Skip Navigation
California Technical Assistance and Training

Transition To Adult Life

December 2015

Updated by: Sue Sawyer, M.S., CA

Revised by: John R. Johnson, Ph.D., September 2011


Secondary transition is the process of preparing students for life after they leave high school. It is a continuous process that begins with developing an awareness of options related to employment and education and continues through high school. Students participate in academic instruction and community experiences that help them research, plan, and prepare to achieve their postsecondary goals in employment, education, training, and living independently. It culminates with students making informed choices and advocating for themselves as they move from school to post-school support systems that are available to help them achieve their goals.


All students with disabilities age 16 and above, who are eligible for special education are required to have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that includes the student's measurable postsecondary goals (updated annually) and is based on appropriate transition assessments. The focus of the transition IEP is the student and their goals for postsecondary education, employment, and independent living (if needed).

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 2004 mandates that the transition IEP focuses on the services, course of study, and collaboration in the community that will help the student prepare for his or her goals for life after high school and support a seamless transition to postsecondary education and employment. 

  1. Post-school outcomes: Traditional indicators of achieving adulthood for all youth are: (1) completing education, (2) starting a career, (3) living independently, (4) being financially independent, and (5) starting a family. The universal theme of college and career readiness is recognition of the need to prepare students enrolled in secondary education for successful transitions students make as they move from adolescence to adulthood. 
    Within special education, there is increasing emphasis placed on post-school outcomes to identify what students are doing after they leave high school. Indicator 14 defines outcomes as the percent of youth who are no longer in secondary school, had individualized education programs (IEPs) in effect at the time they left school, and were: (A) enrolled in higher education within one year of leaving high school; (B) enrolled in higher education or competitively employed within one year of leaving high school; (C) enrolled in higher education or in some other postsecondary education or training program or competitively employed or in some other employment within one year of leaving high school.
  2. Strong and effective interagency collaborations: As the focus is placed on students achieving post-school outcomes, it is increasingly important to develop strong and effective interagency collaborations. Schools prepare students to transition. The process of transition requires seamless access to adult services that will assist the student to achieve postsecondary goals. Recently, the California Department of Education, The California Department of Rehabilitation, and the California Department of Developmental Services signed a memorandum of understanding that gives the highest priority to funding competitive integrated employment (CIE) for individuals with disabilities. CIE means that individuals with disabilities are working on competitive employment and earning minimum wage or higher in environments with non-disabled co-workers.
  3. Planning to reflect student goals and aspirations: Person-centered planning is the foundation for transition planning. The transition IEP must reflect student goals and aspirations. Adult service plans developed by the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) and Department of Developmental Services (DDS)/Regional Centers are based on person-centered planning. An essential component of helping youth engage in the planning process is the development of self-advocacy and self-determination skills. These skills are essential for advocating for themselves in the classroom, with agencies, and in the workplace in order to achieve their goals for the future. It is equally important that professionals who are working with youth have high expectations and a commitment to developing the person-centered plan. Self-determination and self-advocacy are important concepts in the lives of all people, including people with disabilities. Self-determination and self-advocacy skills add to the range of life opportunities to which people with disabilities have access in the community. Experiencing a sense of self-determination and becoming a self-advocate through working with others for social change supports people with disabilities to have lives in the community that are personally challenging and rewarding. 
  4. Compliance, outcomes, and alignment: The federal agencies that oversee special education and general education requirements have revised the monitoring system for special education to focus on not only compliance, but outcomes, and encourage state level alignment between special and general education. The concept of alignment is reinforced by the California Task Force on Special Education. This form of alignment is an important factor in improving school results for students with disabilities. These are some of the approaches that are recommended to achieve this alignment.
  5. Appropriate measureable postsecondary goals: Indicator 13 of the State Performance Plan is based on the percent of youth with IEPs aged 16 and above with an IEP that includes appropriate measurable postsecondary goals that are annually updated and based upon an age appropriate transition assessment, transition services, including courses of study, that will reasonably enable the student to meet those postsecondary goals, and annual IEP goals related to the student’s transition service needs. There also must be evidence that the student was invited to the IEP Team meeting where transition services are to be discussed and evidence that, if appropriate, a representative of any participating agency was invited to the IEP Team meeting with the prior consent of the parent or student who has reached the age of majority.
  6. Tools for transition: Transition is a process, not a document. There are a variety of national organizations that provide easy access to tools for transition for educators, families and agency partners. 


