Transition: What the Word Means for Students with Disabilities

We use the word “transition” in regards to individuals with disabilities to refer to a movement from high school to postsecondary education or a career. Transition plans are required for students enrolled in special education who have Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) (1).

Transition plans should outline transition goals that are appropriate to the student’s needs, strengths, and goals. They should also plot out services and tools that will be useful for them during transition.

In a recent EdSurge article, a mother discussed her son’s difficult transition from high school to college (2). Her son, who has ADHD, took charge of his transition, and his mother watched as he struggled. She learned that he hadn’t applied for any of the assistance opportunities that were offered by his new institution, he had stopped taking his medication, and he had lost control of his academics. He eventually told his mother that he was going to drop out of college. His mother believes that if they had been offered more assistance with the transition process, her son would have had more success.

As part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 04), students are encouraged to begin transition planning in high school between the ages of 14 and 16 (varying by state). But, according to EdSurge’s Melissa Ragan, “there are no national transition standards and the metrics on whether kids are successful in their post-school lives vary almost as much as the kids themselves.”

Because of the variation in transition services and opportunities, it’s so important to seek them out early and fervently. We have compiled a list of national and regional transition services to help those who need them.

Transition services through schools

In high school, transition services are commonly offered through special or general education programs. The staff should be able to guide the student through counseling, vocational interests, goal setting, planning, and connection with specific programs and services. Other good places to visit within your high school are career centers, guidance counselors, and vocational programs.

National transition resources

Michigan transition resources

  • Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS): MRS helps people with disabilities find and maintain employment. Additionally, MRS transition services support the transition of disabled high school students to adult activities, employment, and independence.
  • The Disability Network Employment Resources Workshops on independent living and employment training for people with disabilities. Some workshops include vocational exploration, interview preparation, ethics in the workplace, conflict resolution, empowerment training, transportation training, and money management.
  • Michigan Ability Partners: This group provides vocational services for those with disabilities around Michigan. Services include career placement, career counseling, transitional work training, and career planning. Michigan Ability Partners has offices in Ann Arbor and Jackson, Michigan.
  • Wayne RESA Transition Planning: Transition planning details and services in Wayne county.
  • Michigan Alliance for Families Transition: Transition planning details, services, and general information.

Pennsylvania transition resources

  • PA Connecting Communities: An organization that offers employment support, transition services, day activities, and more. Located in Carnegie.
  • Adult Autism Spectrum Consultation Program: A program through the University of Pennsylvania that offers diagnosis, transition services, behavioral services, medical needs assessments, and more. Located in Philadelphia.
  • KenCrest: A supportive organization that offers community living homes, day programs, supported employment, transition, early intervention, early learning, and other services to those in need. Located in Blue Bell.
  • United Disability Services Foundation (UDSF): A non-profit offering home medical equipment, supports, transition, employment services, service dogs, a football league, in-home care, and more. Located in Lancaster.
  • Carousel Connections: A supportive center for individuals with a broad range of disabilities to improve life skills, community skills, transition, and other skills through mentorships, events, and activities. Located in Philadelphia.
  • Lehigh Valley Center for Independent Living: A non-profit organization that provides such services as independent living skills training, housing, community outreach, transition, employment, and others. Based in Allentown.

Ohio transition resources

  • A Renewed Mind Behavioral Health: A private, not-for-profit behavioral healthcare organization. They offer quality services, including psychiatry, school-based services, addiction services, transition, and others. Various locations across Ohio.
  • State Support Team Region 1: A team that works with educators and families on school improvement, special education, early learning and school readiness, transition, and other areas. Located in Toledo.
  • Monarch Center for Autism: The Monarch Center offers a broad range of resources for people with autism spectrum disorder, including preschool, day school, transitional education, social activities, and more. Located in Cleveland.
  • Vocational Guidance Services: A vocational rehabilitation agency that serves people with disabilities or other barriers to employment through skills training, work and life skills, work adjustment and transitional employment, and other services. Located in Cleveland, Elyria, Painesville, and Columbus.
  • Ohio State Primary Care Center for Autism Services and Transition (CAST): CAST offers a variety of clinical services for adults and transition-age-youth patients with ASD and their families. Located in Columbus.
  • Access Center for Independent Living (ACIL): Living services, such as transition, advocacy, life skills training, and peer support, for individuals with significant disabilities. Serving Montgomery, Clark, Preble, and Greene counties.
  • Southeastern Ohio Center for Independent Living: Provides independent living skills, advocacy, youth transition, adaptive sports, assistive devices, community-based living, peer support, community resources, and training/conferences to people with disabilities and their families.
  • Project WAVE: This transition program for young adults with disabilities aims to provide structure, education, and employment experiences to those in Washington County, Ohio.


  1. Stanberry, K. (n.d.). Transition planning for students with IEPs. Retrieved January 1, 2019, from
  2. Ragan, M. (2018, December 27). A New Curriculum Helps Students With Disabilities Transition to Life After High School – EdSurge News. Retrieved January 1, 2019, from