• Heather

How to Individualize the Transition Planning Process for Families

Updated: Feb 15

So, you are now knee deep in supporting your families while they prepare to transition to adult services and supports. Hopefully, this last short list of tips can help you individualize and fine tune the support you are offering to your families and young adults as they prepare for life after special education.


Since you have been part of the conversation from the start and supported your whole class or caseload in learning about their options, now is time to further individualize the information.


If you are ready to help families take that last step from public school special education services to adult agency, services, and supports, then this list is for you!


This is Part 2 of a 3 part blog post series on how to support students/young adults and families as they exit or transition from special education services.

Part 1- Increase Parent Engagement in the Transition Planning Process: Available Services & Supports

Part 3- How to Prepare Families for Life After Transition: Three Tips for Teachers




Your 3 Tips for Giving Individual-Specific Transition Guidance for Families:



1. Make it Real

Nothing is more real to parents/guardians than when you say, ‘this will be (student's name) last IEP, EVER!’ Am I right? When I say that I usually get a, ‘Wow’ in response.


Consider using this phrasing the 2nd to last year of a student’s special education time:

‘Let’s plan THIS year and then begin the transition/execute NEXT year, so you AND (insert student’s name) are ready to transition to life after school.’


Being clear that it will take a FULL CALENDAR YEAR to plan and then a FULL CALENDAR YEAR to execute for a smooth transition may seem like a long time to some families, but when you lay out all that needs to be accomplished in that year, it may not seem like long enough!




2. Make it Attainable

If your families are on track, great! They will have very little to check off the to-do list that 2nd to last year. If they aren’t, begin by setting 1-2 month deadlines for tasks. The goal is to have all the ‘big ticket items’ done by their 21st birthday (or whatever is the 1 year before exit mark for your state).


I like to tell my families that I am going to be THEIR accountability partner in the process and will be checking on them frequently to see about progress. My goal isn’t to be annoying, it is to help both parties (parent/guardian and student) be ready for the bus to stop coming! In my experience, even the most resistant parents start to gain momentum after they accomplish just one task!




3. Make it Personal

Consider how you can follow the family in their journey.

  • Do you join them for tours of day training or recreational program options?

  • Do you offer a list of questions they might want to ask a service provider?

  • Do you sit with them on the call while they enroll for state funding?

  • Do you make cheat sheets specific to their student so they can be confident and comfortable when they meet to apply for and access benefits?

  • Do you contact respite providers and gather basic information and then relay it to the parent?

  • Do you give them a visual that explains the different levels of support that school offers vs. what a day program or college will offer?


Also, consider the best way to contact the family. If the family prefers text, then use Remind or Class Dojo (or any other program) to send them texts. Use that to send them the phone number to call or direct link to a website to complete a form. Make it as easy as pie for families to connect to benefits!!! When they follow through on one of the tasks, celebrate it! Give that positive praise. Trust me, no one is above a compliment, positive praise, or ‘way to go, you did it’ note!




I hope this blog post series has given you ideas and confidence to start being a part of the transition planning process. It doesn’t matter if you are a junior high, high school, or transition teacher or transition facilitator, these conversations need to start early. The more they are brought up in conversation the more comfortable and ready families (and teachers) will be to begin the process and move forward. Knowledge is power, my friends!


Please share how you support families below. Don’t forget to include what level or age you teach!


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