Transition Planning Lawyer in Los Angeles

Transitioning from Youth to Adult Programming

When your child with special needs graduates from high school, it is a time of transition: from child to adult, from student to job-holder, from youth programming to adult programming.

Our law firm works hard to educate and empower transitioning students and their parents. We offer help in securing comprehensive transition assessment, developing the Individual Transition Plan (ITP), and coordinating with the regional center.

Before, your child’s needs were addressed through an IEP or 504 plan. How will they be addressed when he or she leaves high school? Here is some information for you. For a sit-down with a Los Angeles special needs attorney, please don’t hesitate to call us at (626) 440-0028. Your initial consultation is 100% free.

What Goes in to Transition Planning?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004), which gives each disabled child an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for Kindergarten through the 12th grade, also requires the same IEP team to plan for the child’s post-school life. The plan must include employment and independent living options for the student, not just continued education.

In California, transition planning must start before the student turns 16; must be based on the student’s individual strengths, preferences, and interests; and must include opportunities for the student to develop functional skills for work and community life. A well-developed transition plan will have measurable steps in place to achieve your child’s goals. For every area of need or desire determined by the child, parents, or another member of the IEP team, there should be an age-appropriate assessment to back it up. The transition IEP must also lay out the services the child needs to meet each goal.

Going to college, receiving vocational training or an apprenticeship, getting a job, learning to live on one’s own, and participating in the community are all worthy goals. Each transition plan should include details to support:

  • Postsecondary Education: Tour a campus or two. Connect with student support services on campus. Enroll in classes at a community or four-year college. Learn civil rights and self-advocacy.
  • Independent Living: Learn to take public transportation. Practice daily chores and personal hygiene. Learn how to budget. Apply for an apartment. Keep a daily and a weekly schedule. Establish clear communication practices.
  • Vocational Training: Schedule an interview. Enroll in a trade school. Apply for a job. Start with on-the-job-training. Get training for other aspects of employment, like following directions. Find a nonprofit organization that helps exceptional students learn these things.
  • Social Life: Participate in a recreational activity or team sport. Sign up for group activities, like a hike or trip to a museum. Join the local community center. Practice social skills at the workplace.
  • Community Connections: Explore the neighborhood. Make new acquaintances. Schedule activities with friends or family. Register with adult service agencies, mental health services, and transportation services.

Remember, special needs students can still be in high school and enroll in college courses. This dual enrollment may be a big help in keeping your child on track. They can also begin practicing life skills early and often with your help.

Who Is on the Transition Team?

At least one year before the student reaches the age of 18, the school district must notify him of his impending rights and include a statement in the IEP to that effect. (EC 56043(g)(3)) When the student turns 18, depending on his or her individual assessment, he or she will assume legal control over educational decisions and records, assessments and desired programming, and any action taken to resolve disputes. As such, it’s a great idea to include your child in the IEP process early.

Special education is available for your child until age 22 or high school graduation, whichever occurs first, and the Individual Education Program must be reviewed yearly. When it comes time to plan the transition to adulthood, the state requires a team made up of:

  • The parents
  • A regular education teacher
  • A special education teacher
  • An individual who can interpret the student’s results
  • An individual who represents the school district
  • Representatives from transition service agencies
  • The child, if possible

Optional members of the team include advocates with special knowledge about the student or expertise in the subject matter (like a lawyer), employers, college representatives, and student advocates. The school will provide a “summary of performance” (SOP) before the child graduates, which goes over the child’s performance levels and how to help meet his or her postsecondary goals. It should be reviewed by the final transition plan meeting.

A Few Fact About College for Special Needs Students

Institutions of postsecondary education, like colleges and universities, have no legal obligations under IDEA. That means the college your child chooses can examine your child’s IEP, but does not have to follow it. They do have to follow federal and state anti-discrimination laws, however, such as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

California has additional laws that apply, such as the Unruh Civil Rights Act (which keeps businesses from violating the ADA), the Disabled Persons Act (which says these individuals must have equal access to public buildings, medical facilities, sidewalks, and roadways), California Government Code Section 11135 (any program or activity funded by the State cannot deny equal access to the benefits of the program based on a participant’s disability), and California Education Code Section 67302 (State-funded postsecondary institutions must integrate persons with disabilities as much as possible, including by providing readers, interpreters, transcriptions, notetakers, and adaptive educational equipment, materials, and supplies).

Once your child has been accepted into a college or university, to receive these protections, he or she must register as a student with a disability. On campus, there should be a disability services office or an ADA coordinator. Upon receiving the application, the college will gather information about the disability and your child’s personalized needs. Documents that will help support the diagnosis include psycho-educational assessments, a doctor’s letter, or the results of an evaluation. IEP documentation will also help. The college will also want to meet with your child directly to discuss any accommodations, unless you are your child’s conservator. If the college decides your child is not eligible, they will issue a written notice. You can appeal the decision and further advocate for your child through other means.

A Few Facts About Employment for Special Needs Adults

In school year 2014-2015, 69% of disabled students in the United States who left school exited with a graduation diploma, and another 11% received an alternative certificate. (National Center for Education Studies)

Disabled adults are much less likely to be employed than their non-disabled peers, according to data produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Regardless, the employment rate for adults with special needs is heightened with each educational achievement they attain. Finish high school? Good! Finish college? Even better! The gap in employment between adults with disabilities and those without is progressively lower at each educational milestone. However, let’s not fail to note that the unemployment rate is remarkably similar for those with and without disabilities: between 3% and 4%. The difference comes in the amount of people participating in the labor force – that is, looking for work. In 2015, 70% of adults with disabilities were outside of the labor force entirely. (Disability Rates and Employment Status by Educational Attainment, NCES)

President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act in July 2014, and WIOA encourages competitive integrated employment (CIE) for all individuals with disabilities who are seeking jobs through supported programs. Competitive integrated employment requires two things:

  • That a job be typically found in a community (commonly understood to mean that such a job does not exist specifically for those who have disabilities).
  • That the job allows the disabled employee to work alongside non-disabled employees “to the same extent that employees who are not individuals with disabilities and who are in comparable positions interact with these persons.”

The goals of this Act are not only financial independence for employees with disabilities, but social integration within their communities. This is in line with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment First campaign, a national system-wide movement “centered on the premise that all citizens, including individuals with significant disabilities, are capable of full participation in integrated employment and community life.” The DOL provides financing and guidance to help American businesses achieve this goal.

Helpful Articles for You:

A Parent’s Guide to High School Transition Planning

The College and University Life: Obtaining Disability Services and Accommodations

If You Need Help Developing an IPP, Speak to Woodsmall Law Group

For more information on transition planning, preparing for an IEP or due process hearing, or for assistance in any of these processes, please contact Woodsmall Law Group. Our team of special needs lawyers serve families in Los Angeles County. We are especially familiar with school districts on the Eastside and San Gabriel Valley. Please call (626) 440-0028 to schedule a free initial consultation.

Additional Information:

Pasadena Independent School District Adult Transition Services

Foothill Workforce Development Board

California Department of Education: Secondary Transition Planning

Find a Workforce Expert

California Career Resource Network

National Center on Secondary Education and Transition

Center for Parent Information and Resources – Resource Library

Secondary Transition Planning – the Basics

California Transition Alliance

Parent Centers in California