help your student most.[180]  The adult agencies you choose can and should be invited to the IEP Team meetings starting junior year.  People from these agencies can help the IEP Team decide what adult services will help your student achieve those long-term goals.



Formal and Informal Assessments


Formal Assessments


A formal assessment involves a standardized test of a specific skill.  It compares your student to other students.  Formal assessments are very useful.[181]  There are many kinds.


1.  Achievement tests measure your student’s academic skills.  Achievement tests are usually picked based on grade level.  Examples of achievement tests are:[182]


·       Adult Basic Learning Examination (ABLE -2)

·       Basic Achievement Skills Inventory (BASI)

·       Peabody Individual Achievement Test (PIAT-R/NU)

·       Stanford Achievement Test (SAT-6)

·       Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement (KTEA-2)

·       Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT 4)

·       Woodcock Johnson III


Schools give students standardized tests periodically.  These tests can be a good starting point for the IEP Team.  Depending on the characteristics of your student’s disability, a standardized test (achievement test) score might be too high or too low to properly measure your student’s abilities.[183]  The IEP Team should combine other types of testing with the standardized tests given at school for a well-rounded assessment.


2.  Adaptive behavior and independent living tests help the IEP Team consider whether your student will be able to live independently as a young adult.  They also help the Team figure out the type and amount of transition services your student may need for adulthood.  Examples of adaptive behavior tests are:[184]


·       Brigance Life Skills Inventory

·       Independent Living Skills

·       Scales of Independent Behavior

·       Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales

·       Inventory for Client and Agency Planning (ICAP)


3.  Aptitude tests measure a specific ability of your student.  The tests then compare your student to other students.  “Ability” means what a person can do now or, given the opportunity, what a person can do in the future.[185]


4.  Interest inventories compare your student’s interests with the interests of people working in specific jobs.  They help your student identify what he or she might be interested in doing as a career.  Examples of interest inventories are:[186]


·       OASIS-3

·       Picture Interest Career Survey

·       Becker Reading Free Interest Inventory

·       Career Decision-Making System Revised


See the Dream Sheet for more information.


Your student may have a career goal that will be very difficult to reach because of his or her disability.  Interest inventories can help the Team explore the reasons why your student is interested in a particular career.  The Team might identify a different job that your student could do.

For Example:

 Your student may want to be a veterinarian.  This career may be difficult given your student’s disability.  Does your student only want to be a veterinarian, or does your student just want to work with animals?  Would your student be happy working as a caregiver to animals at a zoo or at an animal hospital?  Your student may be interested in a job other than the one he or she first identifies.


5.  Intelligence tests look at your student’s ability to do certain kinds of thinking.  Some jobs require a high level of cognitive ability.  Some disabilities affect cognitive ability.  These tests help determine the level at which your student can be expected to perform cognitively.  Examples of intelligence tests are:[187]   

·       Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT-III)

·       Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales (SB-5)

·       Comprehensive Test of Nonverbal Intelligence

·       Kaufman Adolescent & Adult Intelligence Test (KAIT)

·       Wonderlic Basic Personnel Test

·       Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-IV) and Adults (WAIS-III)


6.  Personality or preference tests try to measure motivations, needs, and attitudes.  They may help to show that your student is, or is not, suited for a certain career.  Examples of personality or preference tests are:[188]


·       Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

·       6 Personality Factors


7.  Career development measures look at your student’s ability to perform a particular job and its required tasks.  These assessments should help to determine a career goal for your student.[189]  Examples of career development tools are:[190]


·       Career Beliefs Inventory (CBI)

·       Career Decision Scale (CDS)

·       Career Thoughts Inventory

·       Job Search Attitude Survey


8.  On-the-job or training evaluations and on-site assessments can help determine whether your student is able to work at a specific jobsite.  Examples of job or training evaluations are:[191]


·       Job Observation and Behavior Scale (JOBS)

·       Becker Work Adjustment Profile—Second Edition

·       Work Personality Profile

·       Work Adjustment Inventory


These real-world assessments address some of the problems with only using simulated settings.  The results may be positive in those settings.  But your student may be unprepared when put into a “real-world” situation.  A simulated setting does not present the many possible unexpected situations that come up in the real world.  It might be valuable for your student to try out a job or to shadow someone in a job he or she is interested in.[192]


9.  Self-determination assessments are designed to measure your student’s abilities in things like goal setting, problem solving, self-advocacy, self-evaluation, persistence, and self-confidence.  Examples of self-determination assessments are:[193]


·       AIR Self-Determination Scale

·       ARC’s Self-Determination Scale


Informal Assessments


Informal assessments are ways to evaluate your student in a non-traditional, non-standardized way.  Unlike the standardized tests above, informal assessments do not compare your student to a broader group.[194]  They include information collected about your student by many people, using many methods.[195]  They are used to identify your student’s strengths and needs over time.[196]  Informal assessments also look at your student’s abilities to perform tasks that are not related to the classroom. 


