Transition Planning – An Overview

“Transition refers to a change in status from behaving primarily as a student to assuming emergent adult roles in the community. These roles include employment, participating in post-secondary education, maintaining a home, becoming appropriately involved in the community and experiencing satisfactory personal and social relationships. The process of enhancing transition involves the participation and coordination of school programs, adult agency services and natural supports within the community.” 1

This quote from the Massachusetts Governor’s Council on Mental Retardation goes to the heart of the matter of transitioning a youth with disabilities regardless of the severity or type of disability. It is a community effort. Here in Massachusetts, as in many other states around the country, we have recently concluded that it is in everyone’s best interest to help youth with disabilities achieve their maximum potential in adulthood. We have recently added a new Transition Coordinator position in the Governor’s cabinet. We have a great transition law that addresses transition from school to work2. We have tackled transition needs through a separate line item in our budget. Many of our state agencies and nonprofit organizations have made achieving successful transitions a priority goal for the next three to five years.

Unfortunately, given the current status of the economy and the overwhelming amount of work to be done, we still have a long way to go as a society. You need not look any further than the employment statistics for people with disabilities as proof.

January 20123

Labor Force Participation

  • People with disabilities: 20.0%
  • People without disabilities: 68.9%
Unemployment Rate

  • People with disabilities: 12.9%
  • People without disabilities: 8.7%

In order to achieve a successful transition to adulthood, an individual’s transition plan must look at many elements of adult living: employment opportunities, vocational and post-secondary education, where to live and with whom, independent living skills, recreation, leisure activities, social relationships, self-advocacy, health and safety, financial benefits and income planning. These elements can be addressed within the following four categories:

  1. School to Work;
  2. Public Benefits and Public Agencies;
  3. Financial Management; and
  4. Legal Authorities.

Decisions regarding transition are very difficult to make and the planning requires time and good support people on your team. The process should start when the person with the disability is a teenager, with the hardest work being done around age 17. The plan should be flexible and evolve over time. An attorney specializing in this field, a financial planner and a care manager can add enormous value when planning for the transition to adulthood of a youth with disabilities.

For more information or schedule a consultation, please contact us at (508) 861-3453 or email us through the following form:

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1 Massachusetts Governor’s Council on Mental Retardation, “Transition from School to Adult – Focus Groups: Themes and Recommendations”, April-May 2007.
2 M.G.L. – Chapter 71b, Section 12c, also known as Chapter 688, the Transition Law
3 From the Department of Labor’s website