IEP – Individualized Education Program

Once you reach age 16, a transition Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting must be held by the IEP team to discuss future services.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 04) requires that in the first IEP that will be in effect when the student turns 16, his/her annual IEP must include a discussion about transition service needs.

The IEP must include a statement about your future needs along with any services that will help you develop the skills necessary to meet these goals. It should list any non-educational agencies that might provide you with additional support and consider what strategies would assist you in taking steps toward vocational, employment, independent and post high school educational plans. In other words, it is creating goals for your future.

Note: The transition IEP must be signed at least one year before you reach the age of 18. It declares that you been informed of your rights and are aware that these rights transfer to you after the age of 18.

“Who is rich? He/she who rejoices in his/her portion.”

Pirkei Avot - Ethics of the Fathers

In the IEP document, focus on: vocational education, adult education programs, employment goals and independent living skills. Include factors such as: academic preparation, community experience, development of vocational and independent living objectives and, if applicable, a functional vocational evaluation.

A summary of performance is also required. Provided by the schools, this document assists in the process from school to post school activities and includes the following: a summary of your academic achievements and functional performance, recommendations on how to assist you in meeting post-secondary goals and a list of the accommodations and modifications that were used in high school.

The law also requires that a statement of your transition goals and services be included in the transition plan. Schools must report to your parents on the progress towards meeting these transition goals.

Transition Planning Programs

School districts and county offices offer specific programs that you can participate in once you reach the age of 16. Check with your local school district or county Department of Education to see what types of programs are available and ensure that if a meeting is held that any supporting organizations and specialists are brought to the table. Some example programs include:

    • Workability: Prepares high school students with disabilities for successful employment with an emphasis on work-based learning opportunities.
      Best for students with mild to moderate disabilities
    • Transition Partnership Project: Provides service coordination, job development and job coaching for students with significant disabilities.
    • Adult Transition Program: Emphasizes community-based instruction and job training experiences with goals of independent living and self-sufficiency.
      For students over 17 with developmental disabilities
    • Bridges: Provides benefits planning and counseling to people with disabilities and their families. Sponsored by the Social Security Administration and Department of Rehabilitation; for people with moderate to severe disabilities who are receiving SSI or who are eligible for SSI.

As a part of most school districts’ programs, vocational training opportunities and community based learning are provided for students after they complete their educational requirements.  This typically occurs when the child is 18-21.  The State of NJ wants all individuals regardless of special needs to attempt to be competitively employed in the community.  Students with special needs will require more time to properly adapt to working at job vs. being in a classroom.  The vocational programs offered are designed to start that process prior to graduation.  Parents should inquire about these opportunities as they start preparing to transition at 14 years old.

Jewish Family and Children’s Services (JFCS) believes that all individuals have the right to explore community-based employment as their first option and that individuals have the right to seek “real jobs” for “real pay” that lead to meaningful and productive lives by working within their community. JFCS’s team of Employment Specialists and Job Coaches help individuals obtain and maintain competitive employment. JFCS is an approved Supported Employment vendor with the New Jersey Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (DVRS) and the New Jersey Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD). Services offered include job development, job coaching, and long term follow along support.

After graduation, students with disabilities can utilize services through the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (DVRS).  DVRS provides individual job counseling to discover areas of interest and abilities plus job coaches to help individuals be successful in their employment.  There are offices in each county for DVRS so that families do not have to travel that far to access this service.