Informal assessments are inexpensive and often free.  The Team should use informal assessments frequently, especially in the time between formal standardized assessments.  Informal assessments can be given at any time that doesn’t interfere with your student’s classes.


Informal assessments are considered less reliable than formal assessments because they can be based on the opinion of the evaluator.  Informal assessments should be given by more than one person to improve their accuracy.  Creativity can help you get the best information from the many kinds of informal assessments below.[197]


1.  Interviews and questionnaires can determine if your student’s needs, preferences, and interests match up with what the Team believes your student will achieve after high school.  See the Dream Sheet for more information.  Examples of interviews and questionnaires are:[198]


·       Transition Planning Inventory

·       Enderle-Severson Transition Rating Scales—Third Edition


2.  Direct Observation of your student can be done in school, in a job setting, in a training setting, or in a community setting.  A job coach, co-worker, or someone who specializes in matching jobs to student interests can observe your student.[199]  You or another observer can learn about your student at home, in a grocery store, or at the mall.  Observing your student in different situations can help to predict your student’s behavior in a work environment.[200]


In trying to identify a career for your student, be cautious about your student’s knowledge of what the work really requires.  The best way to understand a job is to shadow a person who has that job or to try that job out, possibly through an internship.[201]  There are videos available to help your student understand what a certain career involves.[202]


Massachusetts law requires that schools let you observe your student in any current or proposed special education program.  The state passed this law to help parents decide what program to use.[203]


3.  Environmental or situational analysis is based on actual examination of the place where an activity will occur, such as a jobsite.  This evaluation examines a potential work location, not your student.[204]


4.  Transition planning inventories try to identify your student’s strengths and needs as he or she prepares to make the transition from school to the larger community.  The inventories focus on employment, post-high school education, and independent living.  Examples of transition planning inventories are:[205]


·       Supports Intensity Scale

·       TEACCH Transition Assessment Profile


A few online tools are free and popular among special educators, and are also recommended by transition experts.  They offer tests to determine your student’s interests or to allow your student to report what they think they need.  Free online transition assessments include:[206]


·       Ansell-Casey Life Skills Assessment-III[207]

·       AIR Self-Determination Scale[208]

Back to Table of Contents


State Law Supplement


MGL ch.71B § 2


An initial evaluation is necessary to determine if a student is qualified for special education with an IEP.  Starting at age 14 a student with a disability is entitled to transition services.  Transition services can begin before age 14 if the IEP Team determines they are necessary.[209]


The IEP has to be reevaluated every year to see if the student is benefiting from the transition services in the IEP.[210]


MGL ch.71B, § 3


Thirty days after the parents are notified that their student is recommended for special education, the school must come up with a plan to further evaluate your student’s special education needs.  The evaluation may consist of optional assessments in addition to required assessments:[211]


·       Required Assessments:

o      Your student's specific abilities in relation to learning standards of the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks and the school district curriculum[212]

o      Assessment by the student’s classroom teacher[213]


·       Optional Assessments:

o      Medical assessment (conducted by a physician)

o      Psychology assessment (conducted by psychologist)

o      Assessment of home situation (conducted by a nurse, social worker, or a guidance/adjustment counselor)


If your student is likely to be the victim of bullying, harassment, or teasing based on his or her disability, the IEP must address ways to help your student to respond.[214]


If your student has a disability on the autism spectrum, the IEP must include the following:[215]


·       Communication needs

·       Social skills development

·       Response to bullying or teasing

·       Methods to help your child cope with changes in routine


Additionally, enrolling  a student on the autism spectrum in sexual education classes to teach him or her appropriate boundaries may also be helpful for the student’s comprehensive development.[215A]


The school must keep a record of all tests used to evaluate your student along with the test results.  The school must also have a record of all recommended special education courses.  This record must explain why the courses were chosen and what benefits the student will receive from the courses.  Parents can refuse the recommended special education program and they can request a hearing.  See the Resolving Problems section for more information.  At the hearing, additional services for the student can be ordered.  But this step may not happen.  It is only one possible outcome.  Parents can reject these additional services.[216]


If the parent and the school cannot agree on an IEP or changes in an IEP, they can ask for mediation.  There is a state office called the Bureau of Special Education Appeals, also called the BSEA, that will mediate free of charge if both the school and the parents request mediation.[217]  See the Resolving Problems section for more information.


