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Transition Services - The Basics

What law covers transition services for students with disabilities?

Requirements for transition services are governed by the federal Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1997. In addition to IDEA, state and local laws and regulations may have additional requirements. See the last page of this section for excerpts from the text of IDEA.

Why is there such an emphasis on transition services?

Students with disabilities are entitled to receive educational, vocational, and other services until graduation or until they turn 22, whichever comes first. (Some students with disabilities graduate with their class at 17 or 18. However, other students, particularly those with more significant disabilities, continue to receive services from the education system until age 22.) Once this entitlement to services from the education system ends, students with disabilities who need assistance may be served by the adult service system. However, adult services are not an entitlement, and are provided only as funding and resources are available.

Individuals who have left school become solely responsible for identifying where to obtain the services they need and for demonstrating their eligibility to receive the services. Therefore, for many students with disabilities, identifying relevant adult service providers, establishing eligibility to receive adult services, and having interagency responsibilities and linkages stated in the IEP, all while still in school, is essential to ensure a smooth transition from school to adult life. (NICHCY, 1993, p. 5)

Transition under IDEA mobilizes all interested parties and service providers to help students with disabilities develop dreams and goals, and the services needed to achieve them.

What is an IEP?

An IEP (Individual Education Plan) is required for every student with a disability receiving special education services. The IEP is updated annually at an IEP meeting, which develops the students education program for the following year. Participants typically include the students teachers, a school representative, and the parents. At any IEP meeting where transition will be discussed, it is required that the student be invited. Representatives of any agency that is likely to provide transition services are also invited, which could include a local One-Stop system. Additional participants can include transition specialists (experts in transition services and identifying adult resources) as well as other interested individuals.

What are the specific requirements for transition under IDEA?

Do all activities related to transition occur within the classroom setting?

Not necessarily. A wide variety of activities may occur outside the classroom, including job exploration, work activities, and other community activities.

Who pays for transition services?

IDEA makes it clear that the financial responsibility for transition services is shared. While school districts pay for many of the costs related to transition services, the local education agency should not bear the costs of transition services which, according to the IEP would have been borne by another participating agency (IDEA, 1997). Schools would not have to reimburse One-Stop systems for the use of universally-accessible core services. Schools would only have to pay One-Stop systems for those services to which the student is not otherwise entitled and for which no other funding mechanism can be identified. As stated earlier, many youth with disabilities meet the eligibility criteria for WIA youth services, and therefore this could be a funding mechanism for transition services.


Helping Students with Cognitive Disabilities Find and Keep a Job. NICHCY Technical Assistance Guide, Vol. 3, No. 1, April 1999. National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities, Washington, DC. Available at:

Transition Services in the IEP. NICHCY Transition Summary, Vol. 3, No. 1, March 1993; National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities, Washington, D.C. Available at

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