  1. Post-school outcomes:
    1. Indicator 14 requires the collection of data and the verification of outcomes.
    2. Competitive employment is defined in Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) as full or part-time work at minimum wage or higher, with wages and benefits similar to those without disabilities performing the same work, and fully integrated with co-workers without disabilities.
      1. Doing What Matters
        The California Community College has identified industry sector initiatives that focus on regional industry sectors that lead to competitive employment opportunities.
      2. America's Job Center of California
        America’s Job Center of CaliforniaSM (AJCC) is your easy one-stop access to the state’s employment-related services. Explore the resources through this Web portal or visit a local center. We are located throughout the state to help employers find qualified workers and job seekers find good jobs. Employers can get help in posting job openings and recruiting candidates. Job seekers can get assistance in assessing skills; finding job opportunities and training; prepping a résumé; and much more.
      3. ConnectEd California
        ConnectEd partners with communities to transform education through Linked Learning, ensuring that all students, regardless of background, graduate ready for college, career, and life. Linked Learning combines strong academics, demanding technical education, and real-world experience. ConnectEd also provides links to contextual learning and teaching strategies and work-based learning programs.
      4. Office of Disability Employment Policy
        Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) promotes the adoption and implementation of ODEP policy strategies and effective practices—meaning those that ODEP has developed and/or validated—that will impact the employment of people with disabilities. ODEP's approach is to drive systems and practice changes by disseminating ODEP policy strategies and effective practices, sharing information, and providing technical assistance to government agencies, service providers, and non-governmental entities, as well as public and private employers. Through these activities, ODEP contributes to the achievement of: DOL's Strategic Goal 3: Promote fair and high quality work-life environments and Strategic Objective 3.1: Breakdown barriers to fair and diverse workplaces and narrow income inequality.
      5. The Campaign for Disability Employment
        The Campaign for Disability Employment is the public outreach initiative that incorporates the “Who I Am,” “I Can,” and “Because” campaigns to encourage business leaders, employers, teachers, parents and youth influencers to express support by providing employment opportunities to people with disabilities, sharing inclusive practices, becoming mentors, and raising awareness of the campaign and its goals. To learn more about the What Can YOU Do? campaign and to download resource materials, visit the What Can YOU Do? Outreach Toolkit.
      6. Charting the Course: Supporting the Career Development of Youth with Learning Disabilities.
        This guide was developed by the National Collaborative on Workforce Disability for Youth (NCWD-Youth), an organization charged with assisting education and workforce development organizations to improve the successful transition of youth with disabilities into the workplace. This guide includes numerous quick reference charts, tables, and tools for counselors, career advisors, and other professionals who work directly with youth. Quick reference tools are of limited use without an understanding of learning disabilities, so in-depth information is provided on a variety of topics including the types and impact of learning disabilities, needed supports, and research-based interventions. This guide is intended to increase awareness of the fact that the workforce development system serves many youth who have learning disabilities that may never have been identified and many others who may know they have a learning disability but choose not to disclose it. Although focusing primarily on youth with learning disabilities, many of the strategies and approaches advocated in this guide, which are premised on Universal Design, may be of practical use for other youth.
    3. Enrollment in postsecondary education and training is a critical outcome for all students. Education is an integral part of the path to employment. In order for students to achieve their post-school employment goals they will most likely need additional postsecondary education and/or training. This may include a four-year college/university, community college, vocational or technical school, adult training program, etc. Goals in this area should be written to prepare the student for the type of postsecondary education that will be needed.
      1. California Community Colleges
        The California Community College system offers an array of student services for students with disabilities that provides support for accommodations for youth with disabilities who attend college.
      2. Open the Doors to College
        Resources and information on postsecondary education for students with intellectual and other developmental disabilities.
      3. Think College
        Think College provides access to information and resources related to the Higher Education Opportunity Act contains a number of important new provisions that improve access to postsecondary education for students with disabilities, including students with intellectual disabilities. Of particular note are the new provisions for financial aid and the funding of twenty-seven Transition Postsecondary Education Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID) and a National Coordinating Center.
      4. College and Career Readiness and Success
        The College and Career Readiness and Success Center American Institute for Research. College readiness is most commonly defined as being ready for college level coursework without remediation. Research tells us that there are numerous factors that indicate if we are actually ready for college.
      5. Certificates: A Fast Track to Careers
        A report that examines the value of occupational certificates that are provided through training at the community colleges, apprenticeships, and employer-provided training alternatives.
      6. Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education
        This information pamphlet describes the rights and responsibilities of students with disabilities who are interested in pursuing postsecondary education.
      7. Partnerships in Employment
        Partnerships in Employment is a national transition systems change project whose purpose is to identify, develop, and promote policies and practices to improve transition, postsecondary, and competitive employment outcomes for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