If a student with a disability requires day-care or home-care, his or her IEP Team must make a plan to move that student to a program with less supervision and care.  The IEP must include transition services to help that student move to another program that gives him or her more independence (if that is a goal the student is working toward).[218]


MGL ch.71B, § 12A


A student with a disability is entitled to transition services under the special education law.  These services will end when a student graduates from high school or turns 22 years old.[219]


MGL ch.71B, § 12C


Every school has to decide if a student with a disability will continue to need services after he or she finishes school.  This decision has to be made at least 2 years before graduation, or by age 20.  You may hear this process referred to as “688” or the “Turning 22 Law.”


If the student’s disability is certified by a state agency[220] (Massachusetts Office of Health and Human Services)[221] and meets certain requirements under the Social Security Act,[222] then the state will develop its own transition plan for your student. Adult service agencies will provide these transition services.


The Social Security Act states that a student is eligible for benefits if he or she meets the following criteria:[223]


·       Does not have an eligible spouse AND

1)     Annual income is not greater than $1,752 AND

2)     Resources are not greater than $2,000

·       Does have an eligible spouse AND

3)     Combined income is not greater than $2,628 AND

4)     Combined resources are not greater than $3,000


After a transition plan has been approved, when a student either graduates from high school or turns 22 years old, services will be provided as outlined by this state transition plan.[224] If your student is eligible, services will be provided by adult service agencies.[225]


MGL ch.71B, § 16


A student with a disability who is completing 12th grade, but who is not ready for high school graduation, may be allowed to participate in the graduation ceremony and activities.  He or she will not receive a diploma, and participation in the ceremony will not affect or limit the student’s special education services.[226]


School districts are required to ensure that options are available for eligible students ages 18 to 22.  These options include continuing education and development of the following skills:[227]

·       Access to community services

·       Independent living skills

·       Self-management of medical needs

·       Job skills

Back to Table of Contents


Federal Law Supplement


Several federal laws protect people with disabilities in the United States. 


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, also called IDEA


This law guarantees students with disabilities an equal opportunity for a free appropriate public education, also called a FAPE.[228]  The information in this manual comes mostly from IDEA.[229]


Under IDEA, a student with disabilities is a student with “...intellectual disabilities, hearing impairments, speech or language impairments, autism, traumatic brain injury, other disabilities, and who by reasons thereof needs special education and related services.”[230]


A FAPE must meet the state’s educational standards.  The schools must provide an “appropriate” education from preschool through high school at no cost to parents or students.  “Appropriate” means that the education must be helpful to the student in light of his or her disability.  An Individualized Education Program, also called an IEP, defines what is appropriate for each student.  An IEP Team creates the IEP.[231]


IDEA requires schools to evaluate students.  The initial evaluation should show if the student has a qualified disability.  The student cannot receive an IEP unless he or she has a documented disability.  Parents can request evaluations of their student.  The school or teachers can also request the evaluations.[232]  Parents must authorize in writing any evaluation, test, or special education plan that someone else requests.[233]  It is important to remember that if a parent or guardian refuses testing or services, the school is not breaking the law if the school does not provide them.[234]  Any testing should be done within 60 days of the request.[235]


Under IDEA, students with disabilities are entitled to transition services.  These services include activities in the community coordinated by the school.  The goal of these services is to teach students skills they may need after leaving the high school.  Transition services teach students with disabilities to live as independently as possible as they become adults.  The activities that the student will participate in should be included in the IEP.  The student should use their strengths and explore their interests through those activities.  See the Getting Transition Services section for more information.   Federal laws protect all of these rights.  Schools must obey them.  See the Resolving Problems section for more information.



IDEA Monitoring and Enforcement of Transition Services Under 20 U.S.C. § 1416


Because the federal government cannot easily monitor states’ performance in providing special education services under IDEA, federal law began requiring in 2005 that states measure their performance based on 20 different factors called “indicators.”[236]  The indicators measure a range of issues, including graduation rates, parental involvement, educational outcomes, transition services, and dispute resolution.[237]  The states must review their State Performance Plans based on these indicators every six years.[238]  See Massachusetts’ State Performance Plan website for the complete list of indicators and a report on how the state is performing in each of them.  Indicators 13 and 14 deal specifically with transition services for students aged 16 to 22. 


