Special Education Transition Plans from Middle School to High School

Instructor: Lori Sturdivant

Lori has a specialist's degree in Instructional Leadership/Mild Moderate and currently serves as the Lead Teacher for The University of Southern Mississippi's Autism Project.

This lesson will help you plan the transition from middle school to high school for your students with special needs. You'll explore the components that are required in the transition plan, then you can test your knowledge of transition with a short quiz.

What is a Transition Plan?

A transition plan is a required component of the Individual Education Program (IEP) that should begin around age 14-16; the exact age varies in some states. However, middle schoolers can begin transitioning to high school as early as 13, so you should begin your own transition plan during their last year of middle school no matter what age the student is. The transition plan team at a minimum should consist of input from the following people:

  • Current Middle School Teacher(s)
  • Future High School Teacher(s)
  • Student
  • Parent(s) or Guardian(s)
  • Administrator(s)
  • Guidance Counselor(s)
  • Other Specialist(s)

The transition plan should provide a detailed plan to help the student transition from middle school to high school and then to postsecondary activities.

Transition Domain Components

The following areas are important components of the transition plan. Let's discuss each of these criteria to help you design an appropriate and realistic plan for your student.

Postsecondary Goals

Postsecondary goals are goals that the student has expressed interest in upon exiting high school. The goals should focus on training, education, employment, and, where appropriate, independent living skills. These goals must be addressed in the middle school to high school transition as they will affect the academic classes, electives, and leisure activities the transition team selects.

Transition Services

Transition services are activities and services that prepare students for meeting their postsecondary goals you selected. The IEP team must consider services that are based on student needs, student preferences, and student strengths.

Transition services for middle school to high school transition should include instruction, related services, and community experience. Let's take a look at what these components may consist of:

  • Instruction: This section will lay out what classes the student needs to take in high school to reach their postsecondary goals. For example, if Jane's postsecondary employment goal is to join the Army, she should take some JROTC classes. If Johnny wants to attend the local community college to obtain a welding certificate, he should be enrolled in some vocational classes at the high school. For students with severe disabilities, a goal may be to move out and live in a group home. This student should be enrolled in classes that focus on functional skills. Also consider remedial or tutorial classes that might be needed such as a learning strategies class that can help students in all classes.
  • Related services: Related services include services that support students, such as an occupational therapist for students with motor skill deficits, or speech therapy for students with articulation difficulties. The section could also include things like a peer mentor program to assist students with the transition from middle school to high school.
  • Community experience: The community experiences section include activities that expose students to necessary organizations, programs, or businesses within their community. This may include acquiring a driver's license, in which students would need to be enrolled in driver's education classes. If a student is interested in singing, you could help them seek out groups in the community as well as sign them up for music courses.

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