Did you know that children who have been qualified for special education are entitled to services until age 22? They are entitled to a transition plan that can include post-high school vocational services, training, and even life skills training.
There are important distinctions in how your child finishes high school that you should be aware of to be sure you do not unknowingly waive your child's rights to services after age 18.
The IDEA provides that school districts must provide education and services to children and youth up to age 22. However, you should be aware that once your child graduates from high school with a diploma, your child will no longer qualify for such services. To ensure your child qualifies for education and services post age 18, your child must not graduate with a diploma. Instead your child should take a certificate of completion.
When your child reaches about age 16, it is time to request a transition plan for your child (i.e., transition out of high school, discussed below). If you want your child to receive transitional services, including vocational services until age 22, it is also time to make your feeling known to the IEP team that you want these services and that your child will be graduating with a certificate of completion.
You cannot assume that the district members of your child's IEP team are going to advise you of the distinction between a diploma and a certificate of completion. If it is not brought up, you must bring it up and ask for it. You should make sure your request is reflected in the notes of the IEP document. Often, unscrupulous school district staff will push the idea of a diploma on parents as a way of getting the student out of their system.
At about age 16, a child who has qualified for special education should have a transition plan.
Transition services for students in special education are services that help students transition from school life to adult life. The plan should be customized to reflect the student's future goals.
They should reflect the student’s own goals for his future, and should be based upon the student’s preferences and interests. The plan should include goals that are worked on in school, that help the student get ready for their future goals. The five main components of transition are: instruction, related services, community experience, daily living skills and the development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.43.]