Indicator 13: What It Means


According to the Massachusetts Department of Education, Indicator 13 measures the percent of youth aged 16 and above with IEPs that include (1) appropriate measurable post-secondary goals and (2) annual goals to meet the student’s transition services needs.[239]  The Indicator also measures whether or not students and participating agency representatives (with the student’s and/or parent’s consent) are invited to IEP Team meetings where transition services are discussed.[240]


Indicator 13 also makes sure that a student’s IEP is focused.  The IEP must specifically identify the skills needed for post-school activities.  These activities include college, other post-high school education, training programs, and independent living.


Indicator 14: What It Means


Federal law requires schools to track students who have had IEPs even after they graduate or leave school.  This information shows how transition services have helped these students beyond special education.  One year after a student leaves school, the school will send the parent a survey asking if the student is working, is in school, or is in a training program.  This data will be very valuable in learning what works well—or does not work well—for students with IEPs after they move into adulthood.[241]  Parents and students are encouraged to mail the surveys back in a timely manner.  The information can help future students, just as past students have helped by sharing their stories and accomplishments.


Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations


This includes all of the details for the IDEA.  A regulation is a government agency's commentary on a statute which creates rules to make the law more specific and enforceable.  Government agencies develop these rules instead of Congress.  Regulations tend to be very specific.[242]


The Americans with Disabilities Act, also called the ADA


This law makes it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities at work, school, and many other areas.  The ADA is the most important law for protecting people with disabilities.  The ADA makes any school rule or action that discriminates against students with disabilities illegal.[243]



·       Keeping a student out of a class or activity because of his or her disability

·       Only giving students with disabilities limited participation

·       Giving students with disabilities reduced services

·       Giving students with disabilities fewer benefits than those given to students without disabilities

·       Providing separate or different benefits or services when they are not necessary

·       Stopping a student with disabilities from being included in games and sports in gym class


 Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504


This law makes it illegal for federally funded groups to discriminate against people with disabilities.  Public schools are included in this law because they receive federal funds.[244]


Schools must accommodate disabilities by removing barriers to success.  They must keep all students (with and without disabilities) together as much as possible.[245]


The Vocational Education Act, also Known as The Perkins Act


This law requires that students with disabilities be offered opportunities in career education.  Under this law, students with disabilities have a right to work-based learning experiences.[246]




Table of Cases


Cases are arranged by relevant issue and within the issue, in chronological order.


Non-Massachusetts Case Supplement


Relevant Issue

Case Name (citation)





Tuition Reimbursement



Carrie I. ex rel. Greg I. v. Department of Educ., State of Hawaii, 59 IDELR 46, 112 LRP 31627 (D. Hawaii 05/31/12).

Parents placed student in residential placement against school’s wishes when parents alleged transition plan was inadequate and school failed to base it on current assessment of student

School considered opportunity to interact with non disabled peers but did not address students behavioral needs

Failing to conduct transition assessments was not harmless error. "The lack of assessments alone is enough to constitute a lost educational opportunity,"

Instead of merely identifying the agencies responsible for providing transition services, the court explained, the ED should have conducted age-appropriate transition assessments, developed appropriate postsecondary goals, and identified the services needed to reach those goals.



The Hawaii Education Department violated the IDEA not only by failing to consider the harmful effects that a public school placement might have on an 18-year-old student with autism, but also by failing to conduct transition assessments and develop an appropriate postsecondary transition plan.

Department ordered to continue students private placement

Teacher training



Sexual Education


Pasadena Indep. Sch. Dist. 112 LRP 10660 (SEA TX 02/06/12

Parents suggested 19 year old student with down syndrome receive sexual education and set IEP goals for identifying parts of the body, responding to strangers, and using appropriate social behavior.  Hearing officer determined these goals met the student's sex educational needs

"If staff had been trained on how to teach human sexuality to students with autism and intellectual disabilities, the school district might have addressed [the student's] need in this area before [the current school year],"

District must train staffers to teach sex education to students with autism.

Ordered district to develop training plan for staff to teach special education to students with speech language deficits



Age out


R.P.-K. by C.K. v. Department of Educ., State of Hawaii, 58 IDELR 214, 12 LRP 16291 (D. Hawaii 03/30/12)

Issue presented:  May ED terminate SPED services for student at the end of the school year in which he turns 20 if state law terminates all education services for students after this age?

It is within state’s authority to determine at what age education services must terminate (if over 18).

