It is never too early to think about life beyond high school. Start transition planning for teens and tweens as early as middle school!

There are several options for high school students and their families to learn about and consider. Transition planning for teens and tweens is an essential part of a successful adult outcome. Read on or click a topic below and jump to that information.

High School Diploma
High School Equivalency Certificate
Certificate of Completion
Individual Transition Plan (ITP)
Student Services Program with the California Department of Rehabilitation

High School Diploma

The most common choice is a traditional High School Diploma. This involves passing a specific set of courses and obtaining enough units. Planning on attending college, either for a 2- or 4- year degree? A diploma is required. Trade schools that are offered through community colleges, and many jobs, also require a high school diploma. What about the military? They also generally require a high school diploma, although they do accept a small number of recruits with a high school equivalency certificate.

High School Equivalency Certificate

This option can be achieved by passing one of two tests approved by California, the GED, and HiSET. The student must be 17 or 18 years of age to take it. Many adult education programs offer courses to help prepare students for these tests. This can be a good choice for those interested in going into a trade school, and/or who have struggled in the traditional high school environment.

Certificate of Completion

Some students will be on the Certificate of Completion track when leaving high school. The certificate is for those who have not passed a set of specific courses to make them eligible to receive a diploma. These students typically have an IEP, and may choose to go into a public or private post-secondary school program until age 22. They can continue to work on their transition to adulthood goals included in their Individual Transition Plan (ITP). They can even work toward receiving a diploma if they choose to do so.

Individual Transition Plan (ITP)

According to The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act – (IDEA) – every student with an IEP must have an Individual Transition Plan (ITP) in their IEP by the time they turn 16. The ITP is a written document designed to help prepare students for life after school. Best practice is to begin talking about transition planning in middle school when the student is 12 or older.

Transition planning for teens and tweens can take place during annual IEP meetings, or can be held independent of the annual meeting, at a separate  transition IEP meeting, with the focus solely on transition planning – including transition assessment results, goals, activities, community experiences, related services, and the student’s desires and preferences.

It may be more appropriate to combine the meetings in middle school, depending on the student’s desires and the team’s opinion. It may be beneficial to have separate meetings with high school students to allow more time to focus on the transition planning, especially in the last couple of years. The ITP will be incorporated into the student’s existing IEP at the transition

  • Transition planning in high school may also cover:
  • Review of coursework/credits – on track for graduation? (if applicable)
  • Services needed to get ready for education or training after high school
  • Potential public and/or private post-secondary transition programs
  • Discussion of workplace readiness
  • Input from outside agencies involved in the student’s transition planning goals

Outside agencies may be invited to the IEP transition meeting, if approved by the student (if 18 or over) and/or the parent. Agencies invited to the transition IEP meeting could include any agency which will aid in the student’s transition to adulthood (examples: Regional Center, Department of Rehabilitation).

Building a robust ITP, with the student’s input, will go a long way to helping them achieve success as they transition to adulthood.

The ITP:
  • Outlines 3 main transition goals (education or training, employment, independent living (as applicable)), community experiences and activities, and services
  • Maps out short and long-term adult outcomes that the student and the student’s IEP team determine, from which annual goals and objectives are defined.
  • Should have transition assessments that evaluate the student’s abilities and strengths, and uncover desires for the student’s future in the 3 main goal areas
  • Should also include specific goals and activities based on their post-high school plans:
    • Want to attend college and needs to learn about college accommodations? That should be in the ITP plan.
    • Want to be a dog sitter? Services and supports to meet that goal should be in the ITP.

Whatever path a high school student is on, please know that if they are struggling, there is still time to help them be successful! There may be alternative high school programs they can attend, or additional supports and services available, such as assistive technology. Both the IEP and a 504 document can include supports and services to improve high school success.

Student Services Program with the California Department of Rehabilitation

Does the student want to be employed when they leave high school, even if that means going to college first? Then the Department of Rehabilitation may be able to provide services. The Department of Rehabilitation is for eligible disabled students and adults, who have the potential to be successfully employed. For high school students, they offer a Transition Partnerships Program (TPP) with many school districts. Statewide, there are over 100 school districts that work with DOR to provide those services. TPPs provide students with additional services. These can include job preparation, job development, and short-term support services. Their goal is to successfully transition students with disabilities into meaningful employment.