Congress and the Massachusetts Legislature have realized the ultimate purpose of special education laws – to provide all children with the skills to lead lives as fulfilling as possible. Provisions in IDEA (the federal Individual with Disabilities Education Act) and our State’s special education law, require that a transitional plan must be written for every child receiving special education services, when they reach the mandated age. Under Massachusetts law, M.G.L. c. 71B, §2, which takes precedence over federal law in this instance, because the state law provides greater services than does the federal, transitional planning must begin when the child turns 14, or sooner if deemed appropriate by the special education Team.
The definition of transitional planning in IDEA, is incorporated into Massachusetts law, and is defined as a “coordinated set of activities designed to be within a results-oriented process that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the child with a disability to facilitate the child’s movement from school to post-school activities.” The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has created a form that must be completed, reviewed annually, and maintained with the child’s Individualized Education Plan. The IEP Team must consider, with the student’s input if the student is able, the student’s “post-secondary vision.” The Team must also record what disability related skills require IEP goals and/or related services and what disability related skills are necessary for the student to reach his post-secondary vision.
The critical part of the transitional planning will be the “Action Plan.” The Action Plan should consist of the specific measures and services that will be needed to give the student the skills to meet his post-secondary vision. Depending on the needs of the student, the Action Plan will consider educational opportunities or skills, employment opportunities or skills, community experiences and/or post school adult living situations. The intention of the transitional planning law is to make sure that pragmatic measures and services for each student in need of special education, to help them gain the skills needed for adult living, are considered and implemented while the student is within the public education system.