State may enforce age cap on educational services as long as cap applies to disabled and non-disabled students. 

Analogy to adult education services was improper. "Although the [ED] describes those programs as a form of 'secondary education,' the evidence presented at trial demonstrates that the educational curriculum, requirements, and experience of the adult programs are dramatically different from those of a traditional public high school,"


Yes. ED does not have a practice to allow non disabled students to continue their H.S. beyond 20 so  state law age limit was enforceable.      



T.M. by S.M. v. Gwinnett County Sch. Dist. 447 F. App'x 128, 111 LRP 72658, 57 IDELR 272 (11th Cir. 2011

Georgia school put student with severe language and social skills deficits  in small classroom. Parents  objected that he needed 1 to 1 services.    



The IEP which placed student in small group classes with speech and language therapy appropriately addressed the student's language, reading, and social interaction needs while offering him the opportunity for meaningful benefit.

One to one placement would have deprived student of peer interaction.


Evidence from the record shows student received FAPE from school’s suggested program,


Benefit Standard




Blake C. v. Dep't of Educ., 593 F. Supp. 2d 1199 (D. Haw. 2009).

Hearing officer denied request by student with autism for reimbursement of expenses for private placement school.  Review found no procedural or substantive violations of IDEA.

Student was making no meaningful progress, which meant that no meaningful benefit could be achieved.  For there to be no difference between “some” benefit and “meaningful” benefit test, “some” benefit would need to mean “more than minimal” but still real progress.

“Meaningful educational benefit” is standard.

Student did not receive a FAPE.  DOE failed to perform an assistive technology evaluation under IDEA after mother raised possibility this might be useful.

Reiterated that parents may not dictate specific services.


Reversed administrative decision and awarded student $62,681 for private placement tuition for year in which student did not receive FAPE, along with fees for relevant legal work

Substitute Placement


Transition Services



Livonia Pub. Schs., 58 IDELR 235, 112 LRP 14667 (SEA MI 1.4. 2012). 

Mother alleged when student’s post-secondary program closed, school’s substitute programs, one for mild, one for moderate cognitive impairment combined, did not offer student FAPE

“district had no obligation to maximize student’s potential”.

Mother did not satisfy her burden of proving that programs were inappropriate.  Mother failed to provide assessments, evaluation or other evidence to show daughters needs were not met.  By contrast school produced information from certified teachers of each program that showed programs were appropriate for student and she was progressing toward her goals.  Evidence further showed Student was taught life and work skills. 



Record indicates that school provided a FAPE to student, through this substitute mixed classroom arrangement.


Unilateral Placement


Tuition/Cost reimbursement


Least Restrictive Environment












T.B. by W.B. and J.B. v. St. Joseph Sch. Dist., 112 LRP 21516 (8th Cir 04/27/12).









 Student  with autism was withdrawn from school and parents gave him home- based program that relegated academics as secondary to social, independent living and behavioral skills.  education.


While private program does not need to satisfy stringent requirements of IDEA in order to justify cost reimbursement, it does need to provide specifically designed instruction that will allow the student to benefit.  Programs that lack effective educational component are unlikely to fit this bill.





 Program did not deliver educational benefit sufficient to merit recovery from the program (though program could have been used as supplement to other program)















Community Experiences


Horizon Instructional Sys. Charter Sch., 58 IDELR 145;  112 LRP 5189

H.S. student with ASD was given mock job in teacher’s office answering phones and depositing checks in false bank.  Parents argued student not given required community skills.

“it is unlikely that Congress in fashioning a plan to ease the transition of disabled students from the campus to the outside world (which it designated the “community’), meant to include the campus itself in the outside world”. “related provisions of the act suggest that community means the external world, not campus”.

(state) Legislatures requirement of multiple experiences demonstrates “one clear purpose of transition requirements is to expose student to a variety of employment options so that he or she can make well informed career choices”


Student was not provided a FAPE by mock job program. Though convenient for teacher, program did not accord with students plans, interests, or needs, it placed student in an artificial protected setting, student not allowed to practice transference of skills in the uncertainty of the real world.

ALJ ordered district to conduct assessment and develop goals that would permit student to apply acquired skills to community environment.




Compensatory services.


Kevin T. v. Elmhurst Cmty. Sch. Dist. No. 205, 01 C 0005, 2002 WL 433061 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 20, 2002)


19 year-old student suffered from multiple disabilities-a learning disability, an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and a bi-polar disorder. Student progress improved in final year and he earned enough credits to graduate.  School unilaterally graduated student.  Parents challenged graduation alleging a number of procedural violations and that Student did not meet IEP goals.


