Start Early

Early and long-range planning are critical in order for the student to receive necessary post-school programs or services whether they include support services for employment, postsecondary education and training, community participation, or residential services.

Both Congress and the U.S. Department of Education recognized that early transition planning is important because:

  • Transition from special education and its entitlements to an eligibility based system is a complex process.
  • For students with severe disabilities and multiple needs it will take time to put post-school services and supports into place.
  • Adult services are limited and waiting lists for some services can be very long.
  • Some students will likely be using the services of many agencies and time will be needed to figure out who can do what, who will pay for what services, and what families can do when services are not available.

After leaving school, a young person is no longer entitled to services but must apply to each agency and be determined eligible for services. Students and families are often faced with complicated paperwork to meet eligibility requirements and long waits for services. Students and their families are encouraged to begin planning for long-term adult services, and be placed on the waiting list for adult services, at age 14 for continuity of services when the student completes his or her public education.

Important transition milestones by age

For students with developmental disabilities, there are several key times when services or benefits will be impacted by age. In general, age will determine what criteria is used for eligibility, what types of new services may be available or are no longer available, and what benefits may be available for a student. While it is not possible to include all potential impacts, some of the most common impacts for students with developmental disabilities during the transition years are described on the next page.