Pennsylvania Parents and Caregivers Resource Network
The Right To Transition Planning


Transition From Pre-school To School-age Programs

The law requires that the IEP of a young child who is in a pre-school program and is within one year of moving on to a program for school-age students contain goals and objectives which address the transition process. This could include, for example, activities to prepare the child for the move, such as planned visits to the new class, students or teacher. Parents must also be involved in the transition process, and may also have an opportunity to visit the new classroom in advance of the child’s move. On-going communication and cooperation between the receiving and sending staffs is also required. Every effort should be made to foster program continuity so that the transition is a smooth one for the youngster.

Parents may choose to keep their kindergarten age child in a pre-school program until the age for first graders. For children moving on to school-age programs, a transition meeting must be held by the end of February. A representative from your local school district must attend the meeting. Parents will be asked to sign an Intent to Register form so that the district can begin to prepare for the child. Parents and school officials can agree to continue the child’s IEP as is. If they do not agree, the district must do a new multi-disciplinary evaluation of the child, and thereafter, convene a new IEP team meeting. If parents and school officials cannot agree on a program for the child at that time, the child must continue to receive the services described in the preschool IEP until the hearing process is complete.

Transition To Adult Life

Children with disabilities, like all children, need to learn certain skills in school in order to prepare for adult life. The skills that are needed will depend, in part, on what the student will be doing after high school. Will the student attend further education in college or vocational school? Will the student be going to work? Where will the student live: at home? in the community? independently?

For example, if a student with a disability will be living in a group home and participating in supportive employment, is the youngster being taught relevant skills such as activities of daily living, job readiness, use of public transportation, the ability to handle money and go to the store? If the student will be attending post-secondary school, are the appropriate preparatory courses included in the child’s program? Will the student need to learn study skills or organizational skills to succeed in higher education?


The law requires that we begin to consider these questions once the student becomes a teenager, and begin to identify what skills the student will need to be taught to make a successful transition to adult life. The IEP of each student with a disability beginning at age 14 must identify the goals and objectives of the child’s special education program that relate to transition needs. Once the student reaches the age of 16, the IEP must also contain a statement of the needed transition services for the student, including services needed from outside agencies, such as the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Transition services must be based on the individual student’s needs, preferences and interests. Transition services can include:

  • Specialized instruction
  • Related services
  • Community experiences; and
  • Development of employment skills or other post school objectives.

Transition planning is part of the yearly IEP process, and the transition plan must be updated each year. In addition to the regular members of the IEP Team (including, of course, the parents), the student should also be present at the IEP Conference when transition is discussed, to make sure the student’s interests are considered. If the student doesn’t attend, the school district must still identify the student’s preferences. Representatives from outside agencies, such as OVR or the Bureaus of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, or other community service providers can also be invited to the IEP meeting with your permission to help identify and plan needed transition activities. If an outside agency does not provide the transition services called for in the IEP, the school district must reconvene the IEP team to identify alternative strategies to meet the transition objectives for the student.

The State Department of Education has developed Guidelines for Transition Programs. You can get a copy of the Guidelines by contacting one of the Instructional Support Centers listed below.

Eastern Instructional Support Center 1-800-441-3215
Central Instructional Support Center 1-800-360-7282
Western Instructional Support Center 1-800-446-5607
©The Right to Education – September 1999. Permission given to excerpt and reprint – Education Law Center, PA – 215-238-6970.

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