Secondary Transition

Transition to Post-school Activities

The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates that schools provide services to students with disabilities to assist in their transition from school to post-school activities. Secondary transition services are designed to be a results-oriented process, with a focus on improving the academic and functional achievement of the student and facilitating the student’s movement from school to post-school activities (e.g., post-secondary education, vocational education, integrated employment, independent living).

The overall goal is to facilitate the movement of students with disabilities from secondary special education to meaningful employment and a quality adult life. Secondary transition planning must begin no later than when the first Individualized Education Program (IEP) is to be in effect when the student turns 14 or younger if determined appropriate by the IEP team.

Heartland AEA offers secondary transition services to assist schools, students and families in preparing for post-secondary living, learning and working in the community. For example, Heartland AEA provides professional learning for middle and high school special education teachers on such topics as IEP design, transition assessment and analysis and special education transition procedures. The Agency also employs consultants who assist districts, teachers, parents and students with disabilities with transition planning. These consultants support parents of secondary students with disabilities in several ways, such as:

  • making linkages to community agencies, financial supports (e.g., SSI), waiver supports and services and state agencies (e.g., Vocational Rehabilitation) and
  • assisting with case coordination (e.g., ChildServe, Easter Seals) and supports needed for post-secondary learning (e.g., accommodations).

Six Critical Elements of Transition

Six critical elements of transition should be followed when planning for and providing transition services.

  1. Student preferences and interests
  2. Age-appropriate transition assessments
  3. Post-secondary expectations for living, learning and working
  4. Course of study
  5. Annual goals
  6. Services and supports

Members of the IEP team (including parents and educators) can download the Transition Resource Guide as an aid during the transition process. Additionally, the Transition Planning Tool can be a helpful resource to families as they begin to consider their learner’s transition needs.

Transition Resource Guide

Transition Planning Tool

For more information, visit:

Iowa Department of Education

Secondary Transition