  2. Strong and effective interagency collaborations:
    1. The 2020 Federal Youth Transition Plan: A Federal Interagency Strategy
      The focus of this report is to improve interagency policy and service coordination to support all youth, including youth with disabilities in successfully transitioning from school to adulthood.
    2. Publications: Leading by Convening and Opportunity Matters
      These blueprints are guidebooks for teams to use as capacity building resources. The text, the learning activities, and the tools allow you to imagine how authentic engagement can change your work and your outcomes!
    3. The California Blueprint to Achieve Competitive Integrated Employment (CIE)
      A memorandum of understanding among agencies will culminate in a blueprint for collaboration that focuses on achieving competitive, integrated employment
    4. California Department of Rehabilitation
      The Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) is an employment and independent living resource for people with disabilities. DOR provides transition support for youth with disabilities through contracts with local education agencies and/or community colleges that include the Transition Partnership Programs, WorkAbility II, III, IV, the College to Career programs, and CA Promise.
    5. National Center on Secondary Education and Transition
      Challenges in Coordinating and Managing Services and Supports in Secondary and Postsecondary Options NCSET Issue Brief. Putting Interagency Agreements into Action
      This brief by the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET) describes Interagency Agreements among educational and noneducational agencies and how they can help maximize resources and services for transitioning youth. It includes a description of the components of successful interagency agreements and how they may be implemented.
    6. National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center
      NSTTAC Annotated Bibliography: Interagency Collaboration Models and Strategies
      The National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center (NSTTAC) offers a listing and brief summary of articles describing strategies for promoting interagency collaboration. The following articles describe models and strategies of interagency collaboration in secondary transition for secondary students with disabilities.

  3. Planning to reflect student goals and aspirations:
    1. I'm Determined
      A clearinghouse of resources for student led IEPs for youth, parents, and educators.
    2. Skills to Pay the Bills
      Curriculum and resources to provide student training in self-advocacy and the skills need for success in the workplace.
    3. University of Oklahoma Zarrow Center
      American Institutes for Research (AIR) self-determination assessments, student led Individualized Education Program (IEP) instructional models.
    4. 411 on Disability Disclosure
      A workbook that explores when and if to disclose a disability.
    5. Job Accommodation Network
      A Web-based resource that describes disabilities and health issues that creates barriers to employment and low cost accommodations. This site is helpful to individuals with disabilities, educators, job developers, and business partners.
    6. HEATH Resource Center at the National Transition Youth Transition Center
      Heath is a national clearinghouse on postsecondary education for individuals with disabilities. It includes research, fact sheets, Web site directories, and resources.
    7. National Consortium on Leadership and Disability for Youth: Self-assessment
      This self-assessment is designed to help you look at how youth in your program are growing as leaders.

  4. Compliance, outcomes, and alignment:
    1. The Multi-Tiered System of Supports: In California, The Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) is an integrated, comprehensive framework that focuses on California Common Core State Standards (CA CCSS), core instruction, differentiated learning, student-centered learning, individualized student needs, and the alignment of systems necessary for all students’ academic, behavioral, and social success. California has a long history of providing numerous systems of support. These include the interventions within the Response to Instruction and Intervention (RtI2) processes, supports for special education, Title I, Title III, and support services for English Learners, American-Indian students, and those in gifted and talented programs. MTSS offers the potential to create needed systematic change through intentional design and redesign of services and supports that quickly identify and match the needs of all students.
      1. Core Components Response to Instruction and Intervention
        A cohesive RtI2 process integrates resources from general education, categorical programs, and special education into a comprehensive system of core instruction and interventions to benefit every student.
      2. CA CCSS Resources for students with disabilities
        CA CCSS are essential literacy skills. This page explores that challenges and resources that are available to help students with disabilities meet standards.
    2. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an approach to designing course instruction, materials, and content to benefit people of all learning styles without adaptations.
      1. Universal Design for Learning
        UDL is a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn.

