Special Education and Transition Planning

Parents who have concerns about their child’s access to special education services, including a meaningful transition process, can contact DRC-NH to speak with an attorney free of charge.

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Preparing for Life After High School Transition Planning Rights and Resources

Teen and assistant look at computer screen while in discussionStudents who receive special education services are entitled to transition supports and services. In New Hampshire, planning for these supports and services may begin when the student turns 14 or, if appropriate, even earlier. Transition supports and services should be included in all Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and are designed to help children and youth with disabilities prepare for adult life. Federal and state laws require schools to provide these services to help students plan for post school activities such as college, vocational education, employment, adult services, and independent living.


A Meaningful Transition-Planning Process

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires schools to provide individualized transition services as part of a student’s IEP.

  • Transition planning should be based on students’ interests and goals. Best practice is to use person-centered planning to develop postsecondary goals related to training, education, employment and/or
    independent living. These goals should inform the IEP’s annual measurable goals. All these goals must be updated annually and reflect the changing interests, needs, hopes, and dreams of each student.
  • Post-secondary goals and annual measurable transition goals should be based on age-appropriate assessments that help to determine which services would be most beneficial for a student. These assessments can be formal or informal and are usually related to training, education, employment, and, if appropriate, independent living skills.
  • Like other types of measurable goals, annual transition goals must be clearly written and measurable. The goals need to be written so that progress can be easily monitored. If progress is not being made, then the IEP team needs to explore barriers to progress and make adjustments either to transition services or transition goals.
  • The annual measurable transition goals should be supported by academic and related services that help the student make progress on those goals. Depending on the goal, related services might be provided by an outside agency such as Vocational Rehabilitation.
  • The IEP must contain students’ current and projected courses of study. This includes academic classes, vocational activities, life skills experiences, or other curriculum that help students reach their individual goals.
  • In additional to annual IEP meetings, Parents can ask to include periodic transition planning meetings as part of a student’s IEP. These meetings allow parents to monitor the student’s progress towards their annual IEP goals.
  • The school must invite students to attend their IEP meetings if the purpose of the meeting is to consider transition planning. The school must provide a written invitation to the student’s parents.
  • Students and their parents have a right to request that an invitation be extended to any representatives of participating agencies to request their participation in the IEP meeting. This could include an Area Agency case manager, a representative from Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), a case manager from a community mental health center, community employers, or anyone else from the student’s circle of support.

What should a quality transition process look like?

  • A successful transition process creates opportunities for students to gain skills and experiences to help them live, work, and learn as independently as possible.
  • Transition planning can begin at age 14 or earlier and should always begin well before a student exits high school.
  • Post-secondary and annual transition goals should be student-driven and reflect the student’s dreams and aspirations. To do this, students need to participate in the planning process as much as possible.
  • Transition goals and services should help students access community-based vocational training, including paid employment. They should also provide for recreational opportunities and travel training.
  • Transition goals and services that involve organizations outside of school create opportunities for collaboration and to develop a strong network of support.
  • Students should be given information about inclusive higher education and opportunities to explore post-secondary educational options

Two young adults in a bright office work at a computer station. One of the people is using a wheelchair.There are great examples of transition goals and activities available online. Many of these  resources can be found at Next Steps NH. There are also private providers of transition services, like Easter Seals Youth Transition Services. School districts will sometimes contract for transition services with these private providers. And more information on transition planning and its challenges is available in the 2004 Summer Issue of the Disability RAPP Sheet “Transition to Adulthood”.


Developmental Services

In New Hampshire, developmental services are provided by contractual agreement between DHHS and ten non-profit area agencies located throughout New Hampshire. Parents should apply for services at their designated area agency while their child is still in school. If the child is found eligible, the area agency will offer services to support the family and will prepare for the child’s transition to adult services. Before the child turns 18, the area agency should assist the family with the process of enrolling the child in Social Security and Medicaid. In addition, students with developmental disabilities may qualify for home and community adult services. In order to ensure that these services are in place as soon as they are needed, an area agency should be invited to participate in transition
planning at IEP meetings as early as possible.

For more information on developmental services visit drcnh.org/issue-areas/developmental-disabilities


Employment Supports

It is important to engage VR early in the transition planning process so they can help students prepare for a career or education after high school. Parents and/or students can request that the school invite VR to participate in transition planning.

To contact your regional VR office, look here: www.education.nh.gov/vr

VR representatives are required to attend an IEP meeting if invited. If VR refuses or fails to send a representative to the meeting, parents and/or students may file a complaint with the NH Client Assistance Program (CAP): http://silcnh.org/cap/what-is-cap/




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