District's decision to graduate student was based on his accumulation of required credits and not based on his progress on his IEP goals and objectives.

Record reflects district did not consider student’s IEP goals.
District did not provide student a FAPE when it did not consider whether student met IEP goals in decision to graduate student.

Granted parents motion for summary judgment.

Orders that the District: (1) provide student with a free education until he turns twenty-one and one additional year of compensatory education; and (2) reimburse parents for expenses incurred at private educational placement after the District stopped its funding of students education before this Court's entered its stay put order.

Transition Services


Community Experiences




Procedural violation



Rosinsky v. Green Bay Area School Dist. 667 F.Supp.2d 964, (E.D. Wis. 2009).

Student  with fragile X syndrome, parent requested IEP goal to obtain 15 hour-pe-r week job experience in community that included customer interaction.  Parent alleged current  IEP containing more supervised vocational experience was insufficient community experiences.

Vocational representatives testified to student’s progress in vocational opportunities regarding employability skills and stamina.

Alleged procedural violation that district neglected to invite vocational representatives was harmless because record shows they attended through parent’s invitation.


IEP goal to achieve part time job in community that included customer interaction was measurable post secondary goal.


Upheld Hearing Officer Determination that program provided a FAPE.

Procedural violations


Transition Planning








K.C. by M.C. v. Mansfeild ind. Sch. Dist.., 52 IDELR 103 (N.D. Texas 2009)








Student argued she was denied FAPE because transition plan ignored student’s music- related interests.   Parent unilaterally placed student in music academy for students with cognitive disabilities

 Not all of a student’s interests need to be reflected in transition plan.

Transition plan reflected student’s strong interests in fashion and child care by placing student in teacher’s aid vocational placement until student terminated the placement.  IEP also included placement in clothing store which reflected student’s interest and skill in fashion area.


IEP also considered music therapy


Vocational goal did not contain performance art goal because assessments showed below average capabilities in this area.









Transition plan, which included student’s interests in fashion and child care and sought to incorporate music to the extent it was practicable, was appropriate.








District not obligated to pay for private music academy placement.

Procedural violations


Transition Planning

Fox Chapel Area Sch. Dist. In re, 53 IDELR 172 , 109 LRP 62710 (SEA PA 2009).


IEP of Non verbal student with autism required student to take transition classes at an outside placement on a gradually increasing basis.


16 days attending the program over eight weeks -- was not adequate to facilitate his movement from school to post-school activities, as required by the IDEA implementing regulation at 34 CFR 300.43(a)

Although senior’s transition plan provided full complement of services the scheduling of its implementation rendered it inappropriate

student had difficulty adapting to new environment, and plan should have begun earlier and provided more extensive exposure so student could benefit from transition placement before graduation.  


School ordered to  begin students gradual transition to vocational placement sooner and to increase number of hours student would spend at this placement.


Transition Services


Community Services





East Hartford Board of Educ. (SEA Conn. 2008) 50 IDELR 240, 108 LRP 46228


Among other issue, Student given 1.75 hours per week of post -secondary employment training in which student was taught skills such as check writing, banking, finances, ordering in restaurant and self advocacy by special education staff Student alleged was not provided sufficient community experiences and not adequate transition services.


Student was taught life skills by teacher with whom he was very familiar.  Student should have been given opportunity to transfer skills in presence of another individual with whom he was less familiar.


Student was denied adequate transition services. 


Ordered district to develop appropriate transition services.


Jefferson County Bd. Of Educ. V. S.B. ex rel. J.B., 56 IDELR 300 (N.D. Ala. 2011)


School suspended student for carrying handgun pursuant to school district policy requiring 1 year suspension.  Student challenged suspension because it would prolong student’s graduation date.


IEP did not specify graduation must occur at the time student  and parents expected


School was permitted to suspend student and accordingly postpone graduate date. 


Stay put

B.A.W. v. East Orange Bd. Of Educ., 55 IDELR 76 (D.N.J. 2010)


Student requested stay public school placement during pendency of proceedings. The district argued that the student couldn't satisfy stay put requirements because the first element because there was no change in placement where the student did not graduate until after there had been a final decision by the emergency hearing officer on the placement claim.

the district's "interpretation would render the stay-put provision meaningless because the school district could unilaterally graduate handicapped children."