  5. Appropriate measureable postsecondary goals:
    1. Transition Planning: The Basics
      This booklet provides in depth analysis of transition mandates and provides a link between each mandate and evidence-based best practices
    2. Pennsylvania Secondary Transition website
      An extensive compilation of resources related to transition.
      1. Age Appropriate Transition Assessment
        Transition assessment is an ongoing process of collecting data on the individual's needs, preferences, and interests as they relate to the demands of current and future education, training, employment, and independent living. Assessment data serve as the common thread in the transition process and form the basis for defining goals and services to be included in the IEP.
        1. Workforce and Disability for Youth guide
          Career Planning Begins with Assessment: A Guide for Professionals Serving Youth with Educational and Career Development Challenges.
          This guide published by the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth) serves as a resource for multiple audiences within the workforce development system. Youth service professionals will find information on selecting career-related assessments, determining when to refer youth for additional assessment, and additional issues such as accommodations, legal issues, and ethical considerations. Administrators and policymakers will find information on developing practical and effective policies, collaboration among programs, and interagency assessment systems. It includes MicroSoft Word versions of the Assessment Guide and sample forms.
        2. Age-Appropriate Transition Assessment
          If you are looking for information about age appropriate transition assessment, this Web site is important. It provides a comprehensive overview of transition assessment, types of instruments that might be used, how they might be used, and access to numerous other resources.
        3. Transition Assessments
          Transition Coalition Assessment Reviews

          This Web site provides reviews of 20 transition assessments by assessment users.


          1. California Career Resource Network
            CA Career Zone
            California Career Center
            California Surfer: mobile app
          2. O'NET National Career Information System
          3. My Next Move
            My Next Move identifies career choices and is based on the O'NET database.
          4. Life Skills Inventory: Casey Life Skills
            The life skills inventory evaluates independent living skills.
          5. Transition Health Care Checklist
          6. E-Jam Environmental Assessment
          7. Interest surveys and supplemental materials
            These surveys and materials are designed to match careers and industries
      2. Transition services are defined as a coordinated set of activities that will help youth achieve their transition goals. Transition services that are related to achieving postsecondary education and training goals: College Awareness
        1. 101 College Awareness Activities
          A list of 101 ways to explore going to college
        2. California Community Colleges Apply
          A Web site that explores all California community colleges (CCC).
        3. Amanda Tucker's Pinterest Page
          Explore Amanda Tucker’s Pinterest Page on college awareness.
      3. Transition services that are related to achieving postsecondary employment goals: Career Awareness Activities
        1. Virtual Job Shadow
          Explore career options online.
        2. Road Trip Nation
          Explore careers by talking with people working in careers of interest.
        3. Work-Based Learning Opportunities
          Work-based learning opportunities are defined in these publications:
          Work-Based Learning Opportunities in California
          Work-Based Learning in Linked Learning: Definitions, Outcomes, and Quality Criteria
        4. WorkAbility I
          WorkAbility I is a program funded through grants to local educational agencies that focuses on career development for students with disabilities. It provides career awareness and exploration activities, engages students in work-based learning options, and work experience opportunities.
      4. Independent Living Skills
        Development of the skills necessary for living independently are included in the IEP, if applicable. Persons with disabilities have the same right to participation, to the same range of options, degree of freedom, control and self-determination in everyday life, and projects that other citizens have. The removal of infrastructural, institutional, attitudinal barriers, and the adoption of the Universal Design principle are key principles to independent living. Depending on the individual's disability, support services such as assistive technology, income supplements, or personal assistance are seen as necessary to achieve equal opportunities. Needs assessment and service delivery must enable users to control their services, to freely choose among competing service providers, and to live with dignity in the community.
        1. Essential Skills for All Teens
          A chart that defines skills that are necessary for living independently.
      5. Annual Goals
        Annual goals are instructional objectives that prepare students to achieve their postsecondary goals. It is recommended that annual goals integrate CA CCSS.
        1. George Washington University’s Freshman Transition Initiative
          Freshman Transition Standards list career development standards that have universal design.
        2. Life Skills for Special Education

