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PEATC, Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center
Assisting families of children with special needs since 1978
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NEXT STEPS: The Transition Series

The Guide to Future Planning

Click here for the Guide to Future Planning

NEXT STEPS: The Transition Series was developed by the Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center (PEATC) to assist parents and students as they prepare for the change from life as a student in school to life as a citizen in the community. For all young people, preparing for this change is complicated. For students with disabilities and their families, preparing for such changes can be particularly challenging, overwhelming, and exciting.

In the past, the predictable transition for students with disabilities was from segregated school settings to sheltered community placements. This is no longer true. Today's young people are learning to make choices about their adult lives. They anticipate lives that will include opportunities to be workers, students, family members, friends and community participants. Legislation, research and best educational models all emphasize that a young person's transition to adult life must be based upon his unique interests, capacities, career goals and needs for support.

Transitions, however, do not happen automatically. Students with disabilities deserve help to successfully leave school and find satisfying routines and challenges in their communities. They deserve the involvement and support of their family members, friends, educators, employers, agency staff and others.

Researchers who are studying school to community life transitions of students with disabilities are finding it helpful to consider "desired outcomes" when thinking about the future. Research and discussion with many experts, students and parents indicate there are four major goals, or desired outcomes, of transition. These include skills and support for:

  • employment or additional education
  • social and interpersonal relationships
  • independent living
  • self-advocacy

Federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), requires transition services for students with disabilities. The law defines transition services, and establishes a process through which they are to be developed and implemented.

The purpose of NEXT STEPS: The Transition Series is to provide families with the skills and information they need to work with others to develop appropriate transition plans and achieve the goals of transition. Young people with disabilities can make it in the "real" world. Their adult lives can include employment, education, family, friends, apartments, volunteer efforts, recreation and community participation. NEXT STEPS: The Transition Series provides guidance in preparing for that exciting, challenging world.

Eight Workshops to Assist Families to Provide for a Young Person's Transition from School to Life in the Community

#1 Transition: Making it in the Real World

For all young people, the transition from student life in school to adult life in the community is complicated. For students with disabilities and their families, this change can be particularly challenging, overwhelming and exciting. For young people to experience transitions to satisfying adult lives there must be teamwork among students, parents, educators and others. During this workshop, participants review the four critical goals of transition, consider practical opportunities which promote their achievement, become familiar with pertinent federal legislation and understand the important roles of family members in the transition process.

#2 Transition Plans: Roadmaps to the Future

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires transition planning for all students with disabilities. Is a transition plan a written document? If so, who writes and signs it? Is transition planning a meeting? If so, who attends? This workshop is designed to give parents, students, educators and adult service providers answers to these questions and more. Participants learn how transition planning can be incorporated into students' ongoing special education plans. They discuss the influence of competency testing, graduation requirements, diplomas, integration and curriculum emphasis on transition plans. Sample transition forms are reviewed and participants develop transition goals.

#3 Self-Advocacy and Supports: Keys to Independence

Young people with disabilities are learning to make choices about their lives. In school, community and family discussions, they are finding the words or behaviors to communicate their opinions and concerns. They are taking leadership in determining their own futures. Children and young adults who team self-advocacy skills are best prepared to live satisfying adult lives in the community. This workshop is designed to help family members identify strategies for respecting a young person's choices while offering continued love and guidance. A variety of skills and supports that assist a young person in adult life will be reviewed.

#4 Moving On: Life in the Community

Do satisfying work opportunities for young adults with disabilities realty exist in the community? Once young people leave school can they find friends, recreation activities and community events that match their skills and interests? Too often in the past, young people left school and found their worlds getting smaller, their daily lives emptier. This scenario is changing as self-advocates, parents and others are creating community supports that enable people to enjoy full lives. During this workshop, a panel of adult community service representatives provides information and answers questions regarding local employment, education and independent living opportunities.

#5 Getting Ready: Preparing for Work while in School

What should be happening in school to ensure that students with disabilities find satisfying work in the community? This workshop is designed to assist families in understanding the role of vocational education in special education plans. Participants learn about the entry criteria, assessment and placement procedures for vocational education. Guest speakers will discuss specific examples of community based vocational education opportunities. Participants learn how reasonable accommodations, job coaches and supports in the workplace assist a student in learning, enjoying and keeping a job.

#6 Planning Ahead: Future Finances and Supports

During this workshop, parents step away from daily activities of family life to learn information and strategies useful for shaping secure futures for their children. Through a case study, participants review the range of on-going family supports related to adult life in the community for a young person with disabilities. Guest speakers share their expertise regarding resources for financial and estate planning. During the session, parents will begin to write a "letter of intent" that provides future care givers with guidance in understanding the needs and desires of the person with disabilities and his family.

NEXT STEPS: The Transition Series Workshops 7 and 8

Workshops 7 and 8 focus on the rehabilitation process and adult services. These workshops were developed to help individuals with disabilities, their parents, family members, advocates, and other authorized representatives work in equal partnerships and participate effectively in the rehabilitation process. These two workshops differ from the first six NEXT STEPS in that:

  1. The training team is expanded to include an individual with disabilities (self-advocate) as a meaningful trainer along with the parent/professional team.

  2. The audience is made up of self-advocates each accompanied by a team of parent, educator, transition specialist, rehabilitation counselor and other partners that will support the self-advocate in successfully accessing adult services.

#7 Adult Life: Effective Partnerships

Partner team participants are first introduced to the Rehabilitation Act and the importance of self-advocacy in the transition process through a talk show format. Training activities include discussions and activities that illustrate the nature and importance of effective partnerships. The roles and responsibilities of each team member are discussed, and a case study is presented to show the importance of each member. Partner teams begin work on the Guide to Future Planning- Part 1, helping the self-advocate translate his dreams into future goals.

#8 Adult Life: Accessing Services

Partner team participants review the content of the last workshop through a game show format. The process of working with a rehabilitation counselor is reviewed through role-plays. Participants look at formal and informal supports that can assist the self-advocate in the transition process. Teams use the Guide To Future Planning-Part 2 deciding on strategies and supports that will help the self-advocate reach his goals. Teams develop a Partnership Action Plan to continue the partnership and commitment to assist the self-advocate in the transition process.

8003 Forbes Place, Suite 310
Springfield, VA 22151
703-923-0010 (phone)
800-869-6782 (toll free)

Copyright © 2020 PEATC - Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center. All rights reserved.

Content on this site was produced, in part, with grant funds from the U.S. Department of Education, under CFDA # 84.328M, #84.310A, and #84.235F. The content herein does not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Education, any other agency of the U.S. government, or any other source.

PEATC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit committed to building positive futures for Virginia's children by working collaboratively with families, schools and communities in order to improve opportunities for excellence in education and success in school and community life. Our special focus is children with disabilities. You can reach PEATC by calling 703-923-0010 (Voice/TTY), or sending an e-mail to

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