School was required to reinstate student to previous private school  placement pending a determination of whether student was properly graduated.

granted Students motion for preliminary injunction




Parent Cooperation




Student with a Disability, In re, 56 IDELR 183 (SEA NY 2011).


School moved to graduate student after he satisfied credit and Regent’s diploma requirements;  Parents contended that school improperly allowed student to pass biology course and one Regent’s examination.

Even if school improperly credited students as parents alleged student would still meet minimum graduation requirements for New York state.

Parents acted unreasonably when they refused to provide school with academic transcripts.  

School has no educational obligations toward student because student met all requirements for graduation for Regents diploma. 

SRO annulled order for compensatory education.



Parents v. Alhabra Unified School District oah case no 2010050866 (oah CA) Oct. 21, 2010 (ALJ Gomez)



In addition to fact student would not be able to attend other beneficial classes that conflict with speech therapy.

student had several medical absences that could not be avoided  providing more incentive to avoid additional classroom absences

After school speech therapy must be provided because absence from class would impede academic progress.





Transition Goals










Oyster River Coop. Sch. Dist., 110 LRP 33121 (SEA NH 2009).









Student with asperser’s syndrome and autism did not meet life skills portion of transition goals stated in IEP.



Student had crippling social anxiety, poor social skills and inabilities to complete daily tasks.  It was found he had “no interaction with peers either in or out of school”

Student did not meet independent living, community participation and vocational transition goals. 








 Transition goals had not been met and another semester would help student develop skills needed for college. 









IHO Ordered district to delay graduation for one semester





Los Angeles Unified School Dist. 111 LRP 75102 (SEA CA 2011)


4 year old student received increased individualized speech therapy from previous IEP but parents argued he needed more.  Student’s inability to meet IEP goals was evidence of his need for more services. 


District pathologist opined that the services were appropriate the IEP goals were too complex and student could actually benefit more from the group therapy he was receiving

By contrast, Parents provided no expert evidence to show affirmatively that student needed frequent individualized speech therapy.

Districts are only required to provide a “basic floor of opportunity” and are not required to “maximize the potential” of students with disabilities. 


Record reflects that District provided a FAPE to student.




Transition Services


Delay in IEP










Newark City School Dist., 111 LRP 67200, 58 IDELR 26 (SEA OH 2011).







School developed transition plan for high school senior that recently decided on college track.  Transition Plan stated student would “take college prep courses, take ACT and investigate [specific vocational service].  Employment portion of plan stated student will “engage in pre-employment activities and relate those to job choices” and “will explore the services at [Named Vocational Rehabilitation Service]” as the parent/student’s responsibility  



 Beginning at 16 (or 14) transition plan must include 1) appropriate measurable post secondary goals and 2) identify specific transition services needed to help students reach those goals.

The school did not significantly include students preferences, needs interests and strengths. Also

“There must be an employment goal that reflects the students current intentions for career/employment after high school”

“The transition section of the students IEP should include academic, life-long learning, workplace readiness, occupationally

determination, daily living skills, health and physical care and leisure and skills, as appropriate”   it added goals should also be “measurable” and “results oriented”


Parents also argued Student was not permitted to take college prep courses, a violation of 34 crf 300.39(a)(3) because he was not permitted to take non-inclusion English or American government. 








Transition plan was inadequate because it was vague and placed transitional service responsibilities on parents.

8 weeks after learning of student’s plan to attend college was too long to wait to amend transition plan.  However, school was not expected to offer certain college prep services that year because student only notified school in March of that year of college aspirations.

There was no violation of curriculum requirements because  Student was in other college prep of Spanish, Chemistry and algebra 2.










Compensatory Services


College Courses


Cinnaminson Twnshp. Board of Ed.,  26 IDELR 1378 (New Jersey SEA 1997); 1997 N.J. AGEN LEXIS 657.

Student with perceptual and auditory processing impairment unable to read at 5th grade level  despite normal IQ after leaving high school.  Parent funded community college remedial reading courses and sought reimbursement.


Parent sought compensation for efforts to offset districts shortcomings and punitive damages





Student did not make sufficient progress towards reading goals while taking reading tutoring recommended by school.

School should have provided student with lower level reading materials she requested for History and Psychology.


IEP was not reasonably calculated to achieve educational benefit.  Tutoring services were ineffective.  Student’s normal IQ and expert testimony showed she had ability to read beyond fifth grade level.

Denied parents claim for compensatory payments because no existing law in support of this claim.  Denied punitive damages.


School District ordered to compensate parent for one year of reading course and tutoring at community college.  Did not order compensation for parents other educational expenses such as writing course.

Procedural Violations

Rodrigues v Fort Lee Bd of Educ no 11 1467 2011 WL 4005211 (3rd Cir, 2011) (UNPUBLISHED)

Student with Cerebral Palsy was mainstreamed with accommodations, her IEP did not contain measurable goals,  IEP did not describe transition goals adequately 


Measurable objectives were not necessary because student were mainstreamed and grades could be an indicator of educational progress.

Even assuming information provided in IEP was imperfect, “Both IEPs correctly noted that [student]wished to attend college and set forth the academic requirements for that path, and the senior-year IEP included a detailed checklist designed to assist her transition out of school. Moreover, the Board provided [the parents] with extensive information about agencies that could further assist with [student’s] transition.”

Failure to provide measurable objectives and detailed explaination of transition services are  procedural violations and in order for it to be denial of FAPE it must have had to have caused a deprivation of educational benefit.  Here, student got high grades, so it seems no denial of a FAPE was present.

Affirmed District Court

Compensatory Services


Fee shifting
















Streck v. Bd of Educ of the East Greenbush Cent. Sch. Dist., 408 Fed.Appx. 411; 266 Ed. Law. Rep. 83110 LRP 69565 (2d Cir. Nov. 30, 2010)(unpublished)















Parents appealed SRO’s fee award based on gross violation of IDEA 


















 Escrow account for prospective services should be offered because “In enacting the IDEA, Congress did not intend to create a right without a remedy. Therefore, when a court grants prospective compensatory education under the IDEA, the prevailing party's ability to utilize that award cannot turn on its ability to finance the costs of the education awarded” 






 Parents were entitled to attorneys fees, cost of student’s laptop and reading related software, cost of five college courses reduced by student’s scholarships and financial aid.  District was required to open escrow account to be used to pay for students remaining years of compensatory reading services.















2nd Circuit vacated and remanded to find appropriate costs Ordered additional courses covered, along with laptop cost, and neurological evaluation Calculated  schools debt by subtracting financial aid and scholarships student received, ordered balance for additional educational services be kept in escrow



Placement change


Compensatory Services

Lorenzen c. Montgomery County Bd of Educ.  403 Fed.Appx. 832, 265 Ed. Law Rep. 51. (8th Cir, 2010)(unpublished)

Parents contested public school placement for student with autism, placed student at private school and appealed for one year tuition reimbursement. ALJ held original IEP was inadequate but amended IEP was sufficient to provide a FAPE and thus ordered tuition reimbursement for the one semester before amended IEP was proposed.


 After proceeding, IEP Team concluded public school was not proper placement. 


Parent appealed to district court that placement change constituted admission that neither IEP was reasonably calculated and requested full year tuition reimbursement

District court granted parents motion for summary judgment saying placement change was omission public school placement was improper.


District court failed to consider school’s affidavit that students needs changed since administrative proceeding. 

Further parents presented no evidence beyond testimony that students needs remained the same

There was an issue of material fact as to whether students needs changed to merit a placement change.  

Reversed District Court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of parents arguing there was an issue of material fact on reasons why school changed students recommender placement 





IEP Formation


Classroom Accommodations

Nordonia Hills (OH) City Sch. Dist., 55 IDELR 81 (OCR 2010).

Student claimed denial of FAPE because school failed to invite representatives from student’s partial day vocational program.  As a result they were not considered.  District did not consider whether special classroom accommodations were needed at the student’s vocational placement.


Section 504 places the responsibility for offering FAPE on the home district of residence. 34 CFR 104.33. Thus, the district was responsible for developing an IEP and ensuring that the student received an appropriate program both at the high school and the vocational facility that served it.  District violated the Section 504 by neglecting to consider what services the student would need in her cosmetology classes 




















Student not given FAPE when school district did not consider students needs in cosmetology program as well as academics. 

District is required to consider information form people knowledgeable in a particular area of student’s education

Section 504 was violated

Transition services




Compensatory education

 Klein Indep Sch Dist v Hovem, 110 LRP 54905 (S.D. Tex. 9/27/2010)

Student with high range IQ took hours to write few sentences, teachers held student to different easier standard or parents helped at home, student did not use school computerized services provided.  Student passed all classes.

Student’s inability to write near grade level undermined districts postion; 

Transition plan lacked goals and services needed for him to transition to post secondary life and attend college although district knew this was his goal,  the plan merely stated he needed operational therapy and assistive technology was not individualized