      7. Course of Study
        The course of study is a list of classes that students will complete from the current year until they leave high school.
        1. Four Year Plan to attend college
        2. Career Pathway Planning Resources
      8. The student is provided a summary of academic achievement and functional performance (SOP), before they exit high school.
        IDEA requires that schools provide a summary of academic achievement and functional performance, including recommendations to assist the student in meeting postsecondary goals, for students whose eligibility for special education services terminates because of graduation with a regular high school diploma or because of exceeding the age eligibility for FAPE under state law. The Summary of Performance (SOP), with the accompanying documentation, is important to assist the student in the transition from high school to higher education, training, and/or employment. This information is necessary under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act to help establish a student's eligibility for reasonable accommodations and supports in postsecondary settings. It is also useful for the Vocational Rehabilitation Comprehensive Assessment process. The information about students' current level of functioning is intended to help postsecondary institutions consider accommodations for access. The SOP is most useful when linked with the IEP process and the student has the opportunity to actively participate in the development of this document.

  6. Tools for transition:
  7. Transition is a process, not a document. There are a variety of national organizations that provide easy access to tools for transition for educators, families, and agency partners.

    1. The Guideposts for Success—What All Youth Need to Successfully Transition into Adulthood
      Office of Disability Employment Policy’s (ODEP's) work in the youth arena is based on the Guideposts for Success. The Guideposts represent what research and practice has identified as key educational and career development interventions that make a positive difference in the lives of all youth, including youth with disabilities. They were developed by ODEP in collaboration with one of its research and technical assistance centers, the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD /Youth), following an extensive review of more than 30 years of research and best practices in youth development, education, and workforce development. ODEP and NCWD/Youth identified five elements as essential for all youth, including youth with disabilities, to effectively transition into postsecondary education and employment. The five Guideposts are as follows:
      1. School-Based Preparatory Experiences
        Suggested topics to explore: Assessment, Career Guidance, Individualized Learning Plans, Disability Disclosure, Education, and Universal Design
      2. Career Preparation and Work-Based Learning Experiences
        Suggested topics to explore: Soft Skills, Entrepreneurship, Employment, and Workforce Development
      3. Youth Development and Leadership
        Suggested topics to explore: Youth Development and Leadership
      4. Connecting Activities
        Suggested topics to explore: Web links: Agencies
      5. Family Involvement and Supports
        Suggested topic to explore: Family
    2. National Alliance for Secondary Transition
      The National Alliance for Secondary Education and Transition (NASET) is a national voluntary coalition of more than 40 organizations and advocacy groups representing special education, general education, career and technical education, youth development, multicultural perspectives, and parents.
    3. National Center on Secondary Education and Transition
      The National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET) coordinates national resources, offers technical assistance, and disseminates information related to secondary education and transition for youth with disabilities in order to create opportunities for youth to achieve successful futures. NCSET is headquartered at the Institute on Community Integration in the University of Minnesota's College of Education and Human Development
    4. Transition Coalition
      Online information, support, and professional development on topics related to the transition from school to adult life for youth with disabilities. The Transition Coalition provides access to an array of online training options, assessment tools, and transition resources.

Guidelines for Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy in California Public Schools

Guidelines for Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy in California Public Schools (Revised 2013) adobe pdf (1.9mb) | HTML
The purpose of Occupational therapy (OT) and Physical therapy (PT) in the public school setting is to support positive educational outcomes as described by the State of California State Performance Plan (California Department of Education 2009). Occupational therapy and physical therapy, two distinct and unique professions, work with the educational team to support a child's ability to gain access to the general education curriculum, meet state standards, make adequate yearly progress, participate in postsecondary education, and become functional independent citizens upon graduation. If you have questions related to this document, please contact Dan Boomer, Special